The year 2016 marks a silver jubilee for Atlantic Grupa – 25 years of the company’s establishment. Corporate Communications team at Atlantic Grupa asked their founder and CEO Emil Tedeschi several questions regarding the company’s past and its aspirations, from 1991 to the faraway future, for 30th issue of Atlantic News
Atlantic is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, would you say the company is still young, or is it at the peak of its maturity?
“We are young, even though we have inherited the tradition of the companies integrated in our system – Cedevita, Neva, Multipower (ex Haleko), Droga Kolinska, Soko Štark, Grand Prom, Fidifarm, BBV (ex Badel 1862), Bamapharm, Dvoržak pharmacies… some of which go back much further than Atlantic Grupa.Let us say that 25 years signifies a youthful maturity. And when referring to people, I am not keen on making a distinction between young and old; it is difficult to define such age limits and what they actually mean. Take me, for example. I have 29 years of professional experience (already), but the media still flatter me by calling me a “young” manager or entrepreneur. We at Atlantic are a great combination of different experiences, views, personalities, dynamics… I think we are, regardless of our age, still enthusiastic and passionate enough to say that we are young. That is our spirit and we need to keep it.”
What words would you use to describe Atlantic to someone who has never heard of it, in order to illustrate its corporate culture to them?
“Amusement, venture, creation, diversity, fairness, pride, initiative, a sense of belonging, the discovery of something new…”
What three distribution products and three of your own products should every Atlantic employee have in their home?
“Huh! That’s a tough one, and actually quite specific, more so because we distribute a different assortment of products to different markets. Granny’s Secret Ajvar, Donat Mg, Argeta Tuna… We have many principal brands at home, but the indispensable ones are Nutella, Orbit and Johnson’s Baby.”
The first five colleagues you started out with in 1991 are…
“Of the ones who are still at or close to Atlantic Grupa today are Paula Šemeš and Davor Užbinec (both employees of BC Cedevita) and Mijo Pašalić. Many will remember Vedran pecotić who recently retired, but who joined us in 1992, around the same time as Slavica Ćirković. I am still in contact with some of the ones who started with us, such as Tonči Despot as well as Zdravko Mindoljević who is enjoying his retirement for many years now. Then again, I’ve lost contact with others over time. But anyone who left their honest and professional imprint in Atlantic’s development is a friend to me and ambassador of our company.”
What would you wish for Atlantic’s 30th birthday?
“In 5 years, Atlantic will be a larger, stronger, and more widespread company, but what is most important is that we will be more receptive and stimulated for innovation, initiative and entrepreneurship within the system, than we are today. By investing in knowledge and advanced technology, we will be able to rightly speak of a small European giant in production and distribution, but above all, of the ocean of opportunities that will become renowned in various geographical regions. And it will be precisely our people – those who are with us and those we will draw to us – that will be the force that makes this voyage safe, fearless and appealing.”
Which market would you most like to “conquer”?
“There are no better or worse markets and a Euro earned in Austria, Bulgaria, Iran, Great Britain or America holds the same weight for me. I would actually place the highlight on the product. Ever since I came into contact with Granny’s Secret, ajvar has been my mantra and I truly believe in it. It is authentic, healthy delicious, different and originated in the region that Atlantic Grupa also comes from. I truly has global potential. I would like us to be recognised in the world by something we create. Granny’s Secret ajvar is a product that has everything needed for world-renowned success.”
What brand would you like to see in your portfolio one day?
“Something from the organic products segment. I expect more synergy in the domain of children’s food and the ARTD concept (Cedevita GO cap mechanism) as well.
If you weren’t President and CEO for a month, what department would you work in?
“In Sales. I would sell products, distribution services, opportunities for investors. If you believe in what you do, and have a desire to be in contact with people, then you have a very good predisposition for working in sales.”
How many telephone numbers do you know off by heart?
“Twenty, actively. But I also remember some fixed phone numbers from my youth and numbers of some people who are no longer with us.”
What are you not that good at, but wish you were?
“Time management and processes are not my strongest traits. Keeping my attention on the topic for an extended period of time. Impatience… Sometimes even controlling my temper, although I have improved here, but it is a part of my personality now as much as it was before, so I sometimes deliberately accentuate my reaction when I want to emphasise something that is of importance to me. I wouldn’t want others to see this as any kind of cruel intention, nor do I wish to hurt anyone, it’s just that sometimes we need to wake up, shake up and change perspective…”
What gets on your nerves the most at the office?
“Bureaucracy. Reports that serve a purpose only in themselves. Avoiding and not taking responsibility.”
What are five memorable events you would single out in these 25 years?
“1. The beginning of distribution cooperation with Wrigley, risk of contract loss in the summer of 1992 and entry of another distributor in the race and then the full return of the contract in 1996. This was a fundamental contract for Atlantic’s development as a distributor.
2. Mars’ dramatic termination of distribution contract on Christmas Eve 2000, followed by the acquisition of Ferrero and beginning of distribution on July 1, 2001.
3. The acquisition of Cedevita is most often mentioned as a turning point in our 25-year history, as a step towards our own brands.
4. Entering the West, the purchase of Multipower in 2005 and new worlds…
5. Droga Kolinska, as a transaction and as a master’s degree. In fact, the Harvard Business School thoroughly processed this transaction as a case study.
There were many moments, decisions and people, but what I carry most with me are emotions, one great love, affection, an enormous positive charge, happiness… Speaking of happiness, how can I not mention the legendary ABC Conference on the Brijuni Islands and various business and sports gatherings.”