At the company since: the very first day (1998)
Company: PROMOS consult
Jens Kramer is the founding shareholder and CEO of PROMOS. In an interview, he tells us all about his tasks.
Hello Jens! You founded PROMOS in 1998 – did you expect back then that one day 250 people would be employed at your company? And can you tell us how the founding of PROMOS came about?
Jens: I did, actually. Even then my vision was for us to become quite big one day. At the time, I was a branch manager at a large corporate group where we developed a new software for housing companies. Once we found out that the group was ceasing production of the software, many people, including the managing director of one of our largest customers, encouraged me to set up my own business and continue working on the solution. After that, everything went really fast. I had the idea in December 1997 and the company was founded in April 1998. When I sum it up like that, it really is amazing what we have achieved. We started with 13 employees and now there are 250 – and this number is constantly increasing.
Did you also experience difficult situations or setbacks during that time?
Jens: Of course there were setbacks. Particularly at the beginning, those situations caused me a few sleepless nights. But the 13 colleagues were there, and during the initial time they dealt with customers for ten hours almost every day. I truly have to raise my hat to them, because we have proved that we really are competitive. Naturally if we look back over PROMOS’ past, it is not free of failures. Particularly when you’re trying out new things and creating innovations, things sometimes go wrong. But the fact is, the proportion of things that we do not manage is surprisingly low.
PROMOS was rated a Great Place to Work in 2019. What do you think is the recipe for success?
Jens: Great Place to Work 2019 – I have to admit, that wasn’t really the plan. Winning such an award is fantastic and we are very proud of it, but we actually contacted this consulting institute with a completely different thought in mind. To explain this, I would like to briefly say something about our philosophy.
Yes, please do! What do you think characterises the PROMOS philosophy?
Jens: We spend a lot of time at work, so it is important to us that work makes our staff happy. This results in very individual goals – after all, people are different. My aim in a professional environment has always been to surround myself with people who complement one another – unlike in private life, where we tend to seek out people who are similar to us. You need people who have visions, who consider things in a new light. But this doesn’t work without those who ask “Great idea, but how do we implement it?”. And we also need those who have an overview of whether it will fit with the existing systems. After all, we aren’t starting from scratch. Naturally, these are all very different personaility types. At professional level, they complement one another, creating space for creativity and visions, but also structures where ideas can be thought through to the end and very strictly used to develop successful solutions in projects. But then we reached a point where we in the management team noticed that – also as a result of the strong growth – we couldn’t properly carry this philosophy forward any more. So we decided we decided to seek advice.
And that’s when the Great Place to Work® Institute got involved?
Jens: Exactly. After all, that is their core competence. They conduct an employee survey, evaluate it and then give the management recommendations. The results of the survey and the “Great Place to Work” award were very positive surprises. We were much more critical of ourselves and had a very different perspective. But the fantastic result is no excuse for us to rest on our laurels. In fact, the opposite is true. We want to continue growing and actively manage this process in order to remain an attractive employer and develop innovative solutions for the real-estate industry.
As the boss, do you actually have free time or are you on call around the clock?
Jens: Over the past few years, I’ve made sure to always take my annual leave. Admittedly I can still be reached even when I’m on holiday, but these days I’m much more relaxed. Sleepless nights are a thing of the past. I try to switch off and spend a lot of time with my children. However, this is not all down to me. We have managed to build up structures and now everything doesn’t depend entirely on me. This isn’t an autocratic managerial style. I can’t do everything by myself and nobody wants me to either [laughs].
Do you have a hobby or passion that you pursue in your free time?
Jens: Almost everybody knows that I play volleyball in my free time. That really does balance out everything for me. It’s an entirely different role. When the other players find out what I do, they always say “What, that guy who’s always so quiet manages a company?” [laughs]. I also enjoy jogging and I am always in the PROMOS team for the company relay race – we’ve been participating in that for years now.
Thank you for the interview!
Jens: Of course, I was happy to.