Business Woman of the year 2017

During an official occasion in Noordwijk aan Zee, Elske Doets has been awarded as “Business woman of the Year 2017” in The Netherlands. With this prestigious award, Elske Doets becomes the Business woman of the Year for the 36th consecutive year in The Netherlands. The award committee, which is supervised by former Minister Annemarie Jorritsma, consists of VNO NCW chairman Hans de Boer, MKB Nederland chairman Michael van Straalen, ABP chairwoman Corien Wortman-Kool, and Business woman of the Year 2016 Vivienne van Eijkelenborg.

Please find the complete press release on the news page.

Draft Speech Elske Doets
Businesswoman of the year 2017 ‘Prix Veuve Clicquot’
20 March 2017

In February of this year, my husband Gerard and I were looking out over a ski slope in Tremblant, Canada. The last skiers were on their final descent and we were enjoying a glass of Veuve Clicquot in the ice bar. The well-groomed Veuve hostess was in orange and yellow, just like Gerard in his orange-yellow ski suit.

Was this a sign of things to come? There’s no such thing as coincidence, as my good friend Dewi always says.

The USA and Canada are the two countries for which I feel a huge passion. Consequently, I did become the official Mrs. Canada in 1995: an official brand name to indicate that we of Jan Doets America Tours go further than just organizing holidays to the USA and Canada.

Passion is a driving force in my everyday life and also the reason I chose a business career after completing my law degree. I’m not fond of the mediocre and well-beaten paths and decided, at the age of 23, that I wanted to be in a profession I could lose my heart to, where I could be creative, where I could follow my passion and, above all, do something that would make me happy.

And that keeps me going right up until this very moment.

Perhaps especially today. I probably don’t need to tell you of the enormous honor I feel to have been voted Business woman of the Year 2017.

Another very special thing is that I am only the second woman in the travel industry to become Business woman of the Year. Annick J. van de Geest-Vogelaar of Vrij Uit Reizen was awarded this title precisely 30 years ago, in 1987. It might be a rather sobering thought that an industry which employs so many women has brought only two businesswomen of the year.

My accountant always describes Jan Doets America Tours as a white raven in the travel industry, because we’re so different. We don’t just talk about focusing on our travelers, we actually act upon it – we offer them a genuine experience, thanks to modern technology and human interaction, which are the key words for the success of Jan Doets America Tours. Our organization has grown 60% since 2013. We lost no sales during the economic downturn, an achievement which was only possible thanks to a highly-motivated and smoothly-run team. This motivation is a result of their passion and our organization’s lack of blah-blah. For example, we don’t hold time-consuming meetings, but I give a 10-minute kick-off talk every morning since 1999, standing in a circle, with my 35 employees. In West-Friesland, where I come from, we prefer the no-nonsense approach – getting down to the real job – hands on the wheel, boots in the mud.

The white raven my accountant refers to is symbolic. In West Canada, ravens show the bears where to find food. I have a very special memory of seeing the rare white ‘Spirit Bear’ with my own eyes in West Canada in 2015. This bear is not an albino and not a polar bear, but a black bear, of which 1 out of 10 is white. To date, science has failed to explain why. But there’s no such thing as coincidence at Jan Doets: every member of the team has a north American animal as an alter ego. And mine is the “spirit bear”. Not only because I happen to be blonde, but because this bear is difficult to pin down, and that applies to me too. I always go my own way, and have done so ever since I was young, at least according to my sister Lissy.

I was already dreaming of becoming a business woman when I was 8 – day in, day out, I’d watch my father, Jan Doets, leave the house “to do business” with his important black briefcase. My father, set up Jan Doets America Tours in 1981 and my mother always supported him. I am very grateful that he let me take over his business in 2001, because he was taking a bold step by selling me all the shares, instead of opting for a step-by-step takeover or any other gradual transfer. I was just 28, and it was an enormous step for me personally as well. For me, this is a parallel with Nicole-Barbe Clicquot-Ponsardin, who became the owner of this wonderful champagne house when she found herself widowed at the young age of 27.

I identify with the widow Clicquot-Ponsardin even more because of the emotion and passion she invested in her champagne and which brought her so much success. One of my business associates in the US wrote: Elske has ‘passion in her DNA’! Giving in to my passion and doing business intuitively has brought me a lot.

2001, the year in which I became that business woman, was a very turbulent year. “9-11” changed the world and had a huge impact on Jan Doets America Tours as well. Although this global event changed the mindset of me and my team, it also made us determined to deal with this huge setback, to strive for success, to grow and to make a profit.

I see business like trying for the Olympics. You’ve got to be willing to go the extra mile, to give up everything to achieve your goal and to dream the impossible. You’ve got to have ‘focus’. You must not be too worried about the opinions of others. And you’ve got to be authentic. I believe that the pitfall many women encounter, is that they’re distracted by others. Of course, your partner must support you and give you that autonomy, that’s an absolute pre-condition. Gerard, my husband, and I have been married for exactly 18 years today, and he has always given me the space I need. And I am very grateful for this.

Being entitled as Business woman of the Year for 2017 means that I have been given a task, a mission, and I want to flesh out this significant recognition. I´d like to inspire young girls in high school to find their passion, to work towards it with determination and dedication and – especially – to be a successful woman in business. These days, children have to start making choices early. It’s a pity that many small and medium-sized businesses, an important sector in the Dutch economy, are not being handed over to the next generation. Simply because this generation doesn’t think it’s sexy.

I’d like to change that.

Because there are so many ‘anchors’ in my speech, it can surely be no coincidence that Veuve Clicquot has an anchor in its logo. Speaking of coincidences:

I believe it’s no coincidence that Veuve Clicquot was founded in 1772 and that I was born in 1972.

I believe it’s no coincidence that Veuve Clicquot sells the most champagne in the USA.

I believe it’s no coincidence that I was given a bottle of 2004 Veuve Clicquot by Bob Bron, the very year in which my son was born, and perhaps it’s no coincidence that my son’s name is also Bob.

I believe it’s no coincidence that Jan Doets America Tours celebrates its 36th birthday in 2017, while I become the 36th consecutive Business Woman of the Year in The Netherlands.

In order to link all these coincidences, we have issued a special Veuve Clicquot Business woman of the Year 2017 edition of the Doets Travel Glossy. This is a luxurious inspiration magazine we issue every year and we’re now working on the 6th edition. Doets travelers will receive a personified glossy if they spend more than EUR 10,000 on their holiday. To express my gratitude for the role played by Veuve Clicquot for the business woman of the year 2017, Doets will present this special edition to the Veuve ladies when they leave.

Finally, I’d like to express a heartfelt gratitude to the current minister, Jeanine Hennis, for handing me this award. Also a sincere thanks to Annemarie Jorritsma and the other members of the jury, and another heartfelt thank you to the organizers of this Veuve Clicquot award, for this very special moment in my life.

I’d like to close with one of my personal mottoes:
Since my eldest son Bob was born in 2004, I often say that a glass of champagne a day is good for celebrating life. After all, life is precious enough. Seize the day, go through life with the bubble and lightness of champagne and – cheers!

And, once again, many thanks!