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Rob Snel

Rob Snel, CEO of Royal Grolsch Brewery, studied economics and graduated in 1976.

"Finding the right balance between rationality, emotionality and spirituality is a very important part of being a leader. Passion is something you can't pay for. If there is a large passion equity, the company will be successful."


Why did you choose to study at Tilburg University?
"I had to make a choice between Rotterdam and Tilburg. A friend and I were planning on visiting both places but after coming to Tilburg we did not make it to Rotterdam. It was an easy choice for me because my parents knew someone with a spare room here in Tilburg, so that was a done deal. I didn't analyze the situation too much, it just felt right.

The idea was that if you studied economics you would make a lot of money, you would become rich. We learned that this train of thought was incorrect during our first big lecture (with over 500 students). Professor Schouten, as usual searching for his glasses which were always on his head (I guess that was his trick to make students laugh), looked at all of the students and said 'What are you all doing here? Do you think you've come here to make money? Well, boys and girls, allow me to disappoint you…' But that didn't change my mind about the program."

What does Tilburg University mean to you?
"First of all, after completing a study program you have another way of looking a data, problems, and people. It depends on the study program of course, but it enables you to be more objective to what is happening around you in the world. It gives you a more profound idea about society and human relationships; it helps you ask yourself the right questions. I think this applies to participating in a challenging study program anywhere in the world. In my time, Professor Plattel (Philosophy) shaped my way of thinking and approaching situations. That really gave me a very different view, a little bit of a rebellious look at the world. I also met my wife during my time here."

"When registering at Tilburg University, I immediately became known as Rob Snel, the one who is born somewhere in the middle of the Indian Ocean."


Do you have an interesting anecdote from your student days?
"I was probably one of the first born refugees in the Netherlands. In 1950 when the Dutch people in Indonesia had to return to The Netherlands, all of the pregnant women were put on a boat. I was born in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Hence, my birthplace is only measured in terms of latitude and longitude. When registering at Tilburg University, I immediately became known as Rob Snel, the one who is born somewhere in the middle of the Indian Ocean."

What does it feel like to be CEO of such a large company?
"That's not a very easy question to answer. Most of the time it feels fantastic and energizing. I have the opportunity of putting people together to work in teams. There's nothing more inspiring than having a group of talented people work together.

Currently though, I had to announce a reorganization of the company. That's the kind of moment in which you don't feel so comfortable. You know you have to do it for the company, but there are consequences for your employees. I joined Grolsch 26 years ago as its first HR-director. I hired a lot of people during the 5 years in that position, so it is very hard to let them go. I don't believe a CEO can just make decisions rationally, I am emotionally involved. Not only with the brand and the company, but with the people. I guess that is one of the most important messages that I can give to you. You have to think about your emotional intelligence because that is what brings you into contact with people. You can gain new knowledge and experience, but what you cannot pick up is the way that you as an individual, as a human being, connect with other people. That's not something that you can learn. If you do learn it, then it's a trick, and people will see right through you. I think finding the right balance between rationality, emotionality and spirituality is a very important part of being a leader."

What does success mean to you?
"You have success if you set goals for yourself and you reach those goals. That's one way of having success, but is that enough? You may feel good reaching a target but is that the reason you are here in this world? For some people it is making money, having the right clothes and the right car, but are they really happy? There are a lot of people in this world that I would like to help because I feel like they are making the wrong decisions. When you are happy, full of energy and feel good, you will radiate that to those around you. You have to know yourself to be happy. If you don't know yourself then you will not be able to ask and answer the right questions.

I do not believe in coincidences, you create your own chances. If you can develop yourself and use your talents within the company, there will be a spark which will create passion. Passion is something you can't pay for. If there is a large passion ratio in a company, the company will be successful."

What do you think your life will be like after you retire as CEO?

"I have two daughters who are both expecting their first child. I think that will be a fantastic part of my life even while I am the CEO of Grolsch. But once I retire there are a few things I’d like to do. I love to make music so that is one thing I will keep doing. I have a few jobs next to my job at Grolsch, and I will continue with those. I would also love to do volunteer work and join the Netherlands Senior Experts program (PUM) to apply my knowledge and experience to projects in different parts in the world."