In 1997 Belgian Philippe Janowski took off on his Honda 650 and rode all the way across Europe and Asia. He ended up in Cambodia in 2003 and by 2004 became a partner in the very successful Pocket Guide, which focus on drinking, dining and maps in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Battambang.
“It’s a little bit of destiny that brought me here,” Janowski said. He and his wife, Sothearith, have just welcomed a baby son in June.
Janowski said that the keys to his successful partnerships are work ethic and lifestyle.
“Work ethic is very important. Your partner needs to show the ability to fight and overcome obstacles. Your potential partner’s lifestyle will tell you if they are lazy or persistent and the amount of respect they will show customers and clients.”
His partners since 2004 in Pocket Guide (Cambodia) Ltd are Englishman Tim Gibbons and Australian Dean Lennox. While Janowski heads the sales department, Gibbons handles accounts and Lennox is in charge of design.
“We can be the opposite of one another, but that’s the beauty of our partnership. In eight and a half years we haven’t had to deal with a real crisis,” Janowski said.
Janowski’s role is making the connections with big companies like Sofitel, Coca-Cola and Smart Mobile, all who number among his customers. The first book, Eating & Drinking, which has since then been renamed Drinking & Dining, was released in December 2004, originally with 40 pages. Today, Drinking & Dining is 120 pages thick and Pocket Guide has 10 publications.
Pocket Guide’s customers include NagaWorld, Beeline, KFC and many hundreds of restaurants and shops.
Janowski said that partners need to meet not only your own expectations, but also the expectations of staff and customers.
“You should not treat people like you want to be treated, but go further and treat people like they want to be treated,” he said.
“That’s true whether the person is an uneducated farmer or the CEO of a multinational corporation.”
“What I think is a big problem in the world in general is a lack of understanding the other,” Philippe offered by way of explanation when queried about the importance of his journey across the world in developing his work ethic and attitude. “Travel helps you with connecting to people of all different nationalities. Travel will increase your tolerance level and that’s worth loads. If travel is unrealistic then knowledge is the real substitute.”
That knowledge he says, goes beyond knowing a language and includes “analytical, discerning and deducing things – making up your own mind.” For businesspeople and salesmen in particular he says that means knowing about your product and your customers and being able to guide them to a product that you can believe in.
“I only want to sell a product that is mine. I only find satisfaction in selling a product that I stand behind,” Janowski says as he explains his success in Cambodia, but he doesn’t attribute it solely to his ability to harmonise and be personal with anyone.
“You have to offer a sales service that is customer friendly. You have to follow up after a sale is made and to take responsibility for eventual mistakes and solve them,” he said. This has allowed him to cultivate relationships with hundreds of customers “who became friends over time and still do business with me.”
Janowski is also the owner, with his wife, Sothearith, of Mekong Orchards, which produces a line of flavoured nuts.
Mekong Orchards was developed as a result of a gift of a recipe from a friend’s grandmother, “a special recipe that was originally for peanuts” in 2008.
“Everybody eats peanuts in one way or another and no one in Cambodia had a recipe like this,” Janowski said. Cashews were quickly added to the flavoured nut products on offer.
With Mekong Orchards, Janowski’s original partner didn’t live up to his expectations and very swiftly the partnership dissolved. Janowski replaced his partner with his then-girlfriend and now wife.
To contact the reporter on this story: Gregory Pellechi at [email protected]