Brice van der Post may be new to the world of business, but he has a strong mindset that stems from his days as a competitive athlete.
As the Managing Director of Goodwood Interiors, Brice challenges himself to bring big things forward.
Hi Brice! Please tell us about yourself. Also, let us know your nationality and the reason behind your move to Indonesia.
Well, I’m 21-years-old, I run my parent’s seven-figure per year B2B furniture manufacturing and export company, in which I manage close to 200 employees in two manufacturing plants. I’m also a former competitive long-course triathlete, a serious investor in the financial markets, and an avid reader. I think the best way to describe me is that I have a very obsessive personality, at least that’s what I’ve been told.
I’m someone you’d label as a “third culture kid” — essentially meaning that the culture from which my parents originated differs from the one they brought me up in. Originally, however, I’m half-French and half-Dutch. My mother is French, whilst my father is Dutch. Along with my younger brother, we lived most of our lives in Indonesia, between Jepara and Bali.
Let me briefly explain it all from the very beginning — where it all started, in a bleak Dutch hospital in the summer of ’99. During that time, my parents had already lived in Indonesia for around four years, so right after I was born, I was shuttled on a plane to my new home, Jepara. Being six weeks old when I moved to Indonesia — as corny as it sounds — I’ve always felt really connected with the culture here, and I think I always will. My brother and I lived our early childhood in Jepara, but we all moved to Bali in 2005. This is was largely to do with the better schooling options Bali had at the time.
You grew up in Indonesia since you were six weeks old. What was it like, both the good and the bad?
Growing up here from a very early age was a true blessing, and I actually didn’t realise this until much later. I moved to Europe when I was 15 and I remember just having this extreme culture shock. However, it was seeing that European lifestyle and meeting new friends there that made me truly realise how much of a privileged upbringing I had in Indonesia.
Nevertheless, moving to Europe was a good thing, more so necessary. Being a teenager growing up in Bali definitely had its downsides, this was the case for me at least. Don’t get me wrong, it’s probably every teenagers’ dream; surfing before school, great weather all year, weekend bonfires, beautiful girls, amazing beaches, it’s paradise — summer vacation all year, every year. What was worrying were the restrictions; we had next to none. For some, it was a bit too easy to slip into that going out culture and be a little reckless. For me, however, it definitely took a turn for the worst and ended up taking a bit of a toll on my life, only realising it much later.
You’re a former competitive athlete, having raced triathlons, IRONMAN races, and even the world championships. Take us on that whirlwind journey.
It started with a thought when I was 18, which was quitting smoking. I had smoked cigarettes since I was 12, and not a little either. I had tried quitting a few times but never resisted my temptations for more than a few weeks. My masterplan was to sign up for a half-marathon a month ahead and quit smoking effective immediately.
I remember the excitement I had on the day I bought the entry ticket online; I threw all my cigarettes out and bolted out the door with my ripped jeans and over-worn skate shoes to go for a “jog”. Needless to say, I didn’t make it past the first block before coughing my lungs out. Back to the drawing board. Walking home slightly frustrated—coughing heavily, I pulled out my laptop and began to research training methodologies.
A month later, I crossed the finish line with this uncanny euphoria. Quickly after the race, over-fuelled with excitement, I pulled out my laptop once again and began scouring the internet for my next race.
At some point, I had randomly stumbled across this website, IRONMAN.com. I read a few pages and looked at a few races and the distances, but quickly moved on. For days, however, I simply couldn’t stop thinking about it; it was constantly on my mind. I spoke about it with my friends, all of whom thought that I had completely lost the plot. Nevertheless, my stubborn self pulled out the laptop once again and just did it. Without owning a bike or a pair of swim goggles, I signed up for IRONMAN Malaysia. A race which consists of a 3.8km swim, followed by a 180km bike and a full marathon, a 42km run. I had eight months to prepare.
After training as a true junkie for all those months, I found myself on the start line with shaved arms and legs, ready to put an end to this ridiculous journey of “quitting smoking”. I wouldn’t recommend long-course triathlons to most sane people in this world – it’s categorically one of the most brutal journeys one can put themselves through. The race is difficult, but the training is where it really hurts, they’re unforgiving.
I loved it, however. There was something sadistically satisfying about physically and mentally torturing myself for months with 20-hour training weeks and sacrifices, to then go on and suffer one last time on race day — ultimately to feel this euphoric sensation for a whole 15 seconds after crossing the finish line.
Coming from a “background” of instant gratification, this was almost the complete inverse. But it’s how triathlon really shaped me to become the person I am, teaching me a high degree of self-discipline, perseverance, and most importantly, focus.
“I crossed IRONMAN Malaysia in third place, about nine months after quitting smoking, and eight months after I learned how to properly swim and ride a bike”
Achieving something this crazy made me realise something which was, at the time, beyond my understanding; I realised that if we really set our minds to something—whatever that may be—we can end up really surprising ourselves.
I went on to win many more races after IRONMAN Malaysia, as well as qualifying for the World Championships a year later.
Goodwood Interiors is your family’s business based in Jepara. Can you tell us more about it?
The next chapter of my life begins with interning at my family’s business, a B2B furniture manufacturing company my father founded in 1995. After my father passed away in 2015, my mother took over the company whilst miraculously bringing the company to stable conditions, consistently regulating a solid influx of revenue and cash flow to sustain operations for about those years — all with little knowledge on how to run a company. An impressive feat, to say the very least.
I started working at Goodwood exactly two years ago. I was 19 years old, a little naïve, but strongly determined. Goodwood, at the time, had less than 100 employees and a medium-sized manufacturing plant. I had no idea what I was doing, but I thought, how hard can it be? I adopted the approach I used in triathlon; simply reading books and articles, and applying the ideas. I became obsessed; slept little, studied a lot, worked 80-hour weeks and read four business books a month. I became fascinated by this new world. It wasn’t long until my weekly triathlon training hours began to diminish and work began to take over. Eventually, I put a halt to triathlon to fully focus myself on growing the company.
After about 12 months working as head of operations at Goodwood, I took over the company and became managing director. In Goodwood’s first year under my management, we netted more than a 300 percent increase in net earnings, with a 25 percent increase in revenue. Today, the team has more than doubled in size with over 200 employees and we’re on track to potentially more than tripling our revenue in 2021.
My focus on operational excellence and improving process design, as well as a high degree of technical implementation of SOPs, and lean manufacturing principles, are ultimately what led to these improvements.
Just 21 and you’re now the Managing Director. Were you ever reluctant to take on this role?
I think I’ve always suffered from some sort of imposter syndrome. I might be 21, but I look 16 which doesn’t make matters easier. It’s a bit difficult at times, especially dealing with big, corporate clients. I remember having to fill in a partnership agreement with a 10-figure corporate retailer, only having their legal team come back to me noting “Please revise DOB as it states 1999. Advise ASAP.”
There will always be instances where I find myself in a situation whereby it’s difficult to be taken seriously. For example, a classic issue I’ve always encountered was after communicating with a client via email for some time, then hopping on a video call with them, only to see them shocked that they were talking with a “kid” all along. “How old are you? I could’ve sworn I thought you were at least in your 30s!” I think it’s always a bit funny, it hasn’t affected business negatively at all, but it can be frustrating at times — not only from clients but generally, in the whole context of running the company.
Dealing with employees, sub-contractors, and suppliers can be tough at times. I might be 21 years old, but I do demand respect from everyone who works for me and I don’t tolerate anything less than my expectations, I don’t take any shit. When I hold a meeting at 1:15pm, it’s 1:15pm, not 1:16pm. I can be quite cold when it comes to my role at the office at times. I feel that I have to be though, I can’t have people being too comfortable with me or mediocrity. It’s a very stressful job and it eats me inside out but I can’t imagine doing anything else.
Do you have any tips for young people?
I don’t think I’m anywhere near a position to advise anyone on matters I’m vastly inexperienced in. But, from my experience thus far, three things really made a difference in my life and achievements.
First and foremost, I always say “don’t listen to what everyone has to say” – I lived my life doing the exact opposite of what I have been told to do. Even from respectable businessmen, very successful people, teachers, etc. Take this one with a grain of salt, but knowing that not everyone may have the right answer is somewhat comforting. I’ve always trusted my intuition more than others’ advice.
Second is to read, a lot. All the answers I’ve found were in books and on the internet. “You are one Google search from anything you want to become”, as Mel Robbins said. All the answers are at the tip of your fingers, it’s all just a matter of execution. I’ve found myself Googling the most trivial of things to find answers which have changed my life. As for books, the only reason the company is doing so well is that I’m simply applying the things I get from books — it’s really not rocket science. The answers are all there.
Lastly, and this is one of the philosophies I live by; “It’s not about how bad you want it, it’s about how bad you’re willing to suffer for it.” Many of us want to achieve big goals in our lives, whatever they may be, but only very few people are willing to sacrifice, put in the hours — suffer — for those goals. Getting comfortable with suffering, something that I learnt from two years of triathlon training, is what I believe to be my most valuable trait. During my racing days, it was never my speed or endurance that got me podium finishes, I was never the fastest, everyone I was racing against were hitting better numbers in training and had many years of racing under their belt. What got me those podium finishes was my ability to suffer more than my competitors, to go into certain dark places mentally in a race, and take the lead. This is not all too healthy, I’ve finished races passed out, IV drips, and so on.
With work, it’s the same thing. Working 12 to 14 hours a day, accumulating all this stress whilst imprisoning oneself from all social interactions and distractions isn’t healthy at all. We’ve got to live. But I believe that, sometimes, if you really want something, you’ve just got to get it. I’ve said this often; you can be smarter than I am, better looking than I am, faster than I am, you can be many things I am not, however, there’s one thing I know for certain: I’m either going to beat you, or die trying. I was very competitive growing up, and that’s something I’m never going to lose.
What’s next for you and Goodwood Interiors?
There are a few projects I’m currently working on in Goodwood with my team of engineers, not much I can discuss at the moment, but to keep it short, big things are coming. For myself, there are a few side projects I’m working on beside Goodwood. I’ve also applied to a few universities which have accepted me, but I’m still doubtful whether to go down that path. That’s another story, however. I think, for now, it’s just full-throttle on Goodwood’s future, as well as my own.
How can readers get in touch with you and order some furniture?
People can find me on Instagram through @bricevdp and my full name on LinkedIn, Brice van der Post. Goodwood is to be found through www.goodwoodinteriors.com. We’re not retailers, unfortunately, but if you’re looking to order a container or a large volume of furniture, that’s us. I always love personal emails so feel free to contact me via [email protected].
Brice, thank you for your time. Stay healthy and safe!
Thanks for having me!