Batenborch Speaks to Hallmark’s Jan Willem Koch

Recently Batenborch International had the honour of sitting down with Jan Willem Koch, Managing Director Continental Europe at Hallmark. In the interview, we were able to go in depth about his career trajectory and his best tips for success, among other diverse subjects. Read on to hear directly from one of the top executives in the Dutch FMCG landscape.

A Short Introduction…

We met Jan Willem Koch at our office in Zeist. He began his career in sales at Unilever and quickly moved up, developing expertise in Marketing before becoming General Manager at Etos. Ten years ago, he joined Hallmark as Managing Director Continental Europe.

Why Hallmark?

“We are truly a purpose-driven company. We’ve existed for nearly 115 years, which isn’t by chance! We had a purpose before ‘purpose’ was even a buzzword. As a family-owned business, you can feel that atmosphere on the work floor.”

“Within Hallmark, we have different ‘blood groups.’ For example, Digital is very different from Retail, but these two areas must connect. We strive to expand beyond just cards. This is achieved through innovation, broadening our offerings, and renewal. A great example is the introduction of Christmas ornaments last year. This innovation, aligned with our core idea of connecting people, extends beyond cards.”

Team Diversity

“The diversity within Hallmark makes it enjoyable to develop in various areas. Our team consists of individuals with different backgrounds and expertise, from digital specialists to retail experts. This creates a dynamic and inspiring environment where we can quickly move from idea to product.”

“At Hallmark, there’s a balance between new graduates and experienced colleagues, some celebrating 50 years with us. We are a close-knit team, visible in our activities outside of work hours.”

Connecting People

“Our products have two key characteristics. First, they bring intrinsic joy to everyone. Receiving our products always has a positive impact, especially during tough times. Who doesn’t get lifted up by receiving a card? Our products touch hearts and contribute to emotional connections.”

Personal Career Path

What gives you the most energy?

“Several aspects of my work energize me. The most important is setting and achieving sustainable goals together. Everyone contributes to the outcome, and you’re building something collectively. Doing this with the team, providing direction, and inspiring people gives me a lot of energy.”

Factors Contributing to Success

“My career has been characterized by seizing opportunities at the right time. I have always pursued things I enjoy and remained open to learning and growth. Starting in sales wasn’t my initial intention, but I continuously challenged myself to try new things.”

Tips for Success

“I’ve noticed that some people want too much too quickly. In a fast-paced world with high pressure, it’s important to focus on what you have and how you can improve. I’ve worked with colleagues focused only on their next career step and others who mostly enjoyed their current roles. If you excel in what you do, opportunities will come naturally. It’s crucial to embark on the adventure, show vulnerability, and ask for help when needed.”

Your Greatest Strength as a Pitfall

“My optimism is both my greatest strength and my potential pitfall. I believe anything is possible, which can sometimes lead to underestimating risks. Large changes take more time and effort than anticipated, and this can conflict with my tendency to want to move quickly.”

“I’ve learned to balance optimism with realism. Trusting my team and adjusting the pace of change to what the organization can handle is crucial. It’s about moving with the capacities of the people and the organization and finding a balance between focus and speed of change.”


“Our challenge is to ensure our category continues to grow in this time of change. The need for connection is greater than ever. People want to spend more time together, and we aim to remove barriers to make sending cards a habit. Receiving cards makes people happy. Our goal is to make sending cards easier and thereby grow the category without overwhelming the organization.”

Work-Life Balance

“I see work and private life as a continuum rather than separate worlds. I spend many hours on my work, but I enjoy it, and it energizes me. Flexibility in managing my schedule helps balance my personal life and work.”

“For example, we organize a boot camp training for the entire team on Monday evenings at Hallmark. It’s a great initiative blending work and private life, well-received by the team. Sometimes, I work during my free time, but I don’t mind; I see it as following my passion and contributing to our company’s success. I’m always reachable but have the freedom to choose when to respond.”


"If you excel in what you do, opportunities will come naturally"

Tips for Success

Important new/core competencies:

“The industry has changed enormously since I started. Distribution through media channels used to be simpler. Today, there are countless ways to get your message across, requiring many more specialists. Marketers must understand customer needs well. Many young marketers focus on digital specialization, but it’s vital to think from the customer’s perspective. Curiosity is crucial. Asking open questions helps understand customer needs.”
“Data is becoming increasingly important in sales. Analyzing data provides valuable insights for making the right proposals. It’s essential to combine knowledge of the customer, the product, and data in a substantiated way.”

Talent Acquisition at Hallmark

“When hiring talent, we look for curiosity, a strong desire to learn, and a willingness to roll up their sleeves. Confidence and courage to take on new challenges and perseverance, especially when things don’t go smoothly, are important. It’s essential to work hard and have fun, but in that order.”

Final Thoughts

“For newcomers: Seek broadening experiences. Don’t focus solely on vertical growth but also on horizontal interests. Be patient while mastering your skills. Take every opportunity to learn something new; growth doesn’t always have to be upward. Continuous learning and improvement will naturally lead to development. The drive to broaden is essential for long-term success.”

Jan Willem Koch
Managing Director Continental Europe
Hallmark Benelux
Rietbaan 48
2908 LP Capelle aan de Ijssel

Batenborch International
Utrechtseweg 139
3702 AC Zeist
+31 30 21 22 055

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