“People say it’s luck, you know. Well, you could be lucky for one year, maybe two, but not for ten years. No, that is competence and skills”. These words belong to the millionaire that never finished high school. Jan Petter (46) grew up on a farm in Eastern Norway. He was the fidgety one of four siblings. He describes his childhood in the following way: “I was no teacher’s pet, that’s for sure. But I handled the practical stuff well”. He became a carpenter’s apprentice in his youth and some years later travelled to Riga with an acquaintance to help fit out Rimi stores. One year suddenly became two and then three. He started his own business. After he met the love of his life there was definitely no turning back.
Today Jan Petter and his wife Inese have an eight-year-old son and a one-year-old daughter. The family lives in pleasant surroundings on the outskirts of Riga, where the children are able to play outside freely. A gardener takes care of their beautiful garden, and the pond is used for bathing in summer and skating in winter. Jan Petter’s son practices on his BMX three times a week in the woods nearby. Jan Petter is at peace outside the busy city. On his way home from work he listens to Norwegian radio in his car, then turns on NRK, the Norwegian national TV channel, in the play room with a bar and pool. Jan Petter has never been particularly drawn to Latvian culture and he admits that his language skills are limited. “My mother-in-law doesn’t speak a word of English. My father-in-law is a wonderful man, but he doesn’t really like talking at all”. Three languages are spoken in the grand house: Norwegian between father and children, Latvian between mother and children, and English between the couple.
The combination of great craftsmanship, a craving for adventure and the Baltics’ liberal regime for foreign companies has, in Jan Petter’s case, been the road to success. Early on, he specialised in shop-fitting. He sold his first company for more than 8 million euros. In 2008, he founded JPD, the initials of his name, and today the company has over one hundred employees. JPD’s shop-layout architects, interior designers, project managers, installation team and carpenters work with partners such as Statoil, Tiger, Laima and Next to fit out shops all over the world. All the material is fabricated just outside Riga. While showing us around the overwhelmingly large factory, Jan Petter praises his workers. He talks about them with warmth. “Last year thirteen babies were born into the JPD family, and that is really nice”.
During the late 1990s, all ambitious Scandinavian business people knew each other well. Jan Petter tells us how he would enter Tower, a well-known bar in Riga, and, an hour later, suddenly find himself surrounded by twelve cheerful companions. A nostalgic chord seems to strike him when he speaks about his first, eventful years in Riga. “We always met there. Now those of us who still live in Riga have settled down. We have wives and children and only meet occasionally at the airport”.
‘Home’ for Jan Petter means both Latvia and Norway. The contrast between the two types of home is nevertheless quite huge. Jan Petter and his family are seldom in Norway during the winter: “we visited father at Christmas, and I was at the cottage during Easter, but that’s it”. On the other hand, they spend as much time as possible at their cottage on the Norwegian coast during the summer holidays. Even though Jan Petter has employees who execute all the projects, and the company works like a self-propelling machine, he still sees a need to follow up. Jan Petter travels a lot, mostly to maintain close contact with his customers. His wife Inese occasionally gets tired of him being away a lot. “Sometimes it really is a lot of fuss going to Tokyo, New York or Rome for a cup of coffee and a friendly dinner with a customer – and then having to wake up early to catch the flight home”. Family and friends visiting him in Riga is rare, according to Jan Petter. “But when I do something really weird, like buy a new house impulsively, then they show up from Norway, everyone at the same time!”