Jesper Bruno Bramanis, who joined OCCO, has a colorful and strong background. He was born in Japan, lived in Amsterdam for many years, engaged in professional sports, built a start-up and all this led to his burnout. In the interview, Bruno talks about why Estonians are the best workers in the world, how to remedy a burnout and move forward with new energy.
You are moving to Amsterdam to start working in the OCCO office. What are your impressions?
First of all, it should be mentioned that the office is insanely beautiful. Definitely top five in all of Amsterdam. The weather is warmer than in Estonia – that’s always a plus. All I have to do is to remember the language a bit and warm up the contacts and place myself in that society.
Have you lived in the Netherlands before? What is the work culture like there?
I lived in Amsterdam for four and a half years. I can say that Estonians are some of the best workers in the world. While an Estonian puts all their soul and time into work, for the Dutch, the first priority is the person and their satisfaction. The difference may be due to the fact that Estonia is a small country that has had to prove itself a lot. We can certainly learn from the Dutch how to create a balance between work and private life. It is very much in place in the work culture here.
How did you find your way to OCCO?
I have a very educational year behind me, where I experienced and saw a lot. I wasn’t really looking for a job – it seemed like I was satisfied with everything. I lived in Noblessner in Tallinn, right next to the OCCO office. Every time I drove home, I saw the big OCCO sign. We found each other just when OCCO needed it, and I was starting to get hungry for a new challenge.
In fact, I have been very critical of style all my life. Furniture and interior architecture are very important to me. I was born in Japan – my father was a handball player there, so my whole family lived there for eight years. Japan is still very close to my heart and its culture has influenced me a lot. That’s why I also have a strict taste – I like everything that is clean and minimalistic.
But then it somehow happened last year that I was suddenly in the OCCO office and talking to the management. They were able to talk me into going to work there. Although I didn’t know at that moment that I was looking for something, I suddenly realized that this was exactly what I was looking for. It is in these situations that the best things happen.
You have built a start-up before, right?
Yes, last year we started a background check service for rental properties in Amsterdam. There is a crazy rental market in the Netherlands – there are nearly 50 applicants for each apartment. Since brokers would have to screen all 50 people, we created software to automate this process. We involved investors and the development team from Estonia and the market was in the Netherlands. As I said – Estonia has the best workers in the world, but abroad is a sweeter market.
What did you learn from it?
I learned a lot. First, that people should not always be naively trusted. You have to check who you work with. Secondly, I realized that there is no point in thinking everything in advance. This may be a very unpopular opinion, but if you try to do everything perfectly, things will go wrong. I would suggest that you just do it and then see what can be done better in the future. Don’t try to anticipate too many things. The balance between work and free time is certainly important. The Dutch know how to handle this, the Estonians don’t.
How to balance work and free time?
You have to set certain rules and get to know yourself. The most important thing is to trust yourself and life. You have to understand that nothing is more important than your happiness and health. You have to come first. You can only work well when the energy comes from a good place. Estonians often think that work must be hard and exhausting and that you must be completely tired at the end of the day. It doesn’t have to be that way – you can do the work with pleasure. To do this, you have to retune yourself.
What have been your experiences with burnout?
I have been a professional athlete and I am used to the principle that the harder you work, the better the results. I’m used to having the daily plan exactly right. I went to university in the Netherlands and did mental work from eight in the morning to four in the evening and then another four hours of exercise. I’m used to being on the hamster wheel. But since mental and physical work were in balance, everything was in balance. Then the corona time started and everything shut down. I came to Estonia and started my own company. Suddenly I found myself in the office from morning to night – forgetting to eat, drink, exercise and meet friends. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my body was in complete shock.
Two months later, when I was in the Netherlands at a conference, I suddenly got really bad. My head started to spin and my heart felt sick. I thought I had food poisoning. However, this feeling remained for several months. Only then did I realize that it was burnout. I used to think that depression or anxiety were invented diseases by lazy people, until something snapped and I had to close my business. I needed to sort myself out and figure out what makes me happy.
What did you do to remedy this situation?
I had to put everything on hold to take care of myself. I packed my bags and went to live in Dubai. I got a fancy apartment there, played golf every day and drove fancy cars. I was able to do this for two to three weeks until complete disgust set in. I was sitting by the pool, being brought cocktails and I hated the lifestyle. Then I realized what is really important – people, relationships and being with loved ones.
What are your goals at OCCO?
OCCO is one very cool company and we have plans to conquer Europe and then the world. We have already been able to do very cool projects on the European market and our goal is to launch the OCCO furnishing service in other European countries in addition to the Estonian and Dutch markets. We have a strong team that works towards these goals on a daily basis. My duties as a business client sales manager in the Netherlands are to build relationships, manage the office and do everything so that we can provide top-level service to the companies here.
How does OCCO’s business model fit in the Netherlands?
The Netherlands is one of the first truly capitalist markets since the days of the Hanseatic League. They’ve seen all the tricks. So if you don’t offer something really innovative or awesome, it’s difficult to get their attention.
Fortunately, OCCO has a good idea to enrich the Dutch market. In addition to the fact that the Dutch appreciate aesthetics and good design, we raise the quality of furnishing services here with our years of experience. Since we have done projects all over Europe and we have a wide network of furnishing brands, we can see that we have the ability to offer a service suitable for the needs of the local market and to find the best solution for any furnishing project.