Stratfield in Zwolle: Werken aan waarde voor aandeelhouders

Then you suddenly realise that your business is of value

Interview with André van Ginkel & Danielle Manneke-van Ginkel, both business owners at the Van Ginkel Group

‘It’s actually only very recently that we started to think about our share ownership,’ said André van Ginkel and Danielle Manneke-van Ginkel. Together, they have been running the company with Mark van Ginkel, who could not be present, since 2003. What started off as a mobile blasting company in 1970 has now grown, within a period of 50 years, into a leading, innovative full-service supplier in blasting, preserving and metallizing steel constructions, both in the Netherlands and abroad. Customers in the building, infra and offshore sectors in Germany, France, Belgium and the United Kingdom know where to find the blasting and preserving specialist in Valburg.

‘The van Ginkel Group is a real family business. It was set up by our fathers in 1970. In 2003, André and I both became directors and in 2006 the share transfer took place. Quite honestly, this didn’t change things for us much,’ says Danielle, looking back. ‘We became big by starting in a small way. For this reason, we grew in a controlled manner and were able to finance new and innovative machines from our own capital, for example. This approach has ensured that we are a healthy company. Although it was a question of survival for our fathers – certainly during the early years – we are in the black and fortunately a little bit more than that.’

‘Owing to our good reputation and the fact that we are financially healthy, interested parties also approach us to have a cup of coffee together,’ adds André. Then you suddenly realise that our company represents value. If you are involved with growth, professionalisation and innovation on a daily basis, you don’t always realise this. Or, in any case, not sufficiently. Those cups of coffee have in fact taught us a lot, even if it did only entail how to look at certain matters from a different perspective, how to assess them and also how to present them. These insights certainly helped us when we acquired a controlling interest in Petersen Metaalbescherming in Harderwijk at the beginning of this year. In fact, our relationship with Stratfield also dates back to this period. Leendert Stam offered us sound advice during the takeover. His knowledge, experience and often surprising views on matters ensured that we concluded a good deal, after which all those directly involved went home fully satisfied.’

Back to share ownership; what in their experience do André and Danielle think is the difference between being a director and a shareholder? André: ‘I mainly see my share ownership as something that belongs to me. I’ve been working for the company as director for quite a long time and that suits me perfectly. However, I still need to grow into my role as shareholder.’ Danielle also feels that she was more of a director than a shareholder during the past years. ‘Well, director,’ Danielle qualifies this straightaway. ‘At van Ginkel, we don’t think in terms of position and rank. We get the job done together. And yes, sometimes someone needs to take responsibility for a decision and that’s what we do.’

‘However, we are gradually beginning to realize that we need to look to the future in a way that is not purely in terms of business efficiency,’ say both André and Danielle in conclusion. ‘And indeed, more in terms of our roles as shareholders. This also leads to various kinds of questions. Because how can we guarantee that our company will continue to run in a healthy way if we later distance ourselves from the company? And how much value do we attach to the fact that a van Ginkel remains in charge of the company? As ambitious directors, we have lived and worked in the here and now for years. As shareholders, we are now going to have to start thinking quietly about the future.’

Allowing the human dimension to prevail

Interview with Wieger Wiegersma, director and owner at Axxor

‘Dreadfully complicated and dreadfully interesting’ is how Wieger Wiegersma describes his work at ‘his’ Axxor, an internationally renowned developer and producer of – mainly recycled – paper honeycomb constructions. Constructions that find their way to various industries, including the automotive, furniture and packaging industry. ‘Wherever lightweight, strong and sustainable stiffening materials are needed, we can provide a solution with our paper honeycomb and we are doing this for a growing number of customers. We’ve really got the wind in our sails.’

Apart from being CEO, Wieger Wiegersma is also the owner of Axxor. Where his responsibilities as shareholder are concerned, Wieger has some interesting, almost philosophical, ideas. The latter is not all that surprising. ‘I’ve travelled a lot during my life and I’ve spent a great deal of time in the Asian cultures. Within these cultures, there is a lot of focus on ownership. The good thing about this – depending on how you look at it – is that ownership within these cultures is service-oriented. Ownership is not about ‘raking in the money’, but about giving it away. This intrigues me immensely. The more I thought about it, the more evident it became to me that there are three types of shareholder. Let me be clear about this, I’m not making any judgements here.’

‘You have shareholders who are in it purely for the financial return. You also have shareholders who see their company as a vehicle to  fund their own lifestyle. And you have, what I call, the caretakers. What does a caretaker do in my opinion? Let me explain. A caretaker makes every effort to create a fine organisation. Your next question is, of course, what is a fine organisation? Obviously, I can only answer this for myself because fine is clearly a very subjective concept. For me, a fine organisation is one where all the employees are in the right place and where they feel they are making a contribution to the end product. An end product they can be proud of. Everyone does this according to their own capacities. Working on this is how I fulfil my role as shareholder.’

‘Is somebody indispensable because of this? Everyone in life is indispensable. If someone leaves they always leave an empty space behind them. In my opinion, the emphasis lies on how you fill in that space again. That goes for me too. I’m not getting any younger. How am I going to leave my company behind me later on? We are now already thinking about my succession behind the scenes. I decided it would be wise to take on a co-shareholder now to streamline the process. You understand, of course, that this had to be a shareholder who understands me and is happy to follow my path. This is not something you can simply discuss at the end of an afternoon. This involves many in-depth discussions.’

‘In Wadinko, I found a co-shareholder I can level with. A co-shareholder who understands my caretaker-ship and endorses it. But then what? Because you can talk about having a vision, about policy, but at a certain moment signatures are required. And suddenly we were talking about concrete values. About sums of money. I certainly didn’t feel comfortable about this. And then the men from Stratfield came into the picture. They supported me during the ‘hard’ phase, in a way that gave me confidence and peace of mind. Perhaps the best description of caretaker-ship is that you allow the human dimension to prevail in what you do and how you do it. My experience is that you always find like-minded people on your path. And yes, you can certainly take that as a compliment for Stratfield!’