We share our knowledge and stories, always with the support of a marketing communications consultant from Circa Twee, our communications agency. For the past six months, this has been Janneke Buitenhuis. Five questions, five answers.
“Vetipak still feels like home, every time”
We talk to former shareholders Koos den Otter and Wim van de Westelaken
Without Koos den Otter and Wim van de Westelaken, our company would probably look very different. Or perhaps no longer even exist... Koos and Wim decided to invest in Vetipak in the late 1990s. Their role as shareholders and experienced entrepreneurs provided an important foundation for our company.
Koos and Wim are still very welcome guests at our locations. We’re therefore also happy that they regularly enjoy our hospitality. To put it another way: they still know a lot of the staff and enjoy having a chat. This time, we’re asking them all the questions instead of the other way around. What are their reflections on 25 years of Vetipak?
Do you still remember why you decided to invest all that time ago?
Wim: “Arno and Hans had just started up and were looking for investors with experience in the packaging sector, and we had just sold our shares in another packaging company. It was a good match, and we felt that we had a good connection with them. Take Arno, for example – his energy and enthusiasm and desire to make progress really appealed to us. That was exactly our goal too: not to stay small, but to keep growing.”
Koos: “Our previous experience meant that we already knew how things should proceed. And we clicked with them personally, which was excellent. For example, we saw right away that Arno was an honest, hard-working, enterprising young man. Not only a good packer, but also a people person with leadership qualities.”
What did you contribute, aside from financial power?
Wim: “When Koos and I started, Arno and Hans were young guys without much experience. We sometimes had to get them away from the machines and send them out to acquire customers. Fortunately, things were soon well under way. We became less and less involved in operational matters and focused instead on supporting the organizational side.
Koos: “Thanks to our knowledge of the sector, our network and the goodwill factor, we were able to acquire new customers very fast. We soon needed extra hands on deck, and we quickly got quite a few of our people working through our temporary employment agency.”
"Instead of thinking about things for weeks,
I'd rather just go for it and be decisive."
Koos den Otter
Did you have any doubts along the way?
Wim: “I’ve never had any doubts, actually. I always said: guys, we will undoubtedly overstep the mark at some point, but even so we’ll just carry on. And Arno was an excellent, motivated leader – a born technician with strong analytical skills. And as the company grew and more people were hired, and then when automation really took off, he continued to be the right director.
Koos: “I’m not so much a doubter, more of an ‘inventor’. I’m also very keen: instead of thinking about things for weeks, I’d rather just go for it and be decisive. Naturally you make mistakes along the way, but if you’re prepared to learn from them, that only enriches your experience.”
Did things between the three of you always run smoothly?
Wim (laughing): “No, not at all! I admit I’m not always the easiest to get along with. Sometimes I had very different ideas and we clashed. But that doesn’t matter. We always kept talking, and kept listening to each other. We’ve actually never had a serious conflict.”
Koos: “Of course we disagreed from time to time, but I can’t remember any serious arguments. And you don’t need to agree with each other all the time. The most important thing is to talk it out when you have a disagreement. We always did that, and that meant we could get back on the same page and continue on our way.
Had you expected that Vetipak would grow to become the company it is today?
Wim: “Yes, actually. Arno has always gathered the right people around him to enable the company to continue growing.”
Koos: “I’m a big thinker, and I saw the company’s potential right from the start. Whether I expected it to become quite so large is difficult to say in retrospect. But I did think that it would do well. All of the necessary ingredients were there, and Arno just exuded that confidence too: he and the people around him were always going to make a success of it.”
"I’ve always had a good
feeling about it, and I still do."
Wim van de Westelaken
What do you both see in the future?
Wim: “Being big is good, but the higher you are, the further you might fall. It’s important for the company to retain its existing customers and be selective in the new ones it acquires. Vetipak works with the right products, serves its customers well and invests in the right people and machinery. I’ve always had a good feeling about it, and I still do.”
Koos: “I have a pretty rosy view of the future. Although there are quite a few competitors, none is operating on the same scale as Vetipak. It’s a strong company that invests wisely, in automation for example. But it’s really the people who make it a success. They’ve all stayed very normal, and no one has got too big for their boots. I drop by regularly, and it always feels like coming home.”
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