Lucas Vos: “I worked for the best horticultural company”21 December 2017
Lucas Vos has warm feelings when reviewing his four years as CEO of Royal FloraHolland. “I worked for the best horticultural company. Pride has returned to this sector.” How does he look back on four years of Royal FloraHolland?
"The feedback I get from growers is that a lot was achieved. People are prouder, there is more added value in the chain. We have become more international. The consumer is important again throughout the entire sector.I am really proud of achieving that. We have worked hard to implement cost savings, so there are 700 fewer people working for us. The balance has decreased by €150 million. There is a new company in its place, and savings continue to be made.
I am most happy that we are clear about our digital future. We know what Floriday can do, and I am convinced that it will help our growers to go further in that world. It is the key ingredient of Flowering the world together."
Many growers visited
What are you most proud of? "Royal FloraHolland consists of a difficult stakeholder field with growers and customers and other parties. In the last four years, this has begun to work in harmony. I have felt a lot of trust from the growers, and I did a lot of visiting. The buyers are now considered customers and treated as such. The service provision certainly still needs work.
In 2017 the commitment of the employees in our company improved further. They had more faith in the future of our enterprise. In the beginning, some people were sceptical about improving together. Now employees see that it really helps to improve processes in your own work. And it is so great, it is not temporary but a permanent change. That applies also to the Square of the Future. If you show that you want to invest in your future, then that is something positive. Whether you remain with us or not."
No strategy with a specific year in the title
In 2015 you stated that you would not make it to 2020. What would you have done differently? "The strategy depended to a great extent on me. It is really linked to Lucas Vos. That is not good. It must be connected to the cooperative, with all employees, and to the sector. That is why it is good for me to leave now. And that the strategy proves its worth without Lucas Vos. I think that upon reflection I would have given it another name than 2020. By doing so, you set a timeline in stone, which is no longer logical in an age that is changing so much. We could have called it the new Royal FloraHolland. The strategy remains. I shall never again set up a strategy with a specific year in the title because that is tricky."
Steven is better at making tougher choices
What words of wisdom do you want to impart to your successor Steven in his new role? "I hope that he will get the opportunity to implement the strategy, while also giving it his own touch. Steven is better than me at making tougher choices. A strategy is created in line with a particular point in time. Four years ago that was: let's not squabble in the tent. Let us focus on the consumer, fight against the chocolate and the gift certificates. We cannot afford to be less ambitious regarding consumers. It is good that we have facilitated this. Growers are still busy working on this. And that is necessary, customers and growers must take this on themselves. It's in the margin of our set tasks. Four years is enough time to stimulate the situation. Now we need to start letting go."
What was your lowest point? The conversation goes quiet for a while. Lucas replied, "I had hoped that we would be further along with The New Auctioning by now. We should have realised earlier that The New Auctioning could not be grafted onto the old logistics systems. I would have much preferred to set integrated logistic control in the planning for 2017 instead of 2018. We are not as far along as we would have liked."
What was your experience of the horticultural mentality, the no nonsense culture? "The shipping industry (Lucas previously worked for Maersk) is comparable in this respect in terms of hard work and directness. What I had to get used to was the difference in the interests of growers and customers. They demand very different things from us. It's a kind of parallel working. It can bring our company to a halt because we are being pulled every which way. In other businesses, it is easier to take one approach. Here there are many forces working against you."
Becoming more international
How do you envisage the future? "The horticultural sector is doing well, also in comparison to other agricultural sectors. We have established a good direction, also in terms of digitalisation. What I wish for growers is: become more international! Can you produce abroad? Many growers only think as far as the border. They don't realise how good they are compared to the rest of the world. That is the mentality of 'act normal, that is crazy enough."
No longer in the horticultural sector
Have you found a new challenge already, Lucas? "Not yet, but I have been approached with some offers. If it's something that I just can't refuse, then I'll commit. Until then, I'm going to have some time off. I'm not going to work in the horticultural sector again because I have already worked for the best company of that sector. It's possible that I shall work somewhere else in Europe."
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