30 August 2019

It is a fixed bi-weekly event for both men; the marketing and progress meeting with the Phoenix 3D Metaal advertising agency. The gentlemen in question: Jan-Willem van Hooft (52) and Bernard van der Poel (51), Directors and Co-owners of Phoenix 3D Metaal. Starting from a new strategic course (both at organisational and communication level) and a new corporate identity with strong brand promise, the lines in the field of (marketing) communication, internal communication and employer branding are established during this meeting. That is how the idea of getting started with a series of multiple articles, in which the people of Phoenix 3D Metaal talk about their career within the company, was born. And yes, as a ‘management team’ you also get a turn. An honest and sincere conversation with Bernard and Jan-Willem about leadership and their choice to really focus on employer branding.


“We have known each other since our student days and have always kept in touch; dinner, a few beers and talking. A lot of talking.”


We do have a framework; the periodic meeting is substantively serious. But, apart from that, there is plenty of time and space for a good dose of humour and other topics for discussion. So not always related to what the meeting was scheduled for. You could call this “inefficient”, but it typifies both gentlemen positively; enthusiastic, driven and involved. And the enthusiasm about a nice motorcycle ride through Italy or a holiday to Vietnam is at times just as great as their enthusiasm about the unprecedented possibilities of rubber pressing technology.


Jan-Willem, married and father of three daughters. Greatest hobby: eating out. “I do that more often than exercising. I do go to the gym, play tennis and I ride my motorbike. Even though the latter is more focused on socialising than on actually making miles.” Bernard is also married. And ‘owner’ of a happy Boxer. His biggest hobby is most definitely motorcycling. Preferably on the circuit, but also on Dutch and foreign roads. Loves good food, accompanied by the necessary ‘good’ glass of wine. From time to time he likes to put his chef’s hat and apron on. This is compensated by active sports and of course dog walking.


The iPad (Bernard) and the old-fashioned notepad (Jan-Willem) are consulted. Time for serious matters … management, how do you do that?


“Our management is based on honesty, equality and respect. That has always been our starting point. This is how we act in every situation. You can’t fake it either. Anyone would see right through this. We actually see in practice that ‘young people’ really appreciate this way of working/leadership.


“Thinking and acting from equality is always genuine. This simply cannot be faked.”


Jan-Willem offers an example. “I start each day with a tour of the factory. Just to say ‘good morning’, to have a chat. Something small in terms of implementation, but the idea behind it is bigger. We must not forget that it is our people who work hard day in day out to make the company and our customers successful. They are literally the advantage. Simply put, I want to convey a bit of appreciation and I absolutely don’t see this as part of my ‘duties’ (Jan-Willem focuses on operations, production, logistics and finance. Bernard on new business and marketing). The social component is extremely important. Not only within the walls of our company, but also beyond.”


Jan-Willem’s comment is supplemented by Bernard. “We value our people enormously, but at the same time a lot is expected of them. This is, however, accompanied by a relatively large amount of freedom. A conscious choice. At school or during your studies you are ‘steered’. Intrinsic motivation is therefore less important. Not everything has to come from you. If you don’t want to move forward within our club, you won’t succeed with us. The expectations and the pace are high here. If you don’t keep up, you will fall behind. That sounds harsh and businesslike, but ultimately this form of clarity is the most pleasant for everyone. It is the downside of our way of leadership and not everyone fits within this culture of ‘freedom’. At Phoenix 3D Metal you literally get everything done yourself. That great feeling when you are successful with the rest of the team is therefore many times greater than when you only do what is asked and then achieve results.”


“For us, leadership is being genuinely involved from the inside out. You have to feel it and above all exude it. Everything you do must be genuine. Management also means ensuring people are facilitated. In the field of training and personal development, for example.”


“Leadership also means that you make sure that there is a food van during breaks from time to time.”


Personal development is a high priority at Phoenix 3D Metal. Why is this the case? “We want to make our people better, (continue to) offer challenges and allow them to grow. And we ‘see’ (by listening carefully and looking around) where extra knowledge or expertise is needed. We also try to steer this and if necessary we shake people up. The reactions are often enthusiastic. Everyone wants to move forward and be stimulated. Age hardly plays a role in this.” Jan-Willem nods in agreement and adds that it is his and Bernard’s job to offer a safe home. “We are here for our people. That is why there are many people with a permanent contract within Phoenix 3D Metal. With the aim of; connecting people, keeping the family together. And also important; we keep the knowledge on board this way.


There’s a silence (highly unusual during the meeting). Jan-Willem speaks. “We are doing well, in various areas, including the way we manage. We notice that it’s ‘catching on’. But what I actually want to say is, we sometimes struggle with the fact that we should realise a bit more often that we have made great strides with the team. We tend to forget about that sometimes. At the same time, there is also a danger here; when something works well everyone is content. This contentment could also slow down further development. Because, when things go well…”


What is also ‘going well’ is the continuity of staff within Phoenix 3D Metal. Why is this? “Our starting point: cohesion within the team and everyone working in the position where they’re happy. It must be suitable. We have hardly any turnover of staff and therefore need little replacement, which is great. Certainly if you look at the shortage in the labour market. If we do need a replacement, we will initially try to fill vacancies internally. Then we know who we are dealing with and vice versa.”


“With a good dose of common sense and the drive to work, everyone can succeed here.”


You have consciously chosen to really focus on employer branding. Why is that? Bernard has an answer ready. “Our people are great. So we have to keep them on board. We like to make them important, also in communication, both internally and externally. The effect on the organisation is perhaps even greater internally than externally. Everyone becomes involved and enthusiastic about who we are and what we do. They really want to be a part of it.”


“I thought that employer branding would mainly strengthen us in attracting new staff if needed, but in practice the effect – as Bernard already indicated – is much greater internally. They also show that post on LinkedIn or Facebook, that refers to an article in which the employee plays a central role, at home. So you should not underestimate the effect of such a post.”


“Nobody is a number here, everyone feels that. We really want to be a family business. Every choice we make is based on the long term, which creates calm and clarity for everyone.”


The meeting (in this case the interview), as usual, is over time. “There is so much to talk about. We haven’t even talked about how we continue to nurture that involvement. Sharing information, successes and dilemmas are the key to success. You cannot expect people to be involved if you don’t inform them or include them. So, we consciously do that here. In this way we create support and understanding. In the end it can all be traced back to our approach to management. But there are still plenty of challenges for us. Things could be improved and perhaps should be improved. Because we want to move forward ourselves and because the market demands it. So, it gives us peace of mind to know we have such a great team, which continues to be the advantage.”


“The voice of our people is just as valuable as our own. Perhaps more valuable sometimes.”


Enthusiastic after reading this article? Or do you have any further questions? Feel free to contact us. Bernard and Jan-Willem or one of their colleagues will be happy to help you!