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Cucumber and tomato grower René Tielemans
"Give employees the chance to get shares in the company"
Self providing organisation gives people sense of responsibility
In the past years Tielemans not only invested in expanding, but also in building a self-provisioning company. The fact that the entrepreneur is not living near his company, is of vital importance, this according to Tieleman. “I took over the nursery from my father quite late, and had already settled in the village. It stayed that way; my father is still living near the company, and that is fine to me: there is less confusion and you can take distance more easily. When you are at home, you are really at home. At the same time it forces you to organize your company in a different manner, delegate tasks, and be more of an entrepreneur than a grower. If you live near the nursery, you can check the greenhouse in the evening, which is difficult for me to do.”
Letting the company build and develop itself
Because of the organizational structure Tielemans has implemented, he is hardly occupied with operational affairs. He mainly focuses on the strategy of the company and setting out the course to the future. “I can really be an entrepreneur, and focus on the further development of our company. You need this space as an entrepreneur, it is the only way to stay innovative. Some years ago we were the first cucumber growers to use lighting. That was a success, and that is why we are expanding the area of lighted cucumbers next year.
As an entrepreneur Tielemans does not limit himself to his own company, recently he bought a former social working place in Gemert, which is going to house his sister’s care farm. “I also want to expand my caravan parking here. Now I am using only old greenhouses for this purpose, which is now almost filled with 400 caravans. These kind of projects give me energy and inspiration. I see opportunities everywhere, I am a builder who wants to build and develop new things. The company structure offers me that opportunity.”
At the question whether things sometimes go wrong, the entrepreneur pauses for a moment. “ Actually, I am hard pressed to come up with a failure. Maybe that is my attitude: I have an optimistic approach to life, which makes me see things rather as lessons than as mistakes. The only thing I can come up with is that I might have missed some opportunities in recent years. For example for the generation of extra turnover.”
Guaranteeing continuity with divided stakeholders
Thelemans is also thinking about long term: how can the company process when the time comes for him to stop? “I don’t think my children have to continue the company per se. Why couldn’t it be a stranger? Fact is that the nursery, because it can function without me, is easier to hand over than a company that is fully dependent of the entrepreneur.”
Some time later it turns out that Tielemans, although he has to, and wants to go on for some time, has made concrete steps towards a future take over. One of his managers has become a stockholder last year. “In my opinion this was a logical step; he was running one of both company locations independently since 2015. And why should everything be mine? I don’t have that need. On the contrary, I would be happy when someone at the other location wants to be a stockholder. Given the fact the number of company successors is dwindling, more growers will probably be forced in this direction. That is why I advice to give colleagues and employees who are open and suited to this, the possibility to take stock in the company. This can help to guarantee the continuity of your company.”
'Contact with the consumer is not a must'
Tielemans is saddened by the lack of cooperation in the horticulture. "I have a cooperative mind, am very open, and I do not have secrets. The same applies to my employees and this makes our company unique. I have noticed that in study clubs cultivation is often the sole subject. It is logical, but sad: if we would share more figures, for example with regard to labor, it would benefit us all. You can also, by being honest, strengthen each other's company. It is what I have experienced during the HOT Master sessions I have partaken in."
Tielemans is convinced that his company is future proof with the current structure. To keep on existing, you must put the company central and make yourself dispensable. Still, I don't think every entrepreneur should go this way. Some growers are happy when they can work in the greenhouse and are able to control everything themselves. It is fine, but it will be a challenge to hand the company over in the future. Another option is that you hire extra staff for the points where you as a grower are weaker. You can do what you like, while at the same time our company keeps on developing and will still be around in 2026. It is not a problem if you are not an entrepreneur. It is a condition that you must be prepared to delegate."
Source: Coalitie HOT
Publication date: 6/1/2018
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