- Childhood 1951-1972: St. Antonius school – Helmond; St. Nicolaasinstituut – Oss; Titus Brandsma Lyceum – Oss; Katwijk de Breul – Zeist; BHBS-b F. De Munnik – Utrecht.
- The first jobs 1969-1973 Johnson Wax – Mijdrecht; Bank Vlaer & Kol – Utrecht; KLM Lost Luggage – Schiphol Airport; World Airways – London Gatwick.
- BT Tetterode – Amsterdam 1974 -1976
- Henspapier –Eerbeek 1977
- BT Plantin – Brussels 1978 -1980
- Imede (now IMD) – Lausanne 1981
- KNP Royal Dutch Papermills – Maastricht 1982 -1984: Corporate Planning; Marketing Manager Paper Group.
- KNP Packaging: Director Marketing and Sales Kappa Karton – Sappemeer; CEO Kappa Karton – Sappemeer; Integration project Herzberg – Haren.
- DSM Plastic Products Division 1988 – 1992: Member of the board of directors of Fardem – first Amsterdam later Veldhoven.
- Neodent - Den Haag 1992 - 1997: Owner and CEO
- KNP-BT, later Kappa Packaging, today Smurfit Kappa 1997 – 2004: CEO Recycled Paper Europe – Roemond; Zülpich and Wiesloch. Leukemia. Division Director Solid Board Division – Veldhoven.
- Schuh Vitrine and Simply Shoes – Germany: Share Holder and CEO
- Boer en Croon – Amsterdam 2008 – 2010: Interim manager Veriplast Apeldoorn and Matrix Moscow.
- From 2010 – 2012 Writer and thinker.
- Setting sail – From Europe to New Zealand 2012-2105
- September 2106 enrolled in Bachelor’s Program Erasmus University Rotterdam Faculty of Philosophy.
- Hobbies and stuff over the years.
- Family life.
1. Pim was born in provincial town Helmond in the south of the Netherlands where he visited the primary school until he was sent of to boarding school in Oss. Whilst Pim was at boarding school the family moved to Utrecht, where he joined them after failing to graduate to second grade at the Titus Brandsma Lyceum in Oss. In total it eventually took him two more schools and 9 years to get his high school diploma. It took so long, because it was the sixties and there were always more interesting, funnier and important things to experience than schoolwork. The school’s parties had to be organised, the school paper had to be produced; rowing took up a lot of time as basically being young demanded lots of time.
2. The last years of high school Pim no longer lived at home with his family but – a bit like a student – he rented a room in town. His allowance only covered his direct costs of living and that wasn’t enough to enjoy life as well. At first he worked the night shift on the production line at Johnson Wax in Mijdrecht until he got a job at the Mechanical Bookkeeping Department at the Vlaer&Kol Bank. He went there straight after school to work there until the early evening. During the school holidays he worked for KLM at the Lost Luggage Department.
It was obvious that he didn’t really have truly academic qualifications and an attempt to get a university degree lasted less than a year. He started his first proper day job as operations representative for the American charter company Worlds Airways of Oakland, before informing his parents about the career change. It was a job for the season and as he was furloughed at the end of it he started to look for a long-term solution, as he was planning to marry his girl friend Hanneke.
3. He found a training position as management Trainee with the very well established and old company Lettergieterij Amsterdam, voorheen N. Tetterode, where he got a great training in the printing world to which it was an important supplier. Pim made a fast career to land a responsible job as representative for the selling of capital-intensive equipment to the producers of cardboard packaging. The time was right and he enjoyed a lot of success, also at home where his now wife Hanneke gave birth to a baby daughter.
4. This led to a short sidestep to Henspapier in Eerbeek who were building a new paper mill. The supervisory board of that company forced the CEO to hire an assistant to deal with the increased scope of the business. However the last thing the man wanted was an assistant. To keep Pim away from him he convinced him he had to get to know the company and the paper making process from the ground up. That experience has been extremely valid later in his career and he enjoyed the time spent in the stock preparation, on the paper machine and the coater, in the laboratory and in the warehouse. The job itself however was never destined to become a success, so after one year Pim returned to his former employers, this time to take up a job in Brussels.
5. In Brussels he made a promotion to become sales manager for the sales of converting machinery to the packaging industry, now also including large gravure rotation presses as well as extrusion equipment for plastic packaging. When Pim started in Brussels the company still had offices in the heart of the city. The total experience was a great success on a personal, cultural and business level. Our son was born in Leuven as many of our contemporaries has children around the same time. The social scene made it clear that Pim was not devoid of ambition and that a more formal training than the daily working environment could offer him would be necessary to do that justice.
6. For the calendar year 1981 he was admitted to Imede (nowadays IMD) in Lausanne (CH) for the Masters of Business Administration program. The year with 50 students from 23 different countries provided a great cultural experience as well as true schooling in the ability to think. Pim is convinced that thinking is in the first place a discipline, a craft that can be taught and trained. By setting clear targets, thinking about the alternative ways of getting there, formulating a clear framework with issues and challenges that have to be met, you will find ways to achieve your goals. That should allow people to turn that into clear actions that can be communicated to those involved. Regular feedback should keep everyone on target towards the ultimate goal. That is basically in a nutshell the recipe that has governed Pim in his business life.
7. The recipe turned out to be very successful in his first job after IMD. He joined KNP, the Royal Dutch Paper mills, in Maastricht in the South of the Netherlands, where he started at the corporate planning department. After a year he was appointed Marketing Manager of the Paper group, a function that got him involved in most of the projects of any significance that KNP undertook in those days and that were very influential for the expansion of the company in the eighties. There was a successful turn around of a paper mill in Nijmegen; the repositioning of another paper mill to manufacture label paper and claim the market that became available as his former employer Henspapier went bankrupt; the forward integration into the paper merchant business and to top it all off the membership of the project team that prepared the investment and planning of a new paper mill in Lanaken, just across the border from Maastricht.
8. In 1985 the board decided that it was time for Pim to make a next step in his career and they shifted him from the basic supporting staff activities to the operational position of Director of Marketing and Sales of the Kappa Karton and Papier Divisie. Exactly one year after that appointment, and after it had been restructured into a company now called Kappa Karton he was promoted to CEO of that company. In the years Pim held that position the production was increased from 80.000 to 120.000 tons with a more than proportional growth in profitability. The first steps were taken to move away from the discontinuous 3-shift operation of the company to a fully continuous 5-shift operation.
All this was seen as very successful and a new promotion was made. Pim was asked in 1988 to come up with a plan to integrate the recent acquisition Herzberger Verpackungen into the KNP organisation. The plan that was presented to the Board was accepted and Pim went on a well-deserved sailing holiday with his wife and kids. He was more than a bit surprised when he was told on his return that he would no longer be involved in the integration project and that there was unfortunately no alternative employment for him within the company. The vagaries of corporate politics did not suit him terribly well.
9. He quickly found another job in the Plastic Products Division of DSM as member of the three person Board of Fardem, a multinational producer of flexible packaging. At first he would be responsible for the Marketing and Sales of the entire group as well as being in charge of the operations in the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany. He was also destined to succeed the then chairman when he would retire after a year.
However, Pim was not in position to take up his responsibilities at the time of signing the agreement, as he had committed to conclude another integration project, that of the English Paper Merchant Pollock and Searby; bought by the French Paper Company Arjomari. It was a bit of surprise when he finally arrived at Fardem six months after signing his contract that he was introduced to a new chairman of the board of the Fardem Group. That may be the way of large companies but the Division’s director assured me, that I shouldn’t worry too much. There were plenty career possibilities for young talent in such a dynamic large Group. That was only a few weeks before the man was ousted and any support from him disappeared in thin air.
The Fardem Group had been losing money for quite a few years, something no doubt also caused by the corporate Culture of DSM. Quite well suited to run capital-intensive petrochemical installations, it didn’t suit the needs of the packaging industry at all. The people on the top floor felt very uncomfortable with the probably opportunistic short-term entrepreneurial role that is required in the fast changing world of packaging, something that stands in great contrast to the more strategic and operational long term planning that the petrochemical investment needs. On top of that the Fardem group was not a construct of conscious planning, but more the result of putting together a number of acquisitions of companies that failed to pay their raw material bills. It was a half hearted at forward integration to secure markets for the sale of polymers, but without any coherence between the companies. Fardem was a mishmash of consumer and industrial packaging based on paper and plastic.
We took the bull by the horns and started to reorganise the company. The paper activities were sold to a Finish company, the German activities – started as a research facility for specific type of polymers and then let loose on the market with insufficient scale, focus and market position – was closed and the production of heavy duty industrial bags was concentrated in a new mill in Edam, leading to the closure of the mill in Luxembourg. In England, Belgium and France also a lot of successful effort went into improving the results. After three years Fardem was making a profit and ready for the future. However Pim had to fight over every step of the way with the corporate staff. There will be some funny stories about that under stories. Just as an example abut the inefficiencies of life. After three years it was enough. Pim and DSM decided to part ways. Pim was totally done with corporate life and started to look for something totally different.
10. Earlier in the year Pim had been approached by a head-hunter for a job in the board of the publicly quoted NV Medicopharma. Because that was a job that really could have appealed to him he had prepared in depth for the interview (See under stories: One Weird Conversation.). Therefore he knew when the company filed for bankruptcy that there was a subsidiary called Neodent that could never be part of the core activities and that was bound to be spun off. Pim went for it, but it took a long time before a deal could be made. That was finally the case in February 1992. I have written some little stories about the years that followed when we tried to revive Neodent. It had surprised Pim that it could have been so badly damaged in the rudderless 6 months it took him to acquire the company. Also the landscape of the National Health insurance changed immediately after the acquisition, providing extra challenges. Pim managed to get an amendment to the bill through parliament to get rid of the most damaging of the changes. They were absolutely interesting times at Neodent, but although the continuity of the company could be safeguarded, the original ambition to build it into a much more substantial player in the field of dental wholesaling had basically evaporated.
11. It wasn’t surprising then, that Pim listened with keen ears when his previous employers KNP and BT, that had merged in the meantime, got in touch again with him. He was offered the job of CEO of Recycled Paper Europe, a producer of paper for the packaging industry. At the time RPE operated two paper mills, Roermond Papier and Zülpich Papier. In Zülpich a new paper machine was under construction. Pim got to know the people in the organisation and their track record and knew he could fall back on his trusted recipe of trust in the operational responsible people and supported by them a strategy was developed that avoided the existing lack of focus and sub-optimisation and led to the true and actual integration of both mills.
By introducing a strong central planning and a new logistical concept all five paper machines could be operated within their best window of performance. All non-financial ratios improved and as a consequence so did the financial performance. A company that already had set the standards in the industry because of its technical and production performance became the all-round champion. It was a question of maintaining an overview of all relevant functional areas within the company and making them all important so they could flourish, including controlling and IT, marketing, sales and logistics, combining them all to make a really great efficient, low cost, quality paper producing, customer driven and very profitable company.
The years spent there were amongst the best in Pim’s professional career, but it was too good to last. KNP-BT was a failure as a conglomerate and was split up in its basic three activities: Packaging, production of graphic papers and trading activities. RPE was part of the Packaging activities that was acquired at a rather astronomical cost by CVC and Cinven. It was called a management buy out and indeed the management got a chance to participate. From the moment of acquisition onwards, the goal of the company – renamed Kappa Packaging - was no longer to build the best possible company, but to meet its financial obligations. The interest payments and debt redemption of some extremely expensive loans became far more important than timely maintenance and investment. A typical example of financial short-termism that doesn’t really suit the capital-intensive paper industry.
In 2000 Pim had a rather serious personal setback as he was diagnosed with leukaemia. It took him out of the running for almost a year, a period that coincided with the acquisition by Kappa of the Swedish Assi Domän Packaging Group. In the integration process the Swedish know how in paper making was felt to be superior to what had been created in RPE. Pim was promoted (probably best written as “promoted”) to divisional director of the carton board production division, consisting of the six companies: Attica, Triton, Eskaboard, Herzberg, Badenkarton and Sturovo.
Eskaboard was a merger of Beukema and the original Kappa Karton, the company that Pim had left in 1988. Beukema was in those days his main competitor. Getting reacquainted with Eskaboard was a huge disappointment. The company had totally lost sight of its production costs and used the grip in had on its market thanks to a very substantial market share to make up for that by demanding ever-higher margins on its sales prices. When an American company thought it could benefit from that by building a new paper machine the whole house of cards came tumbling down. All this coincided with Pim’s promotion and of course he was blamed for the problems. The plans he developed together with the company’s operational management were eventually put into praxis, but without Pim, who was sacked by Kappa’s CEO just a few days before he got to present the plans to the supervisory board. The CEO preferred a row over the sacking of the responsible manager to the harsh words Pim would have spoken in the supervisory board.
He was disappointed of course but that is how things sometimes go. The boss ultimately didn’t manage to turn this version of the MBO into a success. He left no room for different thought let alone contrarian thought. His thought, which he rarely communicated, was law. In the end Kappa was forced to merge with Smurfit. Both companies were owned by venture capitalists and heavily financed. Through the merger they could recapitalise the lot. For the old Kappa boss there was just a ceremonial role in the new company as the top management was appointed from Smurfit’s people.
12. All this played out far removed from Pim. He was by now 53 and with his health history it was hard to get a new challenging job. Thinking back to the good days at Neodent he was tempted to enter into a similar – he thought – venture. He got what he figured was an opportunity to acquire Schuh Vitrine, a small chain of shoe stores in Germany. He mistakenly thought that it would be comparable to Neodent, but this was his first step outside of the reasonable world of business-to-business enterprise and consumer business. His experience in retail was limited to nothing and the retail climate in Germany, a difficult market in that respect to begin with, was in serious recession. At the same time a lot of things went wrong in the banking world and the Garant shoe retail cooperative, the main supplier of Shoe Vitrine, had to file for bankruptcy. As if that wasn’t enough, Pim had to go back into hospital. As a consequence of his leukaemia treatment his gal bladder had started to act up and had to be removed, just one month into this new adventure. The operation led to an infection and for months he was way sicker than he had ever been during his bone marrow transplant.
‘Once bitten twice shy’ seems to be a sensible approach, but was wasted on Pim. After he had to file for bankruptcy for the Schuh Vitrine he decided to continue with a few really good shops under the name Simply Shoes. Ultimately that venture proved far more costly than Schuh Vitrine; a lot more.
13. Fortunately he was given an opportunity to start working for Boer & Croon a renowned company of Interim Managers. He did two jobs for them first Veriplast, a packaging company in Apeldoorn, and after that Matrix, a trading company in agricultural equipment, in Moscow. Both were memorable experiences and especially the time in the very interesting agricultural business in fascinating Russia was great.
14. All this had brought us to the year 2010 and the world has gotten a different aspect in Pim’s eyes. He has seen a lot of the world and the way it is being run and he is especially worried about the world of finance. Profit should be a reward of proper enterprise and not a goal to be met. Abusing markets and labour instead of caring for customers and staff is not sustainable. Pim is starting to worry about all sorts of sustainability issues in general and has started as early as 2007 to mull over possible solutions. It has to be a fundamental approach; it has to start with education. He has spoken to members of parliament, civil servants and policy-makers from his political party. The party saw clear benefits of the thinking proposed, but couldn’t fit it in the tight margins that the Dutch political agenda allowed then and probably now. Another approach is necessary. Better education must be at the basis of fundamental constructive change for a better society and the word better needs to get clarified as well.
15. Thinking at home is always interrupted by all sorts of things, many of them to pleasant to forsake and Pim is easily distracted. To get a better idea of what he is thinking about he locks himself up in a monastery for a couple of weeks and comes back with a lot of texts, but it is hard to turn that into coherent thought. Later he is allowed the use of the house of a friend in England where he makes a lot of progress and he gets a much clearer picture of what would be needed to create new foundations for society. A book is in the making, but it still unfinished. And then he and his wife Hanneke decide it is time for some real quality time. Changing the world is too ambitious a task anyway and they decide to concentrate on a long held dream instead. They start planning a sailing journey. They sell up and reorganise and set sail in August 2012 for a journey with no clearly established idea where it will take them. Pim’s daughter Leonie however has been reading and proofing most of his writings and makes him promise to finalise the book for publishing. So dutifully he soldiers on as they sail along the English coast, cross Biscay to Spain, follow the coast of Portugal, cross over to Madeira and then to the Canary Islands, where they spend a month on anchor in beautiful Isla Graciosa, where he prepares the book to be sent to a publisher. It is a publisher called Freemusketeers and it is printing on demand, but they produce a very presentable book. It takes another year before all, well almost all, the I’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed, but early 2104 it is there, in Dutch, called ‘De Macht van Tien’, the Power of Ten. Although it is not the sales success it should be to achieve real change, Pim decides to translate it into English nonetheless and Bybliotech publishes it as an eBook under its title ‘the Power of Ten’. It is an improved version of the original Dutch text thanks to an extensive rewrite with great support from Andrew Holland.
16. Pim feels the thoughts and ideas outlined in both the Dutch and the English versions really deserve more support to get the attention they deserve. He does however feel uncomfortable discussing his ideas in a society that is more given to debating. He simply lacks the foundation to deserve the credibility. So it is time to start building that foundation and he has now enrolled in the Bachelors Program Philosophy at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam.
17. That will bring some structure in the arguments that are the result of a life of doing everything, enjoying all. Very rarely in his life has Pim really dedicated himself to a single pursuit. There are to many enjoyable things and activities in the world. He has always remained young in spirit. “Real men don’t grow up” ; it is so much more fun acting like an adolescent. Pim has always had a drive to try out new things. Only skiing and sailing are activities he took up before marrying Hanneke and they still enjoy those sports today. Apart from those sports in his youth he has played tennis and field hockey, participated in rowing regattas, went mountaineering in the Maasrotsen near Freyr in Belgium and was a glider pilot. As a married man, a father and professional he also dabbled in golf, parachute jumping, squash, scuba diving, running a marathon, cycling, shooting, dog training, riding, ice skating and probably even more. Like after his leukaemia period when felt he had to kill the bug on his car racing ambitions and raced for three seasons. He loved that experience, but felt it was too self-centred for a family man and apart from that way too expensive if you’re not successful in the shoe retail business.
Aside from these activities he used to do woodworking for which he had a lovely workshop in the house where he lived with Hanneke before they went sailing. The house had a great garden, but Pim’s involvement in the garden was basically limited to mowing the lawn and the occasional pruning of the roses. On board of their sail boat he did most of the work that invariably and inevitably is necessary to keep the boat operational, but he hates working with electricity.
Whenever there is time he loves to read. His favourite writer is probably John Irving, but it was the book Civilisation, written by John Osborne that got his thinking going. Even before his sailing voyage Pim had seen a lot of the world, both through (sailing) holidays and thanks to his jobs. He learned to love other cultures and easily feels at home in different environments. His job brought him in contact with professional organisations through which he worked with both national governments as well as the European Union. In his spare time he had the opportunity to use his managerial experience in sailing. He was chairman of the International Cadet Class Association, an association looking after the worldwide well being of sailing in the International Cadet, a sailing dinghy for youngsters up to the age of 17. He was also the vice-chairman in charge of sailing of the Royal Rowing and Sailing Club ‘de Maas’ in Rotterdam.
18. Pim and Hanneke met in 1972 and they moved in together in that year. They got married in 1974 and their first child Leonie was born in 1976, followed in 1976 by her brother Harm. The family moved around a lot. They lived in Utrecht, Amsterdam, Naarden, Overijse, Lausanne, Cadier en Keer, Haren, Amersfoort, Rotterdam, Buggenum and now in Breda.
Sailing was always very important to the family and the kids were really good at it. It helped them through all the moving as they were a part of the sailing community; independent of their the pace they called home at any time. They started sailing when the family was stationed in Haren near the Paterswoldse Meer in 1985. It was a pastime that really evolved into something closely resembling top sport. The next ten years virtually every weekend and holiday was dedicated to their sailing passion and – although in different ways, they are still very keen sailors today.
After their competitive sailing career the kids became sailing instructors at the Wijde Aa; a sailing school that still uses traditional wooden keelboats for instruction purposes. They both met their partners there. Hanneke and Pim are now the proud grandparents of two times two grandsons.
The reason to give this detailed information about Pim’s life is to give you an impression of the rich and varied life he and his family lived, something that has influenced him immensely. He has seen life from many different viewpoints and that is maybe why he doesn’t fit in a simple mould. This has made him a very independent person or maybe it all was the result of his desire to be like that, because he is like that, untethered. That allows him to be the free thinker that came up with the Power of Ten, an idea for democracy 2.0.