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Director for 1 day

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Yes, it is possible… to become Director of a Seed Valley company for 1 day. Every year, Hortiheroes challenges students from all over the Netherlands to contest and participate in this unique competition.

Teun Boomaerts, a 25-year-old ambitious and pragmatic student from the Province of Noord- Brabant, was the lucky one thanks to his remarkable background and introduction video. Teun, whose parents run a greenhouse horticulture company, is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Business Administration at Nyenrode University. Previously he finished his education in horticulture and farming. In other words: an all-rounder that fits in perfectly with the Seed Valley companies.

Teun was linked to a plant breeder company named Gitzels, a company that was founded more than 60 years ago by Will Gitzels. In recent decades, thanks to modern growing systems, Gitzels has rapidly developed into one of the most important growers of cabbage plants for the northern part of The Netherlands. Last week Teun was allowed to take over the role of William Gitzels, the director of the company. For William the perfect occasion to get used to the future, in which his son Mike will take over his leadership role.

From 1.5 million per year to 1.5 million per day
The day started with an introduction in the conference room. William immediately gave Teun an insight into the company and its great success. For instance, some years ago the important choice was made to focus on so-called root ball plants, a nice name for plants in trays. Not an easy choice as some customers left.  At the same time though, new customers were attracted. Before this transition, Gitzels produced 1.5 million plants per year. Thanks to the use of innovative techniques and expansion, that number has now risen to 1.5 million plants per day (!). Looking at the workforce, one of the company’s focal points is the balance between doers and thinkers, both on the work floor and within the management team. The thinkers think a few years ahead, while the doers have a more direct approach. A golden combination!

Riding through the greenhouse complex
After a  well-deserved coffee and introduction, it was time to explore the enormous greenhouse complex in Wervershoof by bike. During the tour, David Baas (Account Manager) asked an important question to the director: how do we put that one specific order from the customer in our system, in a way the process is fair and transparent to both the customer and us? And preferably in the most efficient way possible, so that we don’t need an extra bookkeeper! After a short conversation during which Teun and William could let their knowledge work for them, the problem was solved.

Lunch time! The Directors took a seat in the company restaurant, where all colleagues gather on a daily basis. A screen shared the latest world news and all the company updates. During lunch several topics were discussed: the staff shortage, sustainability, locals for locals and of course the latest innovations within the sector. Matthijs Woestenburg (Research & Development) also joined the conversation. Spontaneously, a conversation arose between three people with a passion for the business and brainstorming.

The heart of Cabbage Farming
After lunch, it was time to take a closer look at the financial part of the company. How does Gitzels control the expenses and how does William keep the company healthy? William and Teun also discussed topics improving the professionalization. How does Gitzels build a future-proof organization? How do you attract the right people and work proactively to create a pleasant culture within the company? Teun was also curious about the area the company works in, why is this area so important? And how are other grower companies in this area facing these challenges?

Finally, there was an extensive discussion on the dynamics of the market in which Gitzels is active and how the company strategy is focused on this. The dynamics in the market for cabbage plants are diverse! Together with two other plant growers, Gitzels is the heart of cabbage cultivation in the Netherlands. A lot of broccoli, cauliflower and other types of cabbage are grown in North Holland; a large part of Gitzels’ customers are therefore located nearby. Transport costs remain limited and high service is possible.

Furthermore, Gitzels is a real cabbage plant specialist, which has led to a great package of knowledge about these crops. In this way, a high-quality plant can be supplied to growers consistently. Gaining knowledge is also a permanent business unit: colleague Matthijs Woestenburg was hired five years ago only for research purposes. He is now responsible for the entire cultivation of all cabbage plants in the nursery and even abroad via consultancy assignments. Thanks to this strategy, Gitzels has a strong position in the market.

It was an instructive day for both parties. William’s years of experience gives Teun a nice backpack with knowledge. The tranquility that Teun had that day, but also his vision about the Food & Flower sector in our country, inspired William.

Got excited? Next year there will be another edition of Director for 1 Day. Keep an eye on the Hortiheroes website and maybe we’ll see you as the next Director in Seed Valley!


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