Jan's grandfather and father had a transport company. Margarine factory Romi, right next to Hooymeijer on the Queen Wilhelmina Harbour, was one of their customers. Partly because of this, he has known Hooymeijer for 40 years. Even as a child, he could not stay away from the wheel; when he was 12, the police found him behind the wheel of a truck. Fortunately, that did not stop him in his further career. He worked in the family business as a driver and later acquired the company from his grandfather and father. Unfortunately, however, the transport industry has been through some tough times and the company experienced a few difficult years. So Jan took the difficult and courageous decision to sell the business.
From boss, to colleague, to manager
When the company was sold, Hooymeijer took over the trucks and was joined by Jan, now well known to the company, and other employees. "I hired myself out to Hooymeijer as a driver or a 'jumper' (picking up and taking away trucks). I thought: I'll just go back to driving! I did that for Hooymeijer for about five years, until I tore a tendon in my arm due to an accident. It had to be plastered". Not wanting to sit still, Jan offered his expertise for a (temporary) position in the office. "It was the holiday season and planning needed some extra hands. That's how I started as a Planner".
He is now Team Lead Container Transport Inland. He manages four planners on a daily basis and has a helicopter view over the planning. He is also the drivers' point of contact. His experience on the road helps him no end: "All those miles of experience behind the wheel now help me in this job too. I was one of them, I’ve done the work they are doing. That makes communication a lot easier".
Together with his team, he keeps things running, but things have changed within his role: “I used to be right at the heart of the operation. I was incredibly busy, I never looked at the clock. I spent all day with the planners and drivers and had to constantly stay focused on my team and customers. These days, I have more of a directing role. This improves processes and allows the team to work even more efficiently."
Asked if he ever gets involved in any firefighting within the team, he laughs: "Sometimes it's like the California forest fires!" he says jokingly. Fortunately, Jan knows how to deal with that too: “I like putting out fires. I definitely have the gift of the gab. Some customers know me because I met them when I was driving.”
Jan is especially proud of his team. "In planning, you sit between your drivers and the customers, which is not always easy. But my team feels accountable for its work. The staff do not have a 9-to-5 mentality and know what they are talking about. They have a strong sense of what transport means. This is also how I try to convey my commitment to Hooymeijer, so that they keep the higher goal in mind. This is how we learn from each other every day. We learn about our profession and develop as people.”
Driver from day one
As we walk out together, Jan spots an old acquaintance: "Look, that's John. I saw him being born!". John is a driver at Hooymeijer, having ‘joined up' with Jan years ago. Jan shows me a picture of him and John at a very young age. "I have known the boy all his life. It’s almost unbelievable that I still work with him now". That’s got to be worth a picture.