ForFarmers' Tom van der Laan is a processing man par excellence. 'Give me a Stopwatch and I will give you a plan with which cost savings and higher quality can be achieved within the process.'
He made an unusual debut at ForFarmers. Having joined ForFarmers as a project and portfolio manager in October 2017, Tom van der Laan received an unexpected request on his third day on the job to become the manager for nine factories. Tom scratched all appointments from his diary and enthusiastically took up the temporary position as Operations Director Netherlands. 'It was a bit of a switch, but I also saw the opportunities, because the shop floor is where it's at! Thanks to this interim appointment, I got to know many different segments within ForFarmers in a short time and saw more of the production side than I would otherwise have done. It is the core of what we do as a company and being asked to do this by the management, feels like a clear vote of confidence.'
Tom was not thrown in at the deep end, however. He was assigned a team of colleagues to prevent him taking any wrong turns. 'Those first three months may just as well have been a year, it was so intense! In no time at all, I got to know a variety of processes and people. In a different situation, this would have taken much more time. Moreover, it helped me adapt to my current position.' Organisational bottlenecks often enter on the commerce side, while the cause often goes back to production. 'Because of my temporary detour, I have a more detailed understanding of the production process and can get through to the core of a problem more quickly.' ForFarmers' onboarding process was a great help as well–it is highly professional, according to Tom. 'I was assigned a personal HR officer and given a factory tour, accompanied the sales people on a dairy farm visit, and spent a day with a bulk truck driver delivering feed to pig farmers. This facilitated my onboarding. I also found that the goodwill factor is certainly there between colleagues.'
CAR TYRES OR CHICKEN
After three months, Tom handed over his interim job to take up his actual position in January. As a project-and portfolio manager at a large company in its growth phase, he creates overview and structure for various projects. 'I come into my own when there is a lot to do. I can contribute significantly at times like that,' says Tom, who has fulfilled a series of management consultant position in various branches. Providing insight into and improving processes with people is the red thread through his career. 'Getting more out of a machine, for example, of speeding up a quotation process from two weeks to three days. Car tyres or chicken? It's all the same to me. Give me a stopwatch, and I'll give you a plan that saves costs and achieves higher quality,' says Tom, who now performs his 'tricks' mainly in service-oriented environments.
A COMPANY THAT IS REALLY ALIVE
At ForFarmers, Tom builds bridges between the business strategy and projects that result from it. 'The Management Team (MT) says where it wants to go; I act, as it were, as a bridge between the MT and the internal organisation where these projects are relevant. I map the strategic urgency of the projects, resources, and means in such a way as to enable them to make the right choices. The overview I create, helps them to prioritise. In addition to being the project manager for two of the many projects, I have a coaching role for various project managers, with the aim of increasing our executive powers.'
In short, until now his position and experience have been exactly in line with the first impression he got from both ForFarmers and Consultant Wim van de Worp, who guided him through the application process. 'Although Wim allowed me to talk, he did not waste any time. He understood the emotions at play in each phase and proactively prepared me for them. A mere six months later, Tom lets us know that he is enjoying himself enormously. He says he has found the intellectual challenge he was looking for, and that he appreciates his colleagues' practice-oriented attitude. 'On the way to work, I come across a particular traffic light, where I always see at least two ForFarmers lorries go past. The energy I get from a company that is really alive, is fabulous. It may sound strange, but having to fight for every euro is actually right up my street.'
If you feel inspired by this story, find out more here about open positions at ForFarmers.