Of course, he is right. And anyone who knows a bit about me can tell you that it takes little effort from Kees to talk for an hour.
However, he felt it necessary to offer some advice: “Don’t get carried away. Just keep it between 300 and 500 words.”
I was even allowed to sprinkle in some humour, but he warned me not to overdo it. I must confess, with appropriate shame, that I once accidentally urinated in a customer’s showroom because I thought it was an actual functioning toilet. I guess that type of thing would be taking it a bit too far!
Let me get to the point. As we are still at the start of the new year, I can look back on the wonderful leaps forward we have made over the past two years, since our move from Beneden-Leeuwen to Druten. Little by little, we have been coming out of our shell. For instance, in recent months, we have appeared in trade magazines like Tegel Totaal, showcasing the new plans for our retail range.
Our fresh media strategy involves a justifiable mea culpa because, to be fair, apart from attending trade shows in Italy and Spain, we have done too little for quite some time in terms of marketing, communications and branding. But this does not mean we have been standing still: we have just neglected to tell the world about what we have been doing.
It should also be mentioned that our new building houses a state-of-the-art Design Centre with mood walls and a library. We have implemented a fully operational and professional merchandising department as well. Currently, ICA offers a full-service package to retailers, tile specialty stores, builders’ merchants, tilers, cash and carry outlets and contractors as well as for custom-made applications and a wide variety of projects. ICA’s strength lies in its large quantity of stock, which enables a speedy response to the demands of clients and dealers.
At the end of last year, I decided that it was time to take a step back. This is partly why I am so happy with our operations director, Antoon Leurs, who deals with automation and digitisation, logistics, HR, and internal and legal matters and can put the right people in the right place. All the things that I do not possess expertise in or have time for, which is why it is so important to know your weaknesses. By assigning these tasks to a highly capable person, we have become stronger as a company.
Apart from operations, we have also seen great progress commercially. Sales manager Bram Boer has been with ICA for a year now and has grown tremendously. And fortunately, our back office keeps up with steady growth of its own.
I am often asked whether it is time to quit and start having fun. The truth is I still love my work too much and walking through our warehouse in Druten fills me with a sense of pride. I also like seeing people develop and seizing the opportunities they are offered. I am well aware of the fact that I am almost three-quarters of a century old. That is why I have my annual check-up with the doctor, pay attention to my diet and try to stay fit with the help of a personal trainer a few times a week.
As the recent death of Peter Koks and the wife of Gerrit Brandriet of Tegeloutlet Rijssen shows, it can sadly all end so suddenly. Fortunately, I was able to say goodbye to them, but it still does not stop the harsh reality from hitting home. So, we should fill our lives with things we are passionate about while we can.