Column: Grandpa tells…

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Grandpa tells …

One of the best things about Van Duuren – if I may say so myself – is that we really are Van Duurens. In other words: the name you see on our trailers has also been the name of the people who form the management for four generations. In short, we really are a classic family business.

Recently, my son Matthijs also joined the company. Sven, my brother Jasper’s son, had already been with us for some time. And now, with Sven and Matthijs, we have two representatives of the youngest Van Duuren generation in the organisation.

Note that we genuinely believe it is important for our children to decide their own future. For many years, we have had a nice tradition of organising family meetings where we talk about the business together with our children. Jasper and I get together with our five children on a Saturday morning, together with an external advisor who guides us in the so-called ‘next generation development’. These are fun and inspiring meetings in which all the children participate, whether they are (have been) active in the company or not. The choice of whether or not to join the company is always entirely up to them.

From daydreaming about such family matters, it is a small step to thinking about the future of our business. As an entrepreneur, that is something you are pretty much always doing. Thinking about the future of the firm is one thing. But thinking about your own, personal, future role is, in a way, a ‘profession in itself’. It literally hits much closer to home. It means taking a good look in the mirror from time to time and asking yourself how you are going to change your role step by step. When are you going to make space for others? What choices will you make in the process? Will you – for example – slowly become less the front man in operations and more the coach and trainer? As a managing director, do you master the art of making yourself redundant step by step? Many questions, in a nutshell. And that certainly involves emotion too. Because many director-owners are so attached to their company that they find letting go extremely difficult.

Nonetheless, I think these kind of questions are important. I am a long time away from leaving and (sometimes) I still feel as youthful as 20 years ago, but it is very simple: You should not start thinking about your legacy only six months before you leave; stepping down from the organisation is something you work towards for years.

Making yourself redundant is also very strongly related to working on the culture of your organisation. The aim then is to ensure that norms and values we hold dear from home are embraced by all our people. By actively working on that transmission of values, you ensure that you can also be missed in that area; that the culture of the company is maintained even without the original bearers of that culture. Such activities are not without obligation, nor do they happen by themselves. You have to be working on it every day. You also have to work on it purposefully; we do this, for example, with concrete leadership development programmes where our board, managers and supervisors work together to safeguard the culture we all stand for.

Does this article have a relatively high ‘Grandpa tells’ element? That may be true, because Sven and Matthijs are no longer part of the youngest generation and I am the proud grandfather of my first grandchild.  Perhaps this special new status explains why I muse more often on such fascinating generational themes …

Regularly, I write a column about my experiences as founder and director of Van Duuren. This column can also be found on our  social media. Would you like to receive my column every month? Let me know by sending an e-mail to and I’ll send it to you from now on.