It’s a great way to feel closer to our customers ”

John Claymans He joined Groden in 2016 and is one of five members of the customer support team covering northwestern Europe – Scandinavia, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Benelux, France, England and Ireland. It is privately responsible for approximately 550 customers in the Benelux region. “I work with clients in all shapes and sizes – from the largest pepper producer in the Netherlands to more than 100 hectares to 4 hectares or less, producing all kinds of food and flower crops,” he says. In my previous roles I worked in Mertens, a leading supplier of horticultural products and equipment, so I already knew Grodan’s products and knew many farmers. That network comes in handy in this role, and so does the ability to put yourself in the shoes of a manufacturer to ease the burden on them as much as possible.

John lives about 30 minutes from Barrod’s headquarters in Roland. He worked at home for three months at the height of the COVID-19 epidemic, but since he was allowed to return, he has returned to Groddan’s offices: “Working from home is not really mine, only two weeks later! I missed the 30-minute drive home to clean my head at the end of the day, so I’m glad we’re all back in the office. It also makes it much easier for us to connect with other Grodan partners to provide the highest quality service and quick response that our customers expect from us.

How do you contribute to Grodan’s success?
It’s my job to make sure everyone gets the right products at the right time so that the crop process can work efficiently – and that’s all about good relationships. During peak periods of the year, such as October to December, I can spend about six hours a day answering phone calls and emails about all aspects of customer orders – volumes, prices, receipts, technical issues, our recycling service and so on. I can handle it myself with about 80%, and I will talk to the expert in person for more details. Many calls are to request a different delivery date. Many farmers work on a very carefully planned program, but crop yields are not really 100% predictable. For example, good weather seedlings may be ready to be planted earlier than kindergarten, so a farmer may want to bring the planned stone wool boards or blocks forward. If so, I will contact our Production, Transportation or Logistics departments to see what can be done. To make our customers happy in Grodden, we always aim to provide a “gold-star” service – although it means going beyond “standard” – for example, arranging Saturday delivery on special occasions. And recently, one of our plant-growing customers for the flower sector has received so many orders — three to four times the previous years — and suddenly needs 20 more battery packs to deliver in the next two days! Organizing that time was a big job, but I’m glad we succeeded.

What do you like most about working in Groden?
I like that there are a lot of great customers, and I know many of them personally, so contact is often informal. For example, many of our clients have family businesses, and I often know the foster wife and children. I like to think of innovative solutions to issues like shipping, and it’s really satisfying when we find a way that works for everyone. It is better to work with our customers as part of their team than to have a traditional “customer / supplier” relationship, and I feel that they truly appreciate our efficient, problem-solving approach. Within us, each of us has our own role and strength, but each person has a strong desire to help each other and to share their knowledge, which helps us all to learn new things every day. I would like to be involved in some Grodan activities to further develop new products, such as working with our R&D department to develop and develop experiments. The fruit and vegetable sector will continue to grow in the coming years, and it is great to work in a company that is so active in the growth of its customers, employees and the industry as a whole.

What do many customers think they might be surprised to learn about Groden?
I think a lot of people don’t realize how big our company is. We have more than 80 people in our business here in Romermond alone – so that doesn’t count for our production, logistics and finance departments – and we continue to see new employees throughout the epidemic. Since many of our products are designed to be orderly, we focus on efficiency to make the work as efficient as possible. For example, we plan our production and distribution very carefully, trying to anticipate what customers will want, and we actually have many warehouses in and around Venlo, Breda and Tilburg to shorten our delivery time.

If you were a farmer, what kind of crop would you grow, and why?
I prefer to grow peppers, in part because they have so many different shapes, sizes and colors, partly because the plant itself is a little easier to manage than a tomato plant, for example, but most of all I like the way they taste. I actually have very green fingers, I grow peppers and strawberries at home, and we actually have some pepper plants in the office. It’s a great way to get closer to our customers, and we can see how Grossens works. Another example is that we are constantly working to improve our knowledge in order to provide the best advice for our clients.

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