About John Kluytmans
John joined Grodan in 2016 and is one of the five members of the Customer Support team covering North West Europe: Scandinavia, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Benelux, France, UK and Ireland. He is personally responsible for approximately 550 customers in the Benelux region. “I work with customers in all shapes and sizes – from the biggest pepper grower in the Netherlands with over 100 hectares to smaller growers with 4 hectares or less, producing all kinds of food and flower crops,” he says. “In one of my previous roles I worked for Mertens, a leading supplier of horticultural materials and equipment, so I was already familiar with Grodan products and knew a lot of growers. That network comes in very handy in this role, and so too does the ability to put yourself in a grower’s shoes so that you can ease the burden on them as much as possible.”
John lives in Baarlo, which is approximately 30 minutes from the Grodan headquarters in Roermond. He worked from home for three months at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, but has been back in the Grodan offices full-time ever since it was allowed again: “Working from home isn’t really my thing; I’d had enough of it after just two weeks! I missed the 30-minute drive home to clear my head at the end of the day, so I’m pleased that we’re all back in the office again. Plus it makes it much easier for us to interact with other Grodan colleagues in order to provide the top-quality service and fast response that our customers expect from us.”
How do you contribute to Grodan’s success?
It’s my job to ensure that everybody receives the right products at the right time to keep the crop production process running smoothly – and that’s all about good communication. At peak times of the year, such as October to December, I can spend around six hours a day answering phone calls and emails with questions about all aspects of customer orders: volumes, prices, invoices, technical issues, our recycling service and so on. I can deal with around 80% of them myself, and for the rest I contact the relevant expert internally for more details. A lot of calls are to request a different delivery date. Many growers work to a very carefully planned schedule, but crop production is never 100% predictable of course. For example, good weather might mean that seedlings are ready for transplanting sooner than the plant raiser expected, so a grower might want to bring the planned delivery of stone wool slabs or blocks forward. In that case, I contact our Production, Transport Planning or Logistics departments to see what’s possible. At Grodan we always aim to provide ‘gold-star’ service to keep our customers happy, even if it means going beyond what is ‘standard’ – such as arranging delivery on a Saturday in exceptional cases, for example. And recently, one of our plant-raising customers for the flower sector had received a huge amount of orders – three to four times more than in previous years – and suddenly needed 20 extra pallets of plugs to be delivered within the next two days! It was a mammoth task to get that organized in time but I’m pleased to say that we succeeded.
What do you like most about working at Grodan?
I love the fact that I have lots of really nice customers, and I know many of them personally so the contact is largely informal. For example, many of our clients have family businesses, in which case I often know the grower’s wife and children too. I enjoy thinking up creative solutions in the case of things like delivery issues, and it’s really satisfying when we find a way that works for everyone. It’s nice to work together with our clients almost as part of their team rather than having a traditional ‘customer/supplier’ relationship, and I feel that they really appreciate our proactive, problem-solving approach. Internally, we each have our own role and strengths but everyone is keen to help one another and share their knowledge, which helps us all to keep learning new things every day. I also like the fact that I’m involved in some of Grodan’s activities to continuously develop new products, such as when I work with our R&D department to prepare and set up trials. The horticultural sector will continue to grow over the coming years and it’s great to be working at a company that is playing such an active part in the growth of its customers, its employees and the industry as a whole.
What do you think many customers might be surprised to know about Grodan?
I think that many people don’t realize just how big our company is. Here in Roermond, we have over 80 people working in our commercial organization alone – so that’s not counting our Production, Logistics and Finance departments – and we’ve continued to recruit new employees throughout the pandemic. Because so many of our products are made to order, we have a strong focus on efficiency to keep the whole operation running as smoothly as possible. For example, we plan our production and distribution very carefully while also trying to anticipate what customers might need, and to shorten our delivery times to the Westland region we actually have several warehouses in and around Venlo, Breda and Tilburg.
If you were a grower, what crop would you cultivate, and why?
I would choose to grow peppers, partly because they come in so many different shapes, sizes and colours, partly because the plant itself is a little easier to manage than a tomato plant, for example, but above all because I love the way they taste. In fact, I have quite green fingers; I grow peppers and strawberries at home, and we actually have some pepper plants here in the office too. It’s a great way for us to feel even closer to our customers, plus we can see how GroSens works in practice. That’s another example of how we’re continuously working to improve our knowledge in order to give our customers the best possible advice.