From the mail deliverer to the Binnenhof in The Hague, Rob Brakenhoff knows his way around
He was foreordained to work as a graphic designer, but his career took a completely different turn. It became instead a far from predictable career in aviation, healthcare, electronics and postal and parcel delivery. He is a strategic thinker and enthusiastic speaker. Rob Brakenhoff talks just as easily about the liberalisation of the postal market with a minister as he does with a part-time mail deliverer from Sandd. Rob was the last CEO of this company until it was taken over by PostNL. He has now joined Boer & Croon as an interim CEO/COO.
"Pantar is an organisation that provides employment services in the Amsterdam region. It offers new opportunities to people who are at a disadvantage on the labour market. Ten years earlier, Pantar had been privatised as a foundation and it could do with a new impulse, both in a commercial and a business sense. With a management team of five people from the business community who had complementary qualities, we were able to plug the leak and eventually merge the organisation, which was made up of four operational companies," Rob explains. "Once this process had been completed after 6 years, it was time for something different."
IN GOOD ORDER AND PREDICTABLE
Rob got straight to work as a COO. More volume was achieved through the acquisition of several companies, such as Selekt Mail and Van Straaten Post BV. From 2015, a catch-up also had to be made with regard to parcel deliveries. "We're completely crazy in the Netherlands! If we order something at 5 minutes before midnight, then we want to receive it on our doorstep the very next day. Therefore, if you only deliver mail two days a week, you have no business in this market."
"My task was simple: get that new business organised and develop a 24/7 enterprise. And create added value for the shareholders in any eventual sell-offs."
FIGHTING FOR EVERYTHING
The market was liberalised, but politicians in The Hague had their own agenda. "They did not want PostNL, a 'jewel in the crown' of Dutch society, to be taken over by a foreign company or undercut by a Dutch company. Legislation always follows liberalisation and we had to fight for everything. The established order is by definition protected," said Rob, who was appointed CEO of the mail and parcels company in 2017. This may well have been a good thing for 'BV Netherlands', but it was difficult for the director of Sandd to accept.
THE BEST CHOICE
The acquisition by PostNL was the best choice for both parties. "But emotionally, pretty intense," elaborates Brakenhoff, who has played the competition very keenly for years. Even a new caterer, who brought in orange crockery, had to pay the price. "He had to cart his goods back with him in that were in PostNL's house colours."
After the acquisition, Rob Brakenhoff spent another six months at the head office in The Hague advising on the integration of both companies. Smiling, he says: "Advising is not the same as being the CEO. All in all, it was a really fascinating and instructive period."
THE RIGHT MOMENT
The trained graphic designer looks back on some fine successes with the turn-around at Amsterdam's Pantar and the complex undertaking at Sandd. "One way to relax after work is to grab my camera. I've gone back to analogue photography, because that calls for a different kind of concentration. Looking for and choosing the right moment. And not just picking out the best from a selection of 30 digital photos. It's so satisfying when everything turns out just right in the picture."