Harm Winkeler joined Boer & Croon as Associate Partner
'A transition will only succeed if you implement it across the board. What is the impact on assets and infrastructure? What about employee training and the management structure? When it comes to change, we underestimate middle management. Often, much of the solution lies in strengthening them. This is where the knowledge is; this is the organisation's engine.'
Harm Winkeler has joined Boer & Croon as an Associate Partner. For the past thirty years, he has worked at home and abroad with companies in transport, logistics, waste, and recycling. He has been involved in several significant changes while being responsible for ongoing business and financial results. With these experiences, he now focuses as an interim manager on replacement and/or change jobs. He prefers to work with a product you can see, feel and smell and where your feet have to stand in the mud occasionally.
Working at a company after an acquisition
After his studies, Harm worked for three years as a marketer at Mateco under the name Gunco (part of ING Lease). He then spent ten years with NS Cargo, a company where he supervised and initiated many changes in various commercial and managerial positions, including after the takeover by Deutsche Bahn. Among other things, he did that from Germany for two years.
Harm: "I have always worked in companies where change was needed to be implemented. Sometimes after a takeover and sometimes because I initiated it myself. After NS Cargo, I worked for Martinair for 7.5 years. First, on the passenger side. I had just started there when KLM became a 100% shareholder. We then decided to stop the European flights. That led to a major reorganization in the workforce and the network. Later, I switched to the Cargo division. Before that, I worked in both Hong Kong and Atlanta, partly to integrate the offices and systems of Air France, KLM and Martinair Cargo.'
Affinity for small organizations
In his last position at what is now Air France-KLM-Martinair Cargo, Harm was responsible for the Benelux market. He realised that working in a large corporate environment differed from his cup of tea.
'It was interesting for a while. But I came from an entrepreneurial family and started to miss the business side. At NS Cargo and Air France-KLM-Martinair cargo, I always played a small part of the piano. It was time to play the whole piano. That's why I have more affinity with smaller organisations of, say, 50 to 400 people.'
Making a transition work successfully
After this, Harm joined OBA Bulk Terminal, now HES Terminal Amsterdam, as Managing Director in the port of Amsterdam. This company skips coal. Here, too, he had to deal with a major transition when, after six months, the government decided to close the Hemweg coal-fired power plant.
'Soon after, the Port of Amsterdam decided to slowly phase out coal transhipment to stop it altogether by 2030. You then have to look at your assets, infrastructure and especially your people, and consider what products fit in. We focused on strengthening the transhipment of agricultural products and the transhipment of recycled materials. It was essential to inform people well and include them in decisions. You must have a good feeling about what is happening on the shop floor. Especially in such a conservative environment with port workers, it is essential to make people see the need for specific changes and to motivate them. An important reason for the success of that transition was that I feel at home in the workplace and enjoy working at the intersection of strategy and execution. We are in a tough job market where human capital is becoming increasingly important. You have to pay much attention to that as a manager. Strengthen middle management and make sure everyone feels at home there. Invest in their development. If people want to work part-time, try to facilitate that. If you don't understand that, your company will run empty.'
Provided positive motions
After five and a half years, Harm switched to the waste collector and manager of public space ACV, where he became General Manager. Part of ACV is also a large recycling organization, which also employs people with a distance to the labor market. At ACV he implemented a professionalization drive, reduced costs, opened up new sources of income and made the financing structure future-proof. In the first year, he managed to achieve a sharp increase in profitability. Sustainability plays an important role. For example, he introduced HVO as a replacement for diesel. In doing so, he achieved a 90 percent CO2 savings. Also under his reign, a big step was taken in electrifying the small equipment and fleet.
'I think waste is an interesting product. Because you can mostly recycle it, and it's socially relevant. You have to see waste as a raw material. Reuse, circularity and sustainability: if there is one place where this is really coming to fruition, it is the waste industry. As in my previous positions, I worked at the intersection of private and public. You have to deal with environmental services, residents and politics. That stakeholder management in itself suits me very well. After 27 years in permanent positions, I wanted to stand on my own two feet and apply my experience and qualities to different organizations. That is why I decided to continue as an interim manager, preferably as interim line manager of an existing board or department'.