VDL Groep is one of the most powerful family-owned businesses in The Netherlands. It is a global industrial and manufacturing company that focuses on producing, innovating and marketing semi-finished products, buses and coaches and finished products. An interview with the Corporate Communication Department about the leadership of Wim van der Leegte and the involvement of the new generation and working culture:
What is the VDL Groep’s DNA?
VDL Groep is an international industrial company focused on the development, production and sale of semi-finished products, cars, buses & coaches and other finished products. It is a conglomerate of flexible, independent companies, each with its own specialty. The common thread found throughout the operations is the combination of metal and technology. Since the founding in 1953, this family-owned business has grown to include 82 operating companies, spread over 18 countries, with more than 8,700 employees. The strength of the VDL Groep lies in the mutual cooperation between the companies.
How would you characterize the culture within VDL Groep?
VDL Groep is a company that has both feet on the (shop) floor. An informal, open atmosphere, not being afraid of hard work, working with others and having the courage to be enterprising, are characteristics that belong to the VDL Groep’s no-nonsense culture. VDL has a flat organizational structure with short policy lines, so decisions can be made quickly.
The next generation of the Van der Leegte family is actively involved in VDL Groep operations. What changes can we expect after the succession? Or maybe no changes?
Currently Wim’s three children all work at the company. Pieter van der Leegte is deputy director of VDL Groep, Jennifer works at the Financial Department of VDL Groep and is member of the Supervisory Board and Willem is also deputy director and managing director of VDL Bus & Coach Nederland and VDL Bus & Coach Belgium. Since 2011 all children are shareholder of VDL Groep. What kind of changes the future brings, we do not know yet.
What kind of business leader is Wim van der Leegte?
Wim is a man who knows his numbers (by heart!). He is straightforward, honest, proud, friendly and social. What you see is what you get. The slogan of VDL Groep is ‘strength through cooperation’ and that is what is important to Wim. Cooperating; working together to get the best possible result.
Is the leadership type of Pieter, Jennifer and Willem different from their father Wim’s?
The children are all individual people, each with their own strengths. But of course they have been involved in the company since they were young, so they know the way their father works. It remains to be seen how their leadership style will develop in the future.
Is working for a family-owned business different than working for a corporation?
Yes. A family-owned company has some unique characteristics. There is more mutual engagement between the company and its employees. Family-owned companies are characterized by their creative and innovative entrepreneurship. They have the ability to adapt quickly to changing circumstances, and new products or new ideas can be introduced easily. A family-owned business is more focused on long term results than for instance a listed company. Continuity is an important aspect. And if we look at the Netherlands, almost 70% of all companies are family businesses. Together they are responsible for almost half of the country’s employment. So family companies are very important for our economy.