On 1 May 2020, Mr. Jan Stokman, CEO and owner of Stokman B.V., celebrated 45 years with the firm. Over the past 45 years, Jan Stokman has grown the company from a small family business into the organisation it is today. These four-and-a-half decades have been characterised by considerable ups and downs, as probably every entrepreneur will recognise. Those ups and downs have been the result of economic developments, customer developments and developments that no one could have predicted. We are currently in the midst of one of the most unpredictable downs, a global pandemic that has hit the economy and industry in particular hard. Jan Stokman explains that like others, our company is building its activities back up – having spent weeks with our production facility standing idle and our sales team sitting at home.
Despite the current situation, entrepreneur Jan Stokman looks to the future with great confidence. This is because he has always believed in one specific aspect of doing business, delivering quality – quality not only in the production of systems and parts for the transport of heavy duty bulk and other goods that will outlast competitors’ products, but also quality in relationships with customers. And those relationships are strong, partly because some of them go back to the 1970s, partly because many have grown into real friendships. Without those relationships, Jan’s business and private life would have been quite different, and they represent an important connecting thread in his 45 years of service.
All the same, Jan Stokman too sees the world around him changing. Efficiency and purchasing are sometimes more removed from interpersonal aspects such as relationships. This is an excellent development because it has prompted us to seek greater diversification in our customer base. Whereas 30 years ago we depended on just a few customers, now we have a much wider range of customers, each with its own vision, strategy and customer-specific wishes. This not only makes our work more enjoyable and varied, the diversity also makes for a much more future-proof business model.
We will continue to deliver quality in the future. Our complete systems and products such as heavy duty and medium duty conveyor rollers will continue to outlast their competitors in the toughest conditions. We will continue to invest in our production resources and processes, but we also want to keep on innovating on the customer side. For instance, we recently developed an online configurator for conveyor rollers and integrated it into our great new website, partly under the leadership of my son, the 4th generation in the family business.
For me, the fact that my son is a strong supporter of this kind of innovation reminds me of the early days of my career. I still clearly remember when I was advocating an investment in a machine I believed would usher in the next phase of the company. My father, the 2nd generation in the family business, was not at all convinced, but at the insistence of my mother, who was very involved in our company at the time, he decided to support the change.
Jan Stokman has now reached the statutory retirement age of 66 years and four months. Despite the challenging times we are currently in, he has confidence in the future; as described above, he sees that a younger generation is putting the necessary energy and innovation into the company, and that is fantastic. For this reason, Jan Stokman has decided to step down as CEO at the end of 2020 and hand over day-to-day management. He will use the coming months for the handover and to inform customers and suppliers. He is already looking back, with a lot of pride and satisfaction, to his first working day on 1 May 1975, to subsequently taking over his father’s company, and above all to developing it, together with all the employees, suppliers and customers, into the great company it is today.