The ideals of Gerrit Koops
|Employed at TSC||Founder|
20 years of TSC Silos
“We should offer complete silo buildings, not only the components! You would not buy tiles if you were looking to buy a house, right?” When his previous employer did not share this vision, Gerrit Koops decided to start his own silo company, called Top Silo Constructions. While sitting in the meeting room of the brand new TSC building, we look back with Gerrit on 20 years of TSC. His vision on silo construction, the opportunities, the growth, the knowledge and his ultimate pride: the TSC staff.
Gerrit explains he learned the difference between nuts and bolts as a purchaser at Stork in Hengelo. He looks back at this basis as “a pleasant and educational time”. When he was called up for his military service in the navy, he spent his evenings studying. It led to his accountancy degree and a new future as interim manager. Banks hired him to get struggling businesses back on track. Gerrit therefore witnessed various work areas during his early years and learned life lessons from many wise people. “We need to sell more, so my staff can continue to work here”, he heard from a concerned owner of a major bike manufacturer. Gerrit therefore discovered the responsibility of being an entrepreneur before he became one himself. .
I want to deliver complete silos
His final interim job took him to a silo company in 1990. It was a business which intrigued him, work where he identified opportunities. Opportunities which he ultimately wanted to seize as a seller working for the company. Gerrit: “We delivered components of square silos. Handy and low risk. But after conversations with clients, I quickly realised that they would prefer to get the whole thing. Which makes sense as you would not buy tiles if you were actually looking to buy a house, would you? I therefore wanted to deliver complete silo buildings. But unfortunately, they did not want that, because that would require a lot of knowledge.”
Keep knowledge in the Netherlands
In 1996 he got noticed by a German who recognised the opportunities in the pioneering Dutchman’s vision. Gerrit: “I speak German, so I headed to Bavaria for a meeting. The director asked me whether I would like to come and live in Germany and sell square silos for him there. I did not want to do that.” Gerrit therefore came with a counter proposal: “Send your products to me, and I will do it from the Netherlands.” In addition, he rented himself out to do what he believed in: delivering complete silos. “With a good network of people around me, I ensured that it was drawn, calculated, delivered and built.” And this is how Top Silo Constructions was founded in 1998.
Storming the market alone
With the Netherlands as his home base and with only a pocket full of business cards, Gerrit stormed the market: “I was at a trade fair somewhere in the world every three months. I could not afford an official stand, but with my business cards in my pocket I was a walking exhibition stand.” And with great success. With engagements in the Netherlands, Norway, Germany and Austria, Gerrit’s business grew steadily. The Dutchman’s vision appeared to be the correct one.
From one to two
Gerrit noticed that he needed some assistance. Gerrit: “I would get up at five a.m. to work on sales, coordinate the drawings, attend the delivery and speak with clients before heading back to bed. Looking back at it now, it was indeed a bit much.” Taking on the first staff member was a major step after all the risks that he had become accustomed to as interim manager. “From one to two people. That instantly doubles the costs, so we had to double the revenue, which was quite a challenge. In 2006 I called Erik Wassink, a former colleague. I asked him whether he wanted to work for me. He jumped at the chance; he had every faith in it.” And with good reason. Thanks to good partnerships, hard work, smart investments and primarily sticking to agreements, the growth is increasing right up to the present day. In addition to Erik, another twenty people have the pleasure of calling themselves TSC staff. “The food sector has never experienced a crisis, so we have just proceeded as normal. Our growth will continue, is my expectation.”
“Our growth will continue”
Our vision is correct
If we ask him what he is most proud of, 20 years after first attending a trade fair with a pocket full of business cards, he answers without hesitation: “That my vision was correct. The delivery of complete silos, that just makes sense. We do the design and calculation in-house. That is the core of our product. We create a high-quality, achievable Lego system and outsource the production and construction. The design of our construction components is so ingenious, that production based on the drawings only has a minimal risk of error. This combination is part of our success formula.”
TSC scores high on its high-quality 3D drawings. Gerrit is proud of this: “We drew our first silo in a 3D drawing program eight years ago. Especially the young drawers were very enthusiastic.” Sharing knowledge is something that Gerrit finds important: “We are naturally delighted to show what we are proud of and also for the market it is important to inspire each other with new developments. Virtual Reality is an interesting development that we follow closely. With such technologies being increasingly deployed in housing construction and shipbuilding, we reduce the risk of errors.”
In addition to high-quality 3D drawings, sound static calculations by the structural engineers is also essential in the international business of TSC. Gerrit: “Our silos are built to strictly comply with the applicable standards. Our people know them exactly. This has to be the case, because a silo structure must be able to withstand enormous internal and external loads. It can be very windy on the coast, in Norway we are faced with enormous snowfall on the rooftops and in China we have to consider the most severe earthquakes. We place our silos there, therefore it is crucial that we know exactly what nature’s forces could do to our silos. We invest greatly in this knowledge. For example, Dennis has just graduated in the area of earthquakes. We take on this role. We also share our knowledge to strengthen the market. A square silo is such a specific product, many researchers don’t know how they should assess this properly. We teach them what to be aware of. In return, we also learn from their excellent questions.
“We invest greatly in our knowledge”
“Our account managers connect all project phases with each other. They are essential, being the first point of contact. They go to our clients to find out what they want, they coordinate the calculations and pass on the information to the project managers. They visit the construction and maintain contact with the clients. This process can take up to three years. It is good to see how youngsters such as Sven and Daan solve issues themselves. Often, I only hear about a challenge after they have effectively solved it. This flexibility, the creative thinking, that is what it’s about in our company. Keeping the client satisfied with products that generate revenue for them. Thanks to this, our work goes much further than only offering a competitive price. First the client’s wishes, then comes the silo. We get it done. That is why our clients have been loyal to us from the first moment until the present day.”
TSC’s silos have had a square shape from day one, offering increased efficiency with 27% more volume per square meter than round silos. Gerrit: “For a production process with only one single ingredient you purchase a round silo, but for everything with more than one ingredient you opt for a square one. Makes sense. Coffee is a nice example. The different qualities of coffee beans are stored in various silos, where they are subsequently blended and roasted. The different blends, the end result, are then stored perfectly next to each other prior to packaging. No space is lost, because the silos share the walls. Try doing that with round silos.”
Thinking along with the client’s business
Sometimes Gerrit still has to defend his strong vision. He is often advised to standardise. This increases your revenue, right? “We won’t be doing this. We think along with our client and they earn this back in their production. With tailor-made work we contribute to the result of their core business, and we cannot do that if we start offering mass products.” He enthusiastically sums up a number of projects that support his belief in tailor-made work: “We built our silo over a railway track in Switzerland which was a challenge in itself. On top of that there was time pressure to complete the assembly. By calculating properly, offering sound advice, thinking along with their problems and desired results, we create trust and can enjoy a relationship over many years.”
Our knowledge is our future
With the knowledge of the team as the most valuable asset, TSC invests greatly in its people. Professionals who arrive with their master’s or bachelor’s degree are trained further internally within the specific area of silo construction. Moreover, Gerrit motivates his team to keep learning. Dennis followed a Master’s degree in Structural Engineering, Namer will soon graduate and a large number of the team now speaks German, English or Spanish. Gerrit: “Our knowledge is our future. We must ensure this future, therefore we invest in this together. TSC invests in the tuition and the course day, they invest in their time and expertise. And I sit in the front row as the diplomas are awarded. I am extremely proud of this. We are also open to other progress. For example, we are currently looking at whether we should employ more people te keep up with our growth, or can automation help us? Despite the fact that we are very busy, we always try to make time to visit trade fairs, to look at what our colleagues do and get inspired by other markets, such as the aviation industry. But the most important innovation, which occurs in our daily work, is from the questions our clients ask us. Thanks to the challenges and opportunities our clients find in their production process, we research something new almost every day.
“The most important innovation occurs in our daily work, from the questions our clients ask us”
Let’s enjoy ourselves during those eight hours
If we are talking about his team, we see that he gets excited. And rightly so, the energy of the TSC staff is tangible upon entering the building. The new canteen is large, but only a small area features a long row of tables. Gerrit: “This says it all. The architect had set up the canteen with groups of tables. They made one long table out of it on the first day. And that is what they should do, because there are no divided groups here, but one tight-knit team. A day only has 24 hours. Eight of those hours are spent asleep, eight are time off and eight are spent at work. Let´s enjoy those eight hours we spend together. We are all educated and understand that we need to earn money. That is our joint objective. We don’t need to tell anyone how to do it. And that is wonderful. After an external engagement with a client, everyone always wants to know how it went upon my return. They are involved, proud, all go for it, also when there are issues. That fire is great. And let me tell you: we have the best job, right? We travel the globe and install wonderful things!”
The new generation
Gerrit laughs: “I am quite a fanatical guy. That enthusiasm, that fire, I also see this in my staff. I am proud that I have been able to lead these young people into a fantastic job and that I had the chance to instil my enthusiasm in them. We have a full schedule for our 20 people and our new office is ready. I am the old director and see that the young ones are slowly taking over and are even outperforming me. That makes me so proud. This must continue if I stop. Because this company is simply fantastic.”
“This must continue if I stop. Because this company is simply fantastic.”