'I occasionally need someone to steer me in the right direction’

Published in Nieuws on 28/10/16 by Chris van der Deijl

"Roderik van Seumeren is a familiar face in the world of offshore and cranes. His investment firm MeeMaken is also active in the North Sea Canal region. “I like it when people say what they mean.”

Text: Cees Visser 

At the helm

At the helm is a personal introduction of a familiar face in the port as we try to answer the question: who is the person behind the role? In this issue we spoke to Roderik van Seumeren, former CEO of Mammoet (2005-2011) and since 2012 owner and partner of investment firm MeeMaken, which has six companies in its portfolio (including the oil, gas and water pipeline company Selmers in Beverwijk and offshore crane company Kenz Figee in Zaandam). Van Seumeren (1966) is married and the father of a two-year old daughter and 13 and 21 year-old sons. The family lives in the Utrecht area.
 

You have had quite a few business successes; which character trait helps you achieve so much?
I am driven, almost fanatical. Or call it intense. The drive derives from the fact that I don’t like to be in situations in which I fail, or don’t get things done. I just don’t like it. I’m prepared to go quite far to achieve something. Both in business and on the football pitch.”

You can’t always avoid ending up in a situation in which things don’t succeed.
No, sometimes things don’t go as I want them to. But to me the issue is not why this happens but how I can fix it; how do I move forward? This helps ensure that my driven side does not give up but finds a solution instead.”

 

This must sometimes involve making unpleasant decisions. How do you handle that?
It’s tricky. But I give and contribute a lot too. I am not one of those show-offs who arrives at 10.00, shouts a few words and leaves at 16.30. I give it my all. As long as you clearly envision what is good for the company you can bring positivity and take negative measures. And you can do so in a hard or a soft way. Most important is to make sure everyone understands what’s what. I’m honest, and too proud to not be fair and clear.”

 

You like to be kept busy.
In the past six months I’ve been busy; especially for Kenz Figee. But we’ve only just started there; building a relationship, getting to know one another. That is also expected of me. I took the reins, which is what I am paid for, but it also means doing the work. Compared to my time as CEO at Mammoet though, this is more relaxed. Back then I travelled a lot. In addition, the work we performed daily at Mammoet had a higher risk of accidents so at night I would sometimes worry about whether everyone had gotten home safely. It was a different kind of pressure. I still sometimes dream about it: have we taken all the necessary precautions to ensure safety at work?”

 

How do you sleep at night?
"I always sleep well. When I get home, I leave my work behind.”

And in the weekends you’re on the football pitch.
On Sundays: 7x7 football for men of a certain age. And we train on Friday nights. I have always played football. In my best years I was a right back in the first team. This had more to do with my fanaticism than with my football skills. I was there to stop fast left-wingers. Now I play as a striker.”

Do you need football to do your work, as a way to release frustration? No, it’s really the other way around. What I mean is that I use what I learn on the pitch in my work. Every company has creative midfielders, hard defensive players and flexible forwards... But the humour, fighting together, team spirit, equality and sharing a goal are also present in business. And then there are the victories that are unexpected but still achieved.”

You are involved in multi-million euro deals. How does that work for you?
I can be equally worried about five euros as about five million. My daughter recently wanted five euros for something, but because the value of the product and price didn’t match it bothered me just the same.”

What does the Amsterdam port mean to you?
It’s still relatively unknown territory for me. I know Beverwijk, where Selmers is located, which I have been involved in since 2012. These are mainly people from Alkmaar and Beverwijk. Great guys, good to work with. IJmuiden I know a bit better because of Hoogovens, later Tata Steel. This is a field in which the Van Seumeren family has been active for 40 years.”

How do you like the attitude here?
To the point. I like clarity, people who say what they mean. When I worked for Mammoet in Breda it took some getting used to. People were more distant and cautious. But that’s the great thing about my work: I end up in situations where I discover and experience new things.”

You called your investment firm MeeMaken (which translates both as ‘co-making’ and as ‘experiencing’). Why?
I saw the word somewhere during my sabbatical, after I left Mammoet. It is who I am, I thought at the time, and that can involve lots of things; it’s the journey, developing markets, investing in companies and making them great together. But it’s also about finding camaraderie on the work floor and on the pitch.”

Were you team captain on the pitch at the highpoint of your football career?
No, absolutely not. My tasks on the pitch were more physical. I occasionally need someone to steer me in the right direction when I am at risk of going off course. On the pitch it’s the captain who does that, at home it’s my wonderful wife, and on the work floor it’s my partner Natasja Sesink.”
 

It sounds as if you are pushing the boundaries.
As a football player I sometimes got sent off, that’s true. But there can also be a practical reason to go in hard. Everyone plays their part. Sometimes it was up to me to make a tackle to shake up my team mates. The same applies to the work floor, to make sure everyone stays alert. Not too often, obviously, because then it would lose its effect.”

We have a great football club in the area.
"Telstar? I love Telstar! Mostly because of their subtle self-mockery and sense of humour, and the small-scale of things. The feeling you have at Telstar is quite special and completely different from any other professional football club. It’s great."

 

Telstar could use some of your success.
"Telstar is currently ninth in the league so we may actually win."