Douglas Hoek worked for and/or owned Veentra Reprographics in Grand Rapids, Michigan for 37 years. During the last eight years of his service to Veenstra, the company belonged to ARC.
Here are excerpts of an interview with Doug conducted by Joel Salus. The numbers beside each question represent the number of the question in the original interview. To read the complete original interview, click here.
1. When did you first get involved in the reprographics business, and what was the first position you held?
I began working at Veenstra in 1971 when I was a freshman at Calvin College in Grand Rapids. My first responsibilities included: driver, maintenance (floor sweeping), and occasional operation of console floor model ammonia based diazo printing machine.
11. When you sold your company, did you agree to stay on with the company for a period of time after the sale? And, if you did stay on for a period of time after the sale, how was it different for you, if it was different?
(1) Yes, I remained an employee of ARC from 1999 through early 2007. From 1999 through the end of 2005 I was President of the Veenstra Division of ARC. (2) It was different. Some of the differences were beneficial, some not so much. I learned a lot during my ARC years ... most of it good and beneficial. The differences of being a part of a large company became more noticeable to me after ARC became a publicly traded company. It seemed the environment and culture within ARC became a bit harsher, and more reactionary, after the IPO. It seemed to me that much of the ‘value’ ARC acquired through its acquisitions was neutralized or diminished after the IPO. It always appeared to me that the ‘important value’ ARC acquired was the innovative, entrepreneurial, and creative spirit, insight, and intelligence of the people (not just owners) that came along with an acquisition. However, after the IPO the ability of ARC to unleash that reservoir of energy and talent was limited. In a certain sense ARC’s success as defined by its successful IPO offering introduced a different component within the organization which limited and restricted the ‘important value’ purchased a few years earlier. Its IPO success lead to a loss in other areas and those differences were certainly felt and noticed by me.
16. What’s your definition of “success”?
Success is gained, achieved, or earned over a period of years ... a lifetime, or career, perhaps. Success encompasses a sense of pride, accomplishment, and achievement. If, over a period of time, a person can look back over a ‘body of work’ with a sense of pride, accomplishment, and achievement then to some extent that person can feel and enjoy a sense of success.
19. What’s your philosophy regarding “team building”?
In the long term the level of success most companies achieve will be determined by the level and extent of ‘team’ that the company has been able to establish. The level of success and the level of team are reflections of one another, and are mutually dependent.
20. What was your approach to communicating with team members and encouraging/motivating team members to really get engaged?
The best method of communication is by example ... what you say and do, the decisions you make, the environment and culture that is fostered within the company. The words and actions of the leader must be congruent; they must convey the same message.
26. How did you get feedback from customers?
Such an interesting question, Joel. Yet, to me, so simple: If they come back, if they place another order, it is their vote of approval. If their account goes to zero (0) I guess they are not happy about something. On another level, our staff took many opportunities to talk and listen to customers. I personally had scores of ‘customer lunches’ ... lunches when I was not selling or promoting Veenstra, but asking and listening to customers observations about their business and their industry.
Want to read more? Click here for the complete interview.