From workshop employee to owner: Romke Groeneveld of FlexHydro has blown with the wind

When asked if he is proud, Romke Groeneveld unabashedly answers in the affirmative. He once started as an employee of a sewer cleaning service, then ended up in the workshop of FlexHydro, manufacturer of mechanical and hydraulic systems. In the years that followed, he climbed to manager, then director, and since 2015 he can call himself owner of the Winschoter company. The NOM made the acquisition partly possible. "Especially proud of the people here and the growth we are experiencing" he adds. Groeneveld looks back on the adventure of the past few years.

Blowing along is not the same as blowing in

"Knowing the market well and then above all blowing with the wind" describes his vision of entrepreneurship. It simultaneously outlines his career. "Blowing with the wind is not the same as blowing in. If I see an opportunity, I take it. Working hard and daring to take risks, that has been my recipe for success and it still is." Groeneveld is having a great time as owner. "I can now shift gears much faster and decide on investments, for example. The fact that I am no longer dependent on others in that is really very nice."

Liquidity is leading

But: every advantage has a disadvantage. Entrepreneurship comes with many more responsibilities than when he was a director. In particular, Groeneveld says he underestimated the financial aspect of ownership. "As a director, of course I was also involved in the ins and outs of the money flows, but then I was playing with other people's money and now with my own. Once when something was going on, I reported it and it was fixed. Now it's 100% up to me to solve it." From day one, therefore, he threw himself fully into financial management. And that wasn't easy. "I figured out pretty quickly how it worked; once I commit to something like that, I don't let go. What I underestimated beforehand is how important liquidity is. I never understood how companies that still had large orders pending could fall over. Now I see that that is not difficult at all."

The game of money in the air

Actually, Groeneveld would like to see a different system in his industry. "Everything goes on account. With us people buy on account, we buy on account. Officially we are allowed to send a partial invoice when the order is accepted, but nobody does that so neither do we. That means money is constantly in the air. I may see the balance sheet, I see the order amounts, I see the bills we have to pay, but I don't see money anywhere. That's a game that you really have to be on top of because otherwise, despite great sales and growth numbers, you just fall over." So his day always starts with the financial dashboard. "I didn't predict that beforehand, but I really want to be on top of it and can lie awake sometimes. I feel very responsible for my people."

Listening to colleagues is essential

His people are the more than twenty-five colleagues. A close-knit team in which there is a lot of consultation. "When we wanted to buy machines the other day, we went through that with the whole team. And by consulting, we come up with better solutions. I like to share what I'm working on and what I sometimes have doubts about. My colleagues are all professionals and you just can't know everything about everything. I don't think you should want to. It is precisely the combination of knowledge and expertise that makes you successful as a company. Listening to your colleagues is essential."

Rare flying vacation

For example, the team recently surprised him with a question he himself had not yet considered. Groeneveld was preparing for a rare vacation. Even rarer was that he would be flying. "All of a sudden they asked: what actually happens to us if that plane crashes? I had always thought my children could take over, but they flew with me. A valid question, then, but not one I had thought of myself. I reassured them that my dad would step in. Later I also discussed this with my father. He would call the boys together and divide the company among them. I was fine with that."

The helm likes it just fine

Being at the helm suits Groeneveld just fine. "It's hard work, but I've always done that. Yet I also find it important to relax. I've been playing korfball for years and that makes me forget everything for a while. That gives me new energy that I can use again in my work. FlexHydro is doing very well, we are growing in turnover and people, we are investing in new machines and techniques. I still have regular contact with the people from NOM and they are always available if I have questions or just want to spar. I think it's great that I got this opportunity and am really having a great time here for quite some time."