Photo by Klaas-Jan Olthof
  • Grow your business

Growth begins here according to Klaas Olthof

Olthof Group is a supplier of concrete and building materials, such as aggregates, sand and gravel. Production is as sustainable as possible, by reusing (construction) debris and other waste. From its base in Sappemeer, the company - with approximately 130 employees - serves a growing clientele in the construction, infrastructure, industrial and agricultural sectors.

What does growth mean to you?

'I see growth as a means to do new things. To keep developing and keep up with changes in the world around us. Sometimes growth also means letting go of something else. My brother and I bought a concrete plant with the goal of keeping our dairy farm afloat. The new barn didn't materialize, while our concrete farm caught on and demanded more and more attention. Selling the cows was a painful decision. Yet our choice for the Olthof Group brought more possibilities and opportunities to grow, both as a company and as people. In the dairy farm we worked according to a fixed rhythm, in the concrete company every day is different and often more exciting.'

How have you grown personally?

'Dealing with that tension is still a learning point, because there are two sides to that. There is always something happening and I enjoy all the ideas, opportunities and challenges as long as things are going well. But if there is a downturn in the business, it affects me. Letting go is hard when entrepreneurship is your passion. Maybe that has to do with my background as a farmer; the work is completely intertwined with my life. However, I have learned to let go of more and more tasks. At a certain size you can no longer do and decide everything yourself. Then
you have to let go of things. And then also accept that sometimes employees do things differently from you. I give them that freedom. Sometimes things go wrong, but mistakes also allow them to grow in their role.'

How have you grown professionally?

'Then I think especially of the financial picture. Increasingly large sums of money are involved, which creates more pressure and responsibility in business decisions. You have to get used to the fact that costs come before benefits. Growth requires timely investments, such as hiring an expensive new employee, which will pay for itself in the long run. We are now in the process of scaling up considerably, investing millions in a new factory hall, additional machinery and some fifty new employees. As a family business we were used to doing everything ourselves, now we have learned - with 130 permanent employees - how essential a good team is for business growth. Here in the Northern Netherlands we really hit it off, our workforce goes through fire for the Olthof Group.'

Do you have growth tips for other entrepreneurs?

"Think big. Because if you reason from what you know, you quickly think too small. At the time, we bought our first concrete plant with the idea of supplying the region. We entered unknown territory and the market for building materials turned out to be much larger than we thought. That was an eye-opener. Because we dared to take a big step with that first concrete plant, a world of new possibilities opened up. And then growth almost comes naturally.