Man of Steel can not stop

The 75-year-old steel trader Geert Smulders knows no stopping. Even though son Mark (45) is in teh company. This week he celebrates his 50th anniversary, writes the Eindhoven Dagblad. "You can not leave the ship until you are sure it is all right."

Author Peter Scholtes | Photo: René Manders
Publication date: 09 jun 2016, de ondernemer

The interior of the car is littered with construction drawings. The phone goes incessantly and even answered as he runs into a hall with deafening lasgeluiden. Geert Smulders is fully in business. This is particularly significant, at - 75-year-old - age.

Also his 50th anniversary as an independent contractor is not yet the moment to have seen enough, let him prove positive. "I do not want to retire. I work 14 hours a day, 5.5 days a week, driving 70,000 kilometers per year in my car. Work is my hobby. I do not need a vacation."

When he was 70 he bought some of his steel company after one year return of investment Bencis. GS Steel Works momentum since then a steady rate, with about 500 employees and approximately 70 million euro turnover in 2015. Not a bad performance, he says. "With lower prices, we have won more work. We have reached the same turnover and people can keep working. We have no need to lay off during the crisis. We also have not earned much money, but who does?"

Now Smulders benefit from putting on the market. "Most have reduced other steel companies, we have the capacity." In Helmond production halls are filled with steel beams. for building the company's four warehouses in Tilburg. Ten thousand tons of steel produced for the carcass of a production of offshore foundation builder Sif at the Rotterdam Maasvlakte. "No one can as fast as we are, with eight production locations in the Netherlands. That is our strength. We are the best in the Netherlands on steel area."

This year the turnover limit of EUR 80 million can be tapped. Across Europe, the company started. In Malta, for example, where hangars are built for the Eindhoven Lakspuiterij Aircraft Aviation Cosmetics. In England be put down distribution for Lidl. "I do not want to be so big," he proclaims. The company he sold for 60 percent in 2010 counted 1,600 employees.

The strategy is now focused on the composition of a "healthy mix" of activities, says son Mark Smulders. Cause can ever be an end to the boom in logistics and other industrial buildings. For that reason, GS Steel Works increased last year over a part of the bankrupt Birkhoff. That company is also a specialist in the design and arrangement of traffic portals over highways. Infrastructure is a sector in which GS wants to grow. "Except portals also in bridges, which are the years 5000 to be refurbished or renewed in the Netherlands."

wind Turbines
Another promising market is that for wind turbines, both on land and at sea. Subsidized wind farms will be built in many European countries, is expected. The Helmond company to take advantage thinks of it, given his past experience as a steel manufacturer for wind turbines from Vestas. "The aim is to increase the share of wind energy projects in our total sales of 10 to more than 30 percent."

Mark Smulders is currently within the company responsible for foreign projects. He is the intended successor of his father. For seventeen years he worked at Smulders for the company in Poland. "I just 2.5 years back in The Netherlands. I had to learn the Dutch mentality and culture again."

Communist culture
Where there often is 'yes, but' sounds in the workplace prevails in Poland still buck the communist culture of responsibility. As the men rush to say that the Polish craftsmen nothing wrong here. GS Steel Works has some 100 of which started in the Dutch companies. The staff are selected in the two private Polish subsidiaries of the group. They are necessary for lack of skilled technicians in the Netherlands. So it has some 25 Portuguese employed. "We certainly twenty jobs. Illustrators would like to work. The shortage of suitable people inhibits our growth."

Mark Smulders does not reluctant to take over the leadership of his father, he says. "That goes without saying. In Poland I started with five guys and we had six hundred when we sold the company." The company size is not strange, he would say it to him. Harry Peters (former CFO of Swedish Match) GS Steel Works has an interim CEO Mark which accompanies fellow.

Meanwhile goes father Geert assiduously continued with the guidance of the Dutch projects. He is by now not lament? "There has to be someone directing and watching the pennies," he responds. "I would like to transfer the company, but feel there is not yet ripe for it. It's too much fighting in the market. You can not leave the ship before you know it's good."

To make a sandwich
And so his wife Bep will still be here at six o'clock in the morning to get up to smear the bread. And they will have to do without holiday. She pays it not so for Mark says. "That's getting used to, I guess." Steel never stops, says Geert. "If there is money, they go about cover everything. Football pitches, shopping centers, roads."

Plastic is now - price-wise - not a competitor. For 3D-printing the same applies. "I see them not print bar yet." What's so great about steel? "It's in my blood. I am playfully rolled in. I have always been seen as a sport and also as a sportsman for living", is primarily the answer. helps mark. "From simple toolbars you can make huge buildings. There is something visually." Geert nods. So it is: as steel constructor you put what amounts.