“If everything is important, isn’t it true that nothing is important anymore?” It remains silent for a moment when that challenging question is put to Harald van Boxtel, Ronald Burghoorn, Johan Domela and Rob Schouten. The topic of conversation is Van Hessen’s most important and overarching core value: “It all matters”. Inger Spee, the Marketing & Communication Specialist, also joins the conversation.
Thoughtfully, answers are brought to the table. “No, in our industry and for Van Hessen in particular, it is not the case that nothing is important anymore when everything is equally important,” says Harald van Boxtel. “If we want to distinguish ourselves in the long term and strengthen our position, we will have to add something. We really have to add more value than the competition in every respect. There is no other option. On both sides of our supply chain we have customers. Not only those who purchase our products but also our suppliers are our customers. Our added value lies in being the best at valorizing the gut package. And there is only one way to do that: make everything matter.”
Rob Schouten adds: “You also understand why everything is important when you look at our supply chain. It is long and has many steps compared to other industries. Many people and resources are involved in making the final product. Something has to go wrong somewhere just once, and the product no longer has the well-known Van Hessen quality. That makes or breaks the success of our company.
“‘It all matters’ to me reflects two things,” says Ronald Burghoorn. “First, animal products have an important value. All products matter. Second, it also has to do with our corporate culture. Although we distinguish between main and side issues, we have also learned to always pay attention to all the details. ‘Do the right things right the first time.’ That is something we heard repeatedly. But to do everything right the first time, you really have to pay attention to everything, consider everything important.”
“True,” says Harald, “this attitude is deeply ingrained in the company Van Hessen was before the merger. And it is still part of our current DNA. But we are now being asked even more emphatically to embody this attitude. We regularly see our suppliers trying to valorize products themselves. What they used to call a byproduct, they now consider a primary product. In the current market we have to do better than anyone else.”
How does it work in real life that everything is important? “Look,” Johan Domela explains, “most of the participants in this conversation once started here as trainees. We learned to look at the product. If we came across a cask with casings, we had to know that it was called a cask and not a barrel. Just by observing the cask, we could see where it came from and who the supplier was. We learned to pay attention to every detail. Not only was the barrel a cask, also the type of plastic bag inside the cask was under consideration, as well as how (and whether) it was closed, etc. We were encouraged to always ask questions, and so it became a habit to pay attention to every detail. Why? Everything is important. Literally everything. Every detail can make the difference between ordinary and extraordinary. That’s how we grew up within the company, and that’s how Van Hessen became big.”
“You can also look at how important the quality of our product is to the customer,” Rob explains. “For example, if in a gutroom the temperature in a water tank is not adjusted correctly, it affects the color of the casing. The casing may be suitable for consumption, but the customer is not happy because the sausages don’t have the right light color. Blunt blades, for example, can ruin an entire batch purely on aesthetic grounds.” Ronald sees an application beyond gutroom and selection plant: “Even issues that have nothing to do with the supply chain itself are important. For example, how you interpret e-mail messages from a customer or supplier and how they might interpret your messages in return. We really think about everything.” “If we even put a comma in the wrong place, we used to get reprimanded,” chuckles Rob. “Nowadays, we mainly want to make people’s expertise available to everyone in the company. We get better by doing it together.”
A New Slogan
Inger focuses on the customer: “Everything matters because the customer wishes to be heard and cared for. When we say ‘It all matters,’ we are actually saying to the customer, ‘We are going to help you. We will answer all your questions, and you will get the products that fit you best in terms of quality and price.’” With that, Inger sets the stage for the next major topic of this discussion, why Van Hessen has decided to use this core value with its overarching function as the slogan to accompany the logo. The answer is simple: If you’re going to pay such dire attention to all the details, you might as well make it the core of your communication strategy.
When asked how Van Hessen arrived at this choice, everyone points to Inger. Inger laughs and says, “I’m new here, mind you. I just set it all in motion.” “It has indeed been quite a process,” Harald agrees. “We as a management team talked and had back-and-forth conversations with other departments in the company. We didn’t come to a resolution at first, and even let it rest for a while. Initially, we thought that, like a logo, you’re more or less stuck with a slogan forever. But of course, that’s not true. Then we made the decision.”
“With it we show what we stand for and what we promise,” says Inger. “We use the slogan to position ourselves in the market in the realization that both the market and we ourselves are evolving.” “Now that we have the slogan, it is extremely useful to flesh it out for ourselves in word and deed what it means,” says Rob. “Not only that,” says Ronald, “it is an overarching core value you can apply to something else each time; to mastery, for example, or to the importance of people, but just as easily to sustainability and circularity.” “Exactly,” Rob continues, “this is also how we say to the people on our own team: what you do counts, even - or especially - when the work is not easy.”
“The new slogan is going to help us stand out from our competitors,” explains Inger. “Precisely because everything is really important to us. We can distinguish ourselves with that message in the market. In the entire process, we take that extra step every time for the best quality from gutroom to sausage maker. It is time to tell this. It is part of our professionalization toward the outside world and internally toward our people.” Of course, we want to know where we will encounter the new slogan. “The slogan will be implemented from 2023 onward and become visible on a number of our assets such as our corporate brochure, videos and trucks,” says Inger.