Paul enjoys getting up early: “I prefer 6 am so I step into my car at 7 because, here too, they have a problem called traffic jam.” Shanghai is not really China; it is more like New York. One big difference: there are cameras everywhere. However, as long as you behave that is not a problem at all. This tendency toward control has resulted in the Corona pandemic not being a big issue here anymore. For Van Hessen, it is almost business as usual. This is not to say that the pandemic has not had an impact. Paul was in The Netherlands just when the first wave of the pandemic gained traction. Paul and his wife anticipated a lockdown and decided from one moment to the next that they were going to return to China. That same day, they were on a plane to Shanghai. Soon after, China did indeed close the border for people from the Netherlands. China has become a bit of a second home for Paul and his family. Two of his children were born in China and all of them speak Chinese fluently.
In his new function, Paul is focusing on a wider area of operation. It’s become more of a supervising role in which he listens to people to know what is going on. Additionally, he is managing processes and quality control at an international level. “There is a real need for this,” says Paul, “Van Hessen has become rather big so the need for insight and transparency is even more than before. At the same time, despite having become a really large organization, we desire to maintain the more intimate atmosphere of a small company.” In this regard, Harma Eilander is a very important colleague of Paul. Working from The Netherlands, she regularly visits selection locations all over the world to watch over the quality of the work and report back to Paul.
When Paul arrives at the office, he first has meetings with his people in Australia and the United States. In those locations, offices have already opened their doors for a few hours that day. After that he takes the time to deal with local matters. He watches over selection and maintains good relationships with the Chinese partners. “During the past ten years we have started to spread our risk,” says Paul explaining his current focus. “For our selection, we do not want to be dependent on one country, China, alone. That’s why we have selection plants in various countries. Through our collaboration of many years, we have reached a high level of quality in China. In other countries we are working to reach that same level of expertise.
At three in the afternoon, people in the Netherlands are waking up. That means Paul is shifting his attention to Europe. “I aim to make as few phone calls in the evening as possible, but it happens, of course. When I’m needed, I’m available.”