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Holland’s UK connection

Aug 18, 2014
Henneken International Removals is one of the oldest removal companies in the Netherlands. It was founded in 1870 and remained a family business until 2001 when the company was sold and changed its direction. Steve Jordan interviewed its Director, Lauwrens de Jong, to find out more.

The family business was a local affair: mainly haulage within the Netherlands plus a bit of moving.  Gradually the moving side increased in importance to become, in time, the company’s most important activity.

Meanwhile, Lauwrens de Jong was going through college. When he needed a job his uncle John came to the rescue offering him holiday work at his moving company Waaijenverg Groep in Ede.  “I suppose it was there that I got the bug for moving,” said Lauwrens.  “You come into the business, and never leave.”

He started as a trainee in 1992 but stayed with the company after leaving education in 1995 eventually switching from the head office to a small branch on the company in Groningen in the north of the country. “It was mainly a farming community there so we shipped a lot of farmers to Australia, New Zealand and Canada along with their equipment.”

During his time at Groningen his company became a member of a new organisation: The Dutch Movers (TDM).  It wasn’t long before Lauwrens was asked to handle sales for the organisation and so, saying aurevoir to Waaijenverg, he took a desk at one of the member companies, Henneken in Zoetermeer.  The link was formed. When the Henneken brothers decided to sell the company, Lauwrens was asked if he wanted to buy.  With the help of cooperative bankers, he did so in 2001.  That was when the transformation began.

“It was a good company with good people and the economy was doing well at that time,” he said.  But, although the company was successful, Lauwrens felt that it should specialise, it should have a niche.  “There were plenty of companies moving goods around Europe, but very few specialising in the UK and Ireland. I decided that we would never make much money by doing what everyone else did.  Instead we should adopt the cross-channel run as our niche market and become expert at it.”  He had already had some experience when working for the MOD with Mondial Movers who took over TDM in 2000.  Henneken is still part of the Mondial network.

Lauwrens admitted that in the early days it was something of a self-fulfilling prophesy.  He had already built up the trade work with some of Europe’s largest corporate movers.  “So I just went around telling people that we were experts in the UK and Ireland and the work began to flow in.”  Today the company has around 300 runs across The Channel every year for its own clients and trade customers.

The company is still a small business by some standards – 15 permanent on-road staff and 10 vehicles – but Lauwrens says that its people are loyal and dedicated to providing good customer service.  “Our trade customers don’t want damages or complaints,” he said.  “We always try to charge the right price, not chase prices down. But to do that it’s important to get the service right.  I believe that if you do a good job, people will always get back to you.”

Photos: Henneken moving a home for elderly people, some of whom have to stay in bed.

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