How to start a green revolution?
When Lucas Vos takes his position as CEO of Royal FloraHolland in 2014, he sees the world changing around him, and a company unable to anticipate on it. Old business models no longer work well for the corperation and its members, and the whole floriculture sector begs for innovation. He assigns a couple of small teams to implement his strategy for the future, among them a programme which focuses on the end user: the consumer. Silke Tijkotte is on that team and she’s on a mission.
I still remember my first days at Royal FloraHolland quite vividly. After 20 years of working in shipping and 15 years of living abroad, I longed to go back to the Netherlands to start working for a Dutch company in a new field. But when I started there were quite some challenges. There was no strategy at all, so I had to come up with a way to formulate a future-proof strategy for the cooperation and its members. Luckily that turned out quite well.
Definitely! As a forward-thinking company you have to be ahead of the game. So it was great that you sharpened the mission and vision of Royal FloraHolland. It created an environment in which we were able to look for new opportunities.
We defined a vision of how the world would look in 2020 and how the floricultural sector should respond to that, with an appropriate role for Royal FloraHolland. With the strategy team, it soon became clear that we had to go back to the core, and that we needed to expand the market. It would be a nice role for Royal FloraHolland to enlarge the slice of the pie and ensure that the margins for the members and customers would go up at the same time.
So we needed to reach new consumers who would spend more on flowers and plants.
I thought of three concrete objectives: European consumers to spend 20% more on flowers and plants; Royal FloraHolland to facilitate 20 innovations per year and Royal FloraHolland to have the best knowledge of the floriculture sector worldwide. I wanted dedicated people in the organisation who were only focusing on creating change. To reach those targets I formed five programmes that were separated from the existing business.
I was so glad to join the Consumer Programme. Consumers! That is something I can really relate to. I was very happy to get the assignment to expand the market. I had so many ideas.
I didn’t know what to do with you! I felt a tremendous passion, but I also felt that something was blocking your way. I’m pleased I trusted my gut and decide to let you go ahead. It felt as if you really knew what needed to happen to reach out to consumers.
I was very excited that I was given the space to think outside of the box. Before, 90% of my calendar was filled with internal meetings. Suddenly, I was able to go and find out why consumers were buying fewer plants and flowers. We discovered that there was no emotional connection to green. I thought: This can’t be. My generation is so preoccupied with a conscious lifestyle yet they don’t feel a connection with plants and flowers. What a mismatch! I really felt that we needed to make people aware of their value.
At that time, I didn’t realise at all that the value of flowers and plants was so underestimated. I was only thinking: Why aren’t we selling enough of them? I did notice however that other sectors were renewing themselves and I was wondering why the floriculture sector was not. I guess it was because everybody in the chain was too busy trying to get their job done. So there was no room for creativity.
I see it as an obligation of the Netherlands, as a leading country in the floriculture world, to develop knowledge and innovation from here.
At the same time, Bloomon entered the scene, the first branded subscription floral service.
That really became a thing. However, not much else was happening in the floricultural startup world. I see it as an obligation of the Netherlands, as a leading country in the floriculture world, to develop knowledge and innovation from here. But the members of Royal FloraHolland didn’t know in what direction the world was going, so the whole sector lacked innovation. Supply and demand were at odds with each other. There was a lot of misunderstanding.
Three young people got on stage and told such a convincing story, full of energy. I thought: This is a pot of gold. We have to go for it. And not just for the money.