Marcel van Kesteren
What was it like starting out at McKinsey at thirty one?
"Inspiring and tough at the same time. It took me a year at least to find a balance between the McKinsey Way and my own. That’s when I reached a turning point in my development, a point at which I was able to use both my emotions and my ratio at the same time. The things I learned at McKinsey are still very useful to me now on a daily basis. What I truly discovered there for instance are product focus and top-down thinking."
How do you become a CEO at Workx?
"How do you become the CEO at Workx? With H2 Equity Partners (owner of Workx Material Renting business) I was discussing how to fulfill a position with them, possibly as an Investment Manager. Luckily they were in agreement very quickly that that wouldn’t be a good idea. But an intelligent operational management position however, was. In 2008 I started out as a COO at Workx and since 2011 I became the CEO. It was a great help that during my time in consultancy I had gained a lot of experience in people management in operational situations. At the time I had worked as Manager of Operations in Procter & Gamble’s laundry detergent factory."
What does Workx do?
"We rent out machines and provide related services. We have a little over forty establishments, 30,000 machines and 280 employees."
A turnaround in a tight market - is that keeping you up at night?
"I wouldn’t call it a turnaround, our market position is much too strong for that. It is true that the market is under a lot of pressure. That means (re)writing strategy on the one hand, and implementing it on the other; while keeping an eye on pricing policies you also need to keep tabs on your sales force. So no, it isn’t costing me any sleep at night, but I do need to work long hours in this job. Luckily I really like my job- or I even find it rather addictive. And luckily as a consultant you learn a great deal about time management."
What is it you are dealing with?
"Many of our clients are in construction and the industries. I like those kinds of people. As a mining engineer from Delft I am no stranger to pragmatics and that goes down well in this sector. I like retail because of its data and complexity, it makes me happy to work on calculations. And renting out material is a true trade. The good thing about the people here is that they love what they do-the advisory component in specialized letting is very important; so is speediness by the way. I also talk to banks on a regular basis, as what we do is quite expensive. Lastly, Workx originated from some fourteen acquisitions, so lawyers help out harmonizing our contracts here and there. We deal with everything, really."
Isn't it lonely at the top?
"That’s why mother private equity is so important. At McKinsey I learned how much fits into one week. Here they call me a maximizer. Impatience can get in my way. It is nice to be able to have both the people here and at H2 as sparring partners."
Do you have any exit advice?
"My mother always used to say: “Follow your heart.” It took a while for me to get it. Do that thing which makes you happy and not what other people think is cool. Do you want responsibility? Make your own decisions? Are you sure? Carrying your own responsibility is not as easy as it seems when you are used to giving advice. Even taking your own advice and carrying out your own analyses can turn out being impossible."
2015 – present
2014 – 2015
CEO, LOXAM Workx
2011 – 2015
CEO, Workx Holding BV
2009 – 2011
CFO & COO Workx Holding BV
2008 – 2009
COO, Workx Materieelverhuur BV
2005 – 2008
Consultant, McKinsey & Compay
2000 – 2005
Operations Manager, P&G