Being successful for thirty years, in a constantly changing market, with new challenges coming up again and again: how do you do it? Today, the iPS’ Directors team consists of Rob Kooijmans and Hans van Burk. They lead the company with great passion. A candid conversation about the power of iPS.
Both men spend time abroad regularly, visiting iPS branches worldwide, but also shaping partnerships with current and new clients. At the company headquarters in Capelle aan den IJssel, there is time for an encounter and a stroll.
To get straight to the point: what makes iPS so successful?
‘As a company, we work in an intermediary sector, serving both clients and professionals, so our mission and vision is focused on both parties. That process must be well balanced. As far as the client is concerned, we are not just suppliers, but above all; partners. You have to understand what the client’s challenge is: what is the reason he needs staff, what is the issue? You become a partner by working with the client in a solution-oriented way. In other words: we focus on troubleshooting rather than shifting around people. We’re constantly looking in the market for players to work with, and subsequently become their exclusive preferred supplier. In this process we are a sparring partner, and that’s our strength.’
Why do clients choose to work with iPS?
‘Clients select us exclusively, in part because of the specialist experience of the professionals we recruit, the extensive possibilities for payrolling we offer, but also because of our compliance: we operate internationally in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. We know which possibilities there are and we’re able to apply them quickly and put them into effect. And iPS is also appreciated for its transparency regarding our fees. It’s crystal clear how wage costs, insurances and fees are calculated; there are no misunderstandings about this.’
Why do professionals like to work for iPS?
Our professionals are experienced and have the required professional knowledge. We like to give them the opportunity to add to their careers by participating in prestigious projects, in an often interesting geographical area. It’s usually a great opportunity to live and work abroad for a while. iPS is known for being a company that practices what it preaches in terms of compensation and we provide good employee benefits: wherever you’re employed, you’re paid on time and you’re well insured. The trick is to retain staff, even at times when no work is available. We actively exchange ideas about career prospects and invest in training and education.
Our staff in the office needs to have a certain eagerness, it needs to know how to get things done, have a commercial spirit, but it also must be meticulous. As far as recruitment and selection is concerned, we always need to work from two perspectives: one is to recruit a good candidate, and the other one is the client: he must be interested in that person as well. If one of them needs time to reconsider, you’re two steps back in the process.’
That iPS feeling, can you describe it?
‘iPS People like to jump onto the customer’s problem, act quickly, and enter into a partnership with the client. We are really very proud of our consultants. They want to act to relieve clients of their worries, to solve problems. Clients keep coming back to us for that. If a customer has a problem, we immediately call on the people who can solve it. We analyze and investigate as to what can be done better. We are truly a self-learning organization. This mentality can be found to the same extent in our back office, who prepares all the necessary documents in time, with exactly the same drive.’
As members of the board you fly all across the globe. Are you in charge 24/7?
‘We visit the various entities and offices, provide support to our people, and we visit clients, trade fairs, governments and networks. It is good to show your face regularly and look each other in the eyes; that’s the best way to safeguard our iPS company culture.
Rob is primarily a sparring partner for all back office managers. There are two dimensions to this: we are well informed about what is happening and they have someone peering over their shoulders. Hans focuses primarily on business relationships. Sure, we’re working long weeks. But we are also free to do what we do. Work hard, play hard. If you start feeling that you have to work hard and work many hours you will become unhappy. So we are always aware of finding the right balance.’
Has the market changed compared to some years ago?
‘The financial crisis has led us to expand into other markets. Some of our traditional markets declined, and it seemed it would take some time for those markets to recover.
We have started serving a wider market and expanded geographically, and we were able to deploy our professionals to several new locations.
Our clients also went looking for neighboring markets. It is important to follow what they do and engage in dialogue, to engage in the process at an early stage. There are many developments around the world that we critically monitor. When oil or gas is being searched for in a particular region and no ports exist in that region, you know that at some stage partners will be sought to help build them. We can organize that. Another example is the oil market in Mexico, which has become more privately owned. The first employees will be needed there in 2019, and we are already working on that.
When the price of oil recently plummeted, we noticed that plenty of work was available on the downstream side, because refineries continue to operate. We have developed a turnaround concept, which now we’re also offering to the international market. We offer comprehensive project teams that are well attuned to each other. The way we offer cross-border payrolling is unique, as a result of which we’re able to provide an interesting offer to highly educated professionals. They like to work for iPS and increasingly do so.’
What are you planning for the future?
‘We continue to look for segments that border on what we already do, to ensure that our people are broadly and flexibly employable. Take the example of the turnaround concept. Those working in the upstream oil and gas segment can do the same thing in the process industry and engineering market. We critically monitor whether or not we’re present on the right locations.
We anticipate developments at an early stage. For example: more and more ships are sailing on LPG. So you need people who can deal with that. We will soon have those people. We are anticipating this imminent scarcity.
As far as the segments are concerned, many things are about to happen. We have mapped all wind energy projects until 2023. We know who the players are. But competition is fierce.
There is also a lot to do in the civil-engineering market worldwide, especially in tunnelling. There are fewer players in that market, and we are known for our expertise and problem-solving approach.’
What are you really proud of?
‘We’ve come up with a lot of ideas that work out well. That really gives us a thrill. It’s so much fun when a concept generates drive and enthusiasm among our people. Of course, we are also proud of the industry and the projects we work at. Knowing that one hundred and fifty of us are participating, for example, in the Suez Canal project, in the London metro tunnel or the
Westerschelde tunnel projects make us proud. These projects are items in the news and in documentaries, producing beautiful images that speak for themselves.’
Rob Kooijmans (Left) and Hans van Burk (right)