After 15 years of employment, Gerard van ‘t Klooster says goodbye to SGL

A farewell to our walking encyclopaedia

But before we say goodbye to Gerard, let’s take a moment and reflect on his career, reminisce about those early SGL days, and look forward to what the future holds.

Flowers and champagne to celebrate Gerard van 't Klooster's 15 years of service at SGL.

Pioneering in the early SGL days

As one of the day ones, Gerard witnessed SGL still in its early days, pioneering with just a small group of people, steering the course of the company. An exciting time, a period Gerard remembers vividly.

“It was May 2nd 2008. After Nico (founder Nico van Vuuren), Frank (Sales Director Frank van Beusekom), and Eveline (Office Manager Eveline de Heij), I was the fourth employee,” Gerard recalls. “I remember Nico picking me up from the train station and we jumped straight into a brainstorm session. Where do want to go with SGL? And how do we get there? Were some of the topics we discussed. I might still have an image of the flip over containing all the ideas we came up with during that session. It was a nice way to start my career at SGL, it was a very open discussion and I loved it. Later that week we had a meeting about UV-C technology, which I had also gained experience with at Barenbrug, my former employer. It was an exciting time. I had an advising role at SGL and joined the sales manager during customer visits, observing the grass, writing reports, thinking of ways to optimise our products and services to help our customers. That open, dynamic, and customer-driven work environment with new challenges every day was – and still is – typical for SGL. It’s one of the reasons why working at SGL has been so exciting for the last 15 years.”

That personal touch

Over the years, Gerard’s knowledge has not only left a mark on the development and course of SGL as a company, but his passion for the craft and his drive to make the lives of grounds managers a little easier every day made him a well-regarded guest at clubs from all over the world.
“That personal touch has always been very important to me. It’s so much easier to make a connection with people face-to-face, rather than via email or over the phone. As a result, I have met so many interesting people who I still talk to up to this day. It’s so nice to see all those people again during the Masterclass and catch up. Visiting customers and being physically present on-site also helped me to experience the local conditions first-hand and get a better understanding of the challenges the grounds manager faces. And in addition, we’ve encountered the weirdest situations during our visits to customers.”

For example?
“Well, I specifically remember when Nico and I visited the United States for one of the first times. We travelled all the way to Denver, Colorado. When we finally got there, the person we were meeting asked us to wait because he needed to get a haircut first, ha-ha. We ended up waiting for an hour, but hey, at least he was honest about it. Living abroad during my time at Barenbrug, the travelling with both Barenbrug and SGL; it has been very valuable, but it could not have happened without the support of my family.”

Sharing knowledge in an ever-changing industry

In the years that followed, Gerard witnessed SGL evolve into a company with more than 40 employees and various departments, providing advanced technologies, products, and services in a dynamic industry.
“Organically, we grew and developed to a company that now consists of various departments, from marketing to agronomy. It was no longer feasible to do everything with just four people, so we had to expand. On the one hand, it creates a little bit more distance towards the end-user, but it also means more specialisation within departments and better support. It’s a natural process and a good thing if you want to move forward. As a result of the companies’ growth, my role also changed a bit. I travelled less and often worked remote. I was still involved in various projects, and enjoyed answering all kinds of questions from colleagues and customers. If I disagreed with something, I would just write a feisty email to shake things up and keep people on their toes.  The well known ‘sneer van Geer’! Overall, I love helping people and sharing my knowledge and way of working. Dare to share. That’s how you evolve as a team.”

Sharing knowledge and (product) innovation is crucial in an ever changing industry, to provide the groundsman with the latest technology.
“We need to provide grounds teams with a mix of tools and service that will make their jobs easier. We can use a lot of knowledge from other industries to keep innovating turfgrass management. Horticulture for instance, where a lot of processes are automated and digitalised. When we look at pitch management, automating processes supports the grounds manager and helps him save valuable time. It enables grounds managers to further develop their craft and focus on the details.”    

A beautiful ride

Although Gerard’s employment at SGL is coming to an end, completely letting go of the industry he loves so much is hard, and probably not going to happen anytime soon.
“I’m always happy to answer questions, or brainstorm. I’ve always enjoyed working with my colleagues, especially the agronomy team. That’s something I’ll have to miss. Although I think we’ll stay in touch anyway. If someone calls to discuss something, that’s fine with me. Looking back on my career, it has been a beautiful ride, an experience they can never take away from me. There’s a new generation ready, it’s up to you now! And well, there are more people with knowledge, you know. It’s not just that ‘crazy’ van ‘t Klooster who knows a lot.”  

Asked which type of grass he identifies with the most Gerard responds with instant knowledge, as expected from an experienced (crazy) agronomist.
“Koeleria macrantha!” A firm, resilient grass type. It’s a grass type that survives with little care. You can’t use it in a stadium, but its firm character suits me. It’s also a quite expensive grass type…

One thing is certain, we’ll sure miss that crazy van ‘t Klooster!