Together with our founder Nico van Vuuren, Frank is the backbone of our company. We asked him why he is still committed to SGL and the industry after that many years.
It all started as a part-time student job, as he entered the world of grass lighting at the age of 21. Now he is Sales Director: Frank van Beusekom. As the first ever SGL employee, Frank was the beating heart of SGL together with founder Nico van Vuuren. Although the dream was clear, they had never expected the company to make it to 350 projects worldwide 17,5 years later. Frank takes us on a trip down memory lane and explains why, after so much time, he still loves working at SGL.
During his bachelor Business Studies, Frank was looking to find a job to get more experienced in this work field. A small company with growth potential was what he was looking for: “Seems like I took the ‘growth potential’ a bit too literally. Of course I wasn’t looking for a company that was growing grass, but I always had a passion for sports and football in particular.”
“Initially, I was given a six-month part time contract at rose greenhouse Porta Nova, also owned by Nico van Vuuren, because SGL did not have a payroll administration. I shared a small desk with Nico. That was it; just the two of us, at one desk, pioneering and calling football clubs day in, day out. Trying to arrange meetings and show our technology. We were convinced that we had the solution for top quality pitches worldwide and had already proven it on a small test plot as well as at Sunderland AFC in England. Still it was extremely hard to get the clubs on board, because it was all so new and unconventional to them. There were days when Nico told me: there is no more work left for you, so you can go home, Nico and I sometimes joke about longing back to these days. There wasn’t a paved road we could walk, we had to create it. We had absolutely no idea what it was going to lead to at that time. Every six months Nico would decide whether he could continue with the business or not.”
Then after 2 years, a lot of blood, sweat and tears, and some successful stadium trials, the first clubs showed interest in the technology, and in October 2004 PSV Eindhoven became SGL’s first commercial project. “At that point it quickly became clear to us that if we made this project a success, we could run a real business and we could start to expand. Nico drove back and forth to PSV Eindhoven several times a week to bring all the units onto the pitch to help out the grounds team. He left nothing to chance to make this a success.”
When that happened, the ball started to roll. “We had proven the technology and other clubs started to show interest. By that time I was building a website, making quotations, organizing our first ever event – including serving drinks and home cut cheese cubes to our guests – as well as writing the business plan with Nico. All in addition to building customer relationships, which is where my heart is. I learned so much and I was very proud to see that we were expanding and our technology was really making a change in the industry.”
But still it was very close or Frank’s career at SGL had ended at that point. “For some reason I still looked at my job as a part-time student job, even though by then SGL had already grown and even hired some staff. I always dreamt of travelling the world, and back in 2007 my girlfriend (now wife and mother of our two boys) and I decided to pack our bags. So I handed in my notice, telling Nico I was going to look for a ‘real job’ after my travels. A few days later both Nico and I realised that ‘real job’ should be with SGL, it was an industry I loved, I had already built valuable relationships with great people all over the world, and there was still so much to gain, improve, create and build. And almost 18 years later, this is still exactly how I feel.”
“The people in the industry are the reason I love my job so much. Some customers I’ve known for 15 years, and with many of them I share great memories. I met Gavin Darby, from the Marvel Stadium (Telstra Dome, back in the day), in 2007. He came to visit us in the Netherlands together with his boss at the time. I borrowed my dad’s car to pick them up from the airport, because I needed to make a good impression on our (hopefully) first Australian customer. The day went well but at night when I drove them back to their hotel the car broke down. We were picked up by Triple-A, sat in the front of the tow truck with all three of us, and got a very small loan car that could hardly fit us. So far for the good impression, but it did provide for a great story to look back at with Gavin Darby, now Arena Management Head at the Marvel Stadium and a highly appreciated customer for over 13 years.”
“It has been such a great journey. Looking back at how we started and where we are now, it’s almost unbelievable. And I don’t just mean SGL. The people in this industry never cease to amaze me. There is no limit to their commitment. Grounds teams spending the night in in their office, just to be able to get the pitch ready for the game in terrible weather conditions. Their work is a craft and requires a dedication that is often underestimated. And although they don’t usually get the recognition they deserve, still they keep working harder and harder to improve every year. It’s an industry with honest and fair people, and long term and valuable relationships. Some customers I’ve known for almost 18 years and we have come to know each other so well. To be able to connect with these people, share the passion, and together strive for the best possible result is what makes my job the best in the world”
So the need to look for ‘a real job’ is long gone? “Absolutely. In essence SGL is still the same company as it was 18 years ago, but over the years SGL and the industry have changed tremendously, always providing new challenges. I even have my own desk now!”
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