Retirement does not keep Sales Jan Niehof away from Hacon Containers
From experienced manager in a transport company to passionate Sales Representative at Hacon Containers: this is Jan Niehof's story!
Although he has not been part of Hacon Containers' sales team for very long, Jan Niehof is a familiar face in the container world. His years of knowledge and experience make him a true expert that we can only take our hat off to. On 18 August 2023, Jan may retire, but he is not yet ready to hand over his Hacon baton. For now, therefore, he will remain a permanent face of Hacon Containers, and we are happy about that! In this interview, Jan takes us on a journey through his career and shares his enthusiasm about containers, containers and... containers!
A background in containers
That Jan is a familiar face in the container industry is evident when asked where his passion for containers comes from. "I have been working in the container industry since 1990. After first being the manager of a transport company for eight years, I was challenged to move to the sales team in 1998. A fun challenge in which I was able to convey my enthusiasm about containers well".
Where that enthusiasm comes from? That's in the versatility of containers. You can do much more with them than just use them for freight transport. From horse stables to custom-made aggregate enclosures. The versatility of containers is an aspect that never ceases to amaze Jan even now. The international aspect of working in the container industry also really appeals to Jan. "I have done a lot of business in Germany over the past 30 years. Here, the rules are slightly different from those in the Netherlands. The mentality is also different at German companies and I have been able to learn a lot from German relations because of this. I've always enjoyed that immensely!"
Developments in the container industry
At 66 years old, we can call Jan a veteran in the container business. He has seen many changes over the past decades. Surely a major development is China's increasing role in container production. Jan: "What once started with a few factories in Europe moved to Eastern Europe and eventually to China. Although quality lagged a bit in the beginning, over the years China has stepped up to become a major player in the container industry."
Another change is the increased interest in new containers. Jan used to sell only used containers. Now these are increasingly new containers. On top of that, in the last five to six years, many new types of containers have been introduced to the market that you would not have expected to exist before. Think, for instance, of a container with doors on all sides. This was unheard of in the 1990s. "The fact that so many types of containers are emerging is really nice to see!", says Jan.
A lot stayed the same too
In an industry that is constantly evolving, it strikes Jan that a lot has also stayed the same. For example, the importance of used containers for companies exporting is an aspect that has always remained the same. Although there are minor adjustments, the demand for used containers remains strong. In addition, there are some types of containers that remain the same as decades ago.
That many things have remained the same is explained by Jan by the intervention of shipping. This is because shipping has a great interest in standardising cargoes. This promotes speed of delivery. "Container ships have become much larger in recent years. To keep loading and unloading as efficient as possible, not too many 'separate' containers should be shipped."
A career full of highlights
Keeping up the good work after retirement shows enthusiasm. So when we ask Jan to look back at the highlights of his career, he cannot name just one. Many of the highlights have to do with the relationships Jan has built with customers during his career. "Selling containers to a customer you have worked with for a long time, that makes me happy every time," says Jan. Selling once is fun, of course, but Jan likes to see his customers come back more often.
The unexpected twists and turns also keep the work interesting. For instance, Jan once experienced that something as simple as a sticker on a container brought him a good customer. The customer contacted him via such a sticker and ended up buying hundreds of containers.
Jan's future at Hacon Containers
Jan has been working at Hacon Containers since January. Yet his place in our team feels familiar. He was already familiar with the company in his time before Hacon Containers, and has followed us closely in recent years. Jan particularly likes the wide range of container types available at the company. "There are few traders who can do that. I especially like the fact that everything is possible at Hacon Containers. Whether you want to rent, buy or convert a container," says Jan.
Jan is not planning to leave sales work at Hacon Containers behind for the time being. Jan: "If you're doing something you enjoy, why stop? As long as I stay healthy and motivated, I only enjoy continuing to do my bit. With my experience, I can advise colleagues and win customers for Hacon. It's a win-win situation for everyone". In the coming period, Jan will therefore focus on transferring knowledge, and learning from the new generation. He does not like to be deterred and is never too old to try new things. We are happy that Jan will keep his seat on our team warm for a while longer and look forward to a great collaboration!