VDL Weweler: The art of listening

From the June 2012 issue.

Holland's VDL Weweler understands that in a boisterous world economy, mindful listening has become a valuable management skill.

They may haven’t met before, but Dick Aalderink, a young man at the head of an aspiring Dutch suspension business, and corporate strategist Kenichi Ohmae share a common belief – both understand that creating real value for the client can be the most powerful business tool available.

In a 1988 article published in the Harvard Business Review, Japanese-born Kenichi Ohmae questioned the wisdom of a single-minded focus on rivalry and industry structure. At the time, the business culture of the United States was obsessed with Japan and the rivalry-based competitive model that had apparently given rise to that country’s world-beating economy. Ohmae, however, argued that a successful business strategy should be less about defeating the competition, but more about creating value for the client.

Now Aalderink, CEO of Europe’s only spring manufacturer who is also able to develop and manufacture its own air suspension system, has translated that lesson into a viable post-recession strategy. “Assessing a product’s true value to the client has become the most important aspect of our work,” he says. “Yet value is a variable that is far less conspicuous than price, because it often depends on the customer’s subjective assessment.”

As a result, Aalderink wouldn’t just trust in a standardised product when entering a new business environment – especially if it’s a marketplace as vast and volatile as crisis-shaken North America.

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