Jesse van Sas is the new general manager at FIDI. Only a few months ago he had no idea where his career choice was going to take him. But now, he’s heading up one of the industry’s greatest and most respected networks. Steve Jordan caught up with him for a chat.
Jesse said he was bitten by the moving bug 26 years ago having joined Arthur Pierre in Holland at the age of 26 as a surveyor. He stayed for two years before joining Chaffeys in Belgium for a further three years followed by Ziegler in Brussels for 14. Seven years ago he took the opportunity to run Interdean in Brussels which subsequently became part of Santa Fe.
“I always had a great time with all the companies I worked for,” he said. “But I felt I needed something different. At the same time I realised that I loved this industry so much that I didn’t want to leave it. I could have gone to another company but I would have been doing the same thing with a different name. That was not what I wanted.”
Jesse believes that the moving industry is unique. “It’s because everything is so personal. The relationships with agents are personal and we are dealing with people’s personal effects. We don’t have any commodities. Personal service is embedded in the industry and in everything we do. That’s what makes it special for me.”
He didn’t really go looking for the job at FIDI, rather it found him. “I just let some industry colleagues know that I was on the lookout for something new and the opportunity emerged,” he said. He discussed it with his family but then decided that it was impossible to judge whether it was the right thing to do until he was doing it. “So, in the end, I just made the decision. I thought, let’s just do it and figure out how it’s going to work as we go along.”
So Jesse remains in the industry he loves, in touch with all the people that have shared his career but, since he started with FIDI on 1 December, in a very different role. “I’m no longer surrounded by cardboard boxes and trucks,” he said, without regret, though he did admit to occasionally glancing outside to see if he could find one. “It’s very corporate here.”
Even in these early days the new appointment shows all the signs of being a good move for Jesse. He also believes that he can be good for FIDI too. He is very complementary about the staff at the FIDI office. “The people here are very bright, intelligent and focussed on their jobs, but none of them have a background in the moving industry. It’s useful to have someone here who can look at any issue from the members’ perspective. After all, they are our customers and owners of the FIDI brand and we have to make sure that they understand what we are doing and that they buy into it.”
Jesse believes that the biggest challenge and opportunity for FIDI is to be relevant to its members. “That’s what we need to work on every day in every aspect of what we do. We must ask ourselves, how does what we do help our affiliates to be more profitable and more successful?”
He says that, in recent years, the motivation for members has changed. “25 years ago it was an honour to be an affiliate of FIDI,” he said. “If you were FIDI you meant something in the moving industry. Now it’s different. Companies don’t want to be part of FIDI for its own sake; now they want to see the value. Our job is to provide that value and make sure that our members understand the importance of the benefits they receive.”
Of course, Jesse isn’t saying yet how he intends to do that or what those benefits should be. When interviewed he’d only been in the job a month. But it is very much ‘work in progress’. “For example, we have a Board meeting in Hong Kong shortly. I could just go and fly home again but our affiliates are there so I will stay and visit every one of them. I want to talk to them, listen to them and convey the message that FIDI is there to help them not the other way around. We have to be meaningful to them to make their job easier and make sure they can say to their corporate accounts that they are FIDI/FAIM branded and that it is important for them. We will make them more money in the end.”
For some time now the industry has been subjected to strong external forces, particularly relating to compliance demands from corporations and RMCs. FIDI has been very much aware of this and FAIM 3.1, the latest version of the quality Standard which is mandatory for all FIDI members, acknowledges its importance. “In my view future versions of FAIM will emphasise this even more because this is exactly what the corporate customers are asking from us. What they want is to be able to contract a company and know that all the compliance boxes will be ticked. If you look at RFPs over recent years they all focus on this. They just want to cover themselves and make sure that their suppliers have this in place. This is the kind of thing we need to focus on to make it easier for our members to answer these questions from their corporates and other stakeholders.”
FIDI currently has just over 600 members. Would Jesse like to see the size of the network grow? Well, perhaps, but not at the expense of quality. “I would like the network to grow but we cannot sacrifice the quality programme and the principles we live by to have a bigger membership,” he explained. “The level of membership will be whatever it is and we should, be happy with that. If we can reach 700 or 750 members and all those companies merit the FAIM certification then that’s fine. So far the growth is going in the right direction and we are continuing to build upon it. I don’t think we will ever have 2000 members, that’s not our purpose.”
As Jesse settles into the top job at FIDI he can only guess at the challenges that lie in wait for him. But whatever they are, his industry experience will be invaluable in helping him and FIDI through. Right now, his objective is clear: to make sure that FIDI is meaningful to the membership and to their customers. It’s a simple aim and one that is to underpin everything that Jesse and FIDI does for the foreseeable future.
Photos: Top: (left to right) Monica Jacobs, Operations; Jesse van Sas; Ivan Verspecht, Finance and John Prooij, FCC. Middle left: FIDI General Manager Jesse van Sas.
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