Interview: Ron Neele, CEO at Neele-Vat Logistics

In October 2014, two Rotterdam family businesses, Neele Logistics and VAT Logistics, merged on an equal basis to form a single, complementary company. By joining forces, the newly formed entity is now composed of over 500 staff members, 20 branches in 9 different countries and a turnover of 230 million euros per annum. Mazars Netherlands was involved in the merger process as an advisor to Neele Logistics and had a significant role in drawing up their merger agreement.

In January 2015, Mazars interviewed Ron Neele, CEO at Neele-Vat Logistics, who discussed sustainability, talent management and the recent merger with VAT Logistics.

"My first day at Neele Logistics was certainly a memorable one. At the time, I was a 31 year old lawyer who was brought into the family business due to adverse circumstances.

My father was sick and something had to be done to ensure business continuity. In response, I sold my practice and began my adventure in the Transport & Logistics industry with the remaining two colleagues in 1987.

I faced many challenges but had colleagues who helped me acquire the necessary industry expertise. Since then, the company has experienced tremendous growth including growth via the recent merger. "

Transport chain management

"Our collaboration with VAT Logistics makes us stronger, we complement each other. For instance, VAT Logistics has extensive experience in Scandinavia while we know the French market better.

Generally speaking, you can see that freight companies, shipping companies and inland waterway shipping companies are struggling. They focus on one part of the transport chain, while we focus on managing the entire transportation chain. We assist in properly transporting goods as quickly and efficiently as possible from A to B. We differentiate ourselves thanks to our knowledge on both domestic and foreign markets. We also have 150,000 m2 of storage where we can, for example, process goods after they are imported. "

Sustainable business

"Overall, customers find value and services to be the most important criteria when selecting a logistics provider. However, more and more customers are consciously looking for a ‘green’ solution. This is a relatively new criterion and we are excited to leverage this potential with our customers.

For example, we use a daily ‘green’ freight train to Munich and vice versa; this is sustainable transportation. And even though road transportation fees are very cost efficient, transportation by train is in this case cheaper than by truck. We want to offer our customers the choice to select the option which best suits their company. We also invest in sustainability and our company has been certified "lean and green". This means that we strive for sustainable logistics processes, including the reduction of CO2 emissions.”

Our people

"At any cost, we want to preserve our distinctive character as a family business. We might have chosen to merge but we are above all a family business. Our organization is structured only on three levels: Board of Directors, Management and Operations. Therefore, we are able to make decisions quickly. Our shareholders are also our Directors; they are hands on and close to the daily operation. We believe that this brings many benefits to our customers. The personal touch is important.

This is what we also experience in our collaboration with Mazars. Remco Schoonderwoerd, one of Mazars’ Partners, has helped me with careful estate planning. That was especially important to me, on a personal level. The collaboration went so well then I asked him to advise us in the merger process.

Fortunately, we experience a low turnover within the company, which ensures knowledge continuity. We also maintain this knowledge through internal training and educational programs. To recruit new talent, we have a strong partnership with the Shipping and Transport College of Rotterdam. Every year, we provide internships to about 60 students. We regularly offer full-time positions to our interns.”

Looking to the future

"We continuously focus on finding the best ways to make our employees happy and productive. It sounds cliché, but the strong reputation of Neele-Vat Logistics is thanks to the people who work here. In the long term, we want to stay ahead of the game. We invest heavily in IT. Customers want to track shipments. We see this as a logical extension of our services. Furthermore, we want to strengthen our position abroad. All in all, I see a prosperous future. This merger makes us truly stronger as a company. "

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