‘You can’t grow your business on your own’

Turning, milling, drilling, grinding, welding and honing. In short, these are the expertise of family business Drabo Hardenberg. Their machined products are crucial parts in world-famous structures and everyday products. For example, in the London Ferris wheel Eye, but also in the car industry and in oil platforms, parts from Drabo have been processed. “You will find our products in many places, but because they are” only “parts, they are often not visible,” says 46-year-old Meulenkamp-Back.

Three-man management

Draaierij Back en Overmars, Drabo, was founded in 1978 by Bertus Back and his business partner Hans Overmars at the time. In 2003 Meulenkamp-Back, together with her younger brother Marc and ‘veteran’ Jaap Oosterhof, took over the shares from their father. Meulenkamp-Back: “We now form a three-man board. Jaap has been working in this company for longer than we have, he is the technical man. Marc is responsible for production and management and I finance and HR.” The triumvirate is well attuned to each other. “We work smoothly together,” she explains. “The three of us make the decisions. And that actually goes without any problems.” When the three took over, 35 people worked here. Meulenkamp-Back: “Now there are about eighty. All in all, we have achieved good growth.”

From the school desk to the lathe

The biggest challenge for the company lies in finding and retaining good professionals. Meulenkamp-Back: “We want to grow and that is not possible without good staff. But before someone can work at the right level, you will soon be five to ten years further. It takes a long time before an employee has enough knowledge of materials, machines. and operating systems. It takes a lot of training days. ” The company prefers to train its employees internally, in collaboration with training institutes in the region.

“Craftsmanship is a problem for many companies in the manufacturing industry,” says Van Dam. “A solution could be to – just like Drabo does – to work closely with educational institutions and to set up vocational guidance learning pathways (BBL). Students can then work and learn. Gaining experience in practice is, we know, one of the the most powerful and efficient ways of learning. From the school desk to the lathes where they get to know a company and its practice. “

Increase attraction

In addition to her work in the family business, Meulenkamp-Back is also a board member of VNO-NCW region Zwolle, of the entrepreneurs house for the Vechtdal and, together with her team, she was named ‘entrepreneur of the year in the Vechtdal region’ in 2019. “As a board member of the employers’ association, I am committed to the manufacturing industry”, she explains. “Together we have to put our sector better on the map. That can be very practical. For example, there is no large highway between Zwolle and Hardenberg, while Hardenberg has a lot of manufacturing industry and there are too few people living in the area who want to work here. hard on me now. ” The title ‘entrepreneur of the year’ also increases the company’s appeal. “That title was important to us,” says Renate. “With this we can show that we are an interesting employer. Machining, a form of material processing, is a wonderful profession. Everyone should know that.”

You grow together

In order to grow the company, she participated in Port4Growth’s multi-year Growth Accelerator program in 2016, a platform for growth entrepreneurs. The program is an initiative of the Ministry of Economic Affairs. Meulenkamp-Back: “Here I learned how you can take your company to a higher level by experiencing stories from other entrepreneurs, but also by going through step-by-step plans and making an organization scan.” If there is one lesson she has learned to grow your business, it is that an entrepreneur must work together. Meulenkamp-Back: “You cannot grow your company alone.”

Seek connections with other entrepreneurs

She does not hesitate to turn to fellow entrepreneurs for advice. “Entrepreneurs tend to want to do everything themselves. That is a good characteristic, but that can also work against you. I also see that in my network around VNO-NCW. Nevertheless, I advise every entrepreneur who wants to grow to be connected. with other entrepreneurs. I do that too. I came into contact with many different entrepreneurs through network meetings. These entrepreneurs know where to find me and I know them. It is very inspiring to learn from each other. Especially when the companies from a completely different industry. “Oh, do you do it like this?”, I hear others and myself say. Then cross-pollination takes place. Then something can really grow. “

5 growth tips from Ralph van Dam, business partner Entrepreneurship at Centraal Beheer

  1. Take your strategic photo. Visualize as concretely as possible where you want your company to be in three to five years. This enables you to consciously give direction and map out interesting new routes and opportunities.

  1. Grow as a person. Growth starts with you. Those who grow as a person also grow in the role of manager. And leadership is necessary to grow a company.

  1. Innovate. Companies that want to move forward must look ahead and innovate.

  1. Collaborate with employees, suppliers, other entrepreneurs and educational and research institutions. Two know more than one.

  1. Stay fit and healthy. Consider the balance between work and private life, exercise and eat healthy. Only a fit entrepreneur has the energy to grow his business.

Want to get started right away with the growth of you and your company? our e-book ‘Actively working with growth’.

This article was written in collaboration with


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