The Martinshof Story - Page 8
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Michael's Blog -
29. Jan, the innovative Gadgets Man
My father was a real innovator in his
trade, with great simple ideas which put him way ahead in many regards
to anyone else in the business. He also loved to visit the customers himself and kept this up until his 60s.
Portable tape recorder
As soon as they came onto the market in Europe my father purchased a
portable reel to reel tape recorder, a Grundig I remember, about 30 x 20 x 12 cm in size (12x8x5 inches), very large by todays standards, which he
placed in his car and took with him wherever he went.
After visiting a customer he would sit in his car, switch on the
recorder and report everything they had talked about, including
personal stuff. At the end of the week he or his secretary would type
it all out on individual Index cards, one for each customer.
index cards went into a box also in the car so that the next time
visiting a customer he could say :
"Hello Mr. Petersen, how are you and how is your
dear wife, has she recovered from her flu yet ?",
or something of that nature.
This approach in the 1950s was way ahead
of its time and hugely effective with all his customers who very soon
started to regard him as a friend of the family, rather than just a
(These days this
approach is the standard practice for every professional sales person
in cars or real estate. However it has long since lost the genuine
sincerity from my father's days, as it is now used as a quick
softening up scheme before the "kill", rather than for the purpose of
building a long term genuine and honest business relationship.)
With the rapidly increasing traffic it became ever more difficult to
park his car in front of the shop he was visiting, so to overcome that
my father started to employ a private chauffeur. At first he used
University students on a part time basis.
Antien too, after she
and I started going out together, did several chauffeur stints for my
Dad. She enjoyed it enormously and so did my Dad, as he became the
envy of all the customers he visited. Having such an attractive
young chauffeur at his side. Wow!, that was something, they
Eventually my Dad started to employ a chauffeur full time. First it
was Konijn, a mechanic from the garage he had his car serviced.
Later it became Willem, a former truck driver who had had
enough of driving all days, all nights, all hours.
and my family came for holidays to Holland, Willem (always dressed in
a spotless grey uniform and impressive hat) would be there waiting for
us with the car at Schiphol Airport and we became quite
friendly with him. He was always the first friend to greet us in Holland
and the last one to drop us off and farewell us at the end of our visit.
Once again, as soon as they were introduced in Europe my Dad got hold
of the very first pager. It was for today's standards very
clumsy, as large as a shoe box with a metal handle along its longest
most elongated side. On top of it were 3 or 4 coloured plastic light
buttons. Each button represented a previously agreed message, like :
Pick me up now please, or
Pick me up in one hour, or
Go home, we are finished for the
After dropping my Dad off at a jewelry shop Willem would carry this box with
him wherever he went, in the car, during lunch or dinner, even in the Cinema.
My father, by simply making a phone call to a specified number and
adding one extra digit, a 1 or a
2 or a 3, would activate one of the lights on
the box and Willem would act accordingly.
Now with our tiny
pagers, mobile phones and wireless laptops, Black Berries etc. this
all seems very old fashioned and cumbersome, but back then it was the
very latest technology and my father used it to great effect.
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30. A man with honour, compassion and style
My father was a great dresser and always looked the gentleman he was. He also always treated those he had dealings with honourably and with great politeness.
In the late 1950s or early 60s the Groothandelsgebouw, a modern high rise business centre next to the Amsterdam main Railway station, was completed. It had a restaurant on its top floor with marvelous views across the harbour and city.
My father often took business relations for lunch to the restaurant there.
I met one of them in 1982 when running
Martinshof after my father's sudden death. It was the Managing
Director of the Company who made the luxury etuis for our rings
and jewelry. I forgot his name but will call him "Etui MD".
jewelers (certainly in Holland) consider themselves a station above
the rest of the world, and they often let this know through a rather
pompous and pedantic attitude, especially towards their suppliers. My
father was frequently at the end of it, so was the Etui MD and just
about every other wholesaler I had contact with in those days.
When I visited the Etui MD (Mr. Mössner?) in his office one day to discuss a new
order of etuis he greeted me (although I had never met him before)
with unusually great enthusiasm and friendlyness.
"Your father" he said "was a truly wonderful and great man."
"One day he
invited me for lunch on top of the Groothandelsgebouw in
Amsterdam. He even sent his car with chauffeur to pick me up and drop
me back home afterwards. Nobody has ever done this for me during my
entire life in business!"
That is how my father was to everybody he dealt with. I found that out
every step of the way while running the business. He was (and still is
for those who remember him) an absolute legend. And I am very proud of
My father would always find a positive side to even the greatest negative setback. He considered his time as political prisoner in Dutch concentration camps after the war, for example, as one of his most positive life experiences (and so did my mother). Perhaps partly because of this experience he was always quick to hold out a helping hand to others who had suffered a personal set back. In one or two instances he showed great trust and compassion by employing such person in his company, which of course was greatly appreciated by the one concerned.
Copyright © 2010 Michael Furstner