The Martinshof Story - Page 8

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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.

Niessing rings 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.
All 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 business man.

(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.)

My father with Antien, 1962 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 (rightly) felt.

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.

Whenever I 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.

Electronic pager
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 day

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.

Niessing rings 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".

Some 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 him.

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