Meet our Business & Development Manager
With almost 10 years of experience at Welland, our Business & Development Manager, Hendrik Van Der Velde, spoke to us about his career path and shared the knowledge he has accumulated over the years spent working in export sales.
How long have you been at Welland Medical and what path have you taken to your current role?
“I started working at Welland in June 2012 so by mid next year it will be 10 years. To be honest, my role as a Business & Development Manager has not changed dramatically over the years. What has transpired though, is an increased focus on bringing new customers and new product lines onboard to expand Welland’s presence worldwide.”
“Prior to Welland, my career, largely in export sales, had taken me on a journey through a variety of industries, from undergarments, giftware, fabric dyes, baby toys to software.”
“Before I joined Welland, I had no track record in this sector. What attracted me to this industry was the difference it made. I knew I would be working for a company that provides high quality, innovative UK manufactured medical devices that substantially improve the quality of life for people with stomas worldwide.”
What does your day-to-day job as a Business & Development Manager cover?
“I focus on managing existing accounts across a number of continents, ensuring they are achieving monthly sales targets we’ve agreed with them at the beginning of the year. I also specialise in following up any new enquiry that approaches us directly, to assess if they could become a new distributor for that particular market.”
“The work not only involves regular communication with key contacts in the countries I manage but requires working with colleagues in different departments at the office, who assist me with different aspects of my customers’ sales and marketing requirements.”
“In pre-COVID times I would travel quite regularly to visit existing and potential new customers for sales meetings and attend nurse conferences. Since March last year however, business travel was no longer possible, but all of us in the Sales & Marketing teams have been very fortunate to be able to continue our roles on an online basis.”
What are the challenges and rewards of your role?
“The interesting aspect of my job is that every customer I manage is very different, both as people, largely due the particular culture of that country and in the way they sell our products in their respective market.”
“It is rewarding to see how a prospect I have appointed as a new distributor, progressively grows Welland’s market presence from a zero base or transfers patients who were using other brands on to Welland products. It’s also very satisfying to see how a new product range I’ve suggested a customer should launch, results in increased sales for that customer and generates additional profit for both the distributor and Welland.”
“However, no job is without its challenges. In this industry, these include trying to ensure a high level of innovation that sets us apart from our larger rivals, whilst maintaining the quality of our products in an increasingly competitive environment. We work hard to make sure people who use Welland products both in the UK and worldwide, can see a significant improvement in their quality of life compared to other brands.”
“Specifically, in 2020 and now in 2021, we have faced the challenge of continuing to expand Welland’s presence worldwide despite the barriers to travel caused by COVID-19. Another challenge is how we deal with the new export rules in a post-Brexit world, as over 60% of our sales are still based in EU markets.”
What personal traits do you think serve you well as a Business & Development Manager?
“Perseverance. The more you bring a positive way of thinking into your day-to-day work, the higher the chance of success.”
“When I first started working in export sales for a giftware company, I was asked by the owner to organise a sales trip to visit wholesalers across Italy. The 2-week trip was high risk, but I achieved the sales targets that had been set for me. It was that particular trip, where despite some initial rejections, my perseverance, ultimately resulted in success.”
What relevant qualifications do you have?
“My father worked for a company that resulted in us living in a number of countries. Attending a variety of schools along the way became very unsettling so a decision was taken when I was 13, to send me down the English educational route.”
“I was fortunate enough to achieve good O and A level results and attain a 2:2 BA (Hons) degree in Spanish and European Studies at Queen Mary University of London. I would say my degree was what set me on a career path in Export sales. The structure of the degree allowed me to take modules not only in Spanish language, but in Geography, Latin American history and Economics too.”
Who might enjoy a career in export sales, and where should they start?
“I wouldn’t recommend that anyone takes on this type of role unless they’re a people person. They need to have a resilient temperament that also includes a degree of perseverance to achieve certain goals. They should have mental flexibility that allows them to deal with export issues that vary on a day-to-day basis and see it as a way to use any language skills they might have.”
“Anyone who specialises in export sales needs to be very customer-focused and understand how people operate from different cultures. Ultimately, it is the customer bringing in the sales that keeps Welland’s manufacturing plant sustainable and profitable.”
“Without our customers and the support, we provide them, we wouldn’t have a business. But equally, you need to be able to work within the constraints of what the factory is capable of manufacturing on a monthly basis. This role therefore, requires someone who can keep both their varied international customer base happy, but work in harmony with the production side of the business. That’s a difficult but very interesting balancing act you are continuously striving to achieve on a daily basis.”
“To work in export sales in the ostomy sector, I think you do need to have a relatively good understanding of the types of illnesses that resulted in patients having to undertake colostomy, ileostomy or urostomy stoma operations. It is key to know about the subsequent health issues (including mental health problems) that people with stomas may encounter once they have this condition and need to start using stoma pouches for the rest of their lives.”
“This career is more suited, I think, for a person with a skill set that includes fluency in a number of languages, an outgoing disposition and good interpersonal skills. Those traits will allow them to work comfortably with people from any type of background and from different cultures. Someone who is adaptable, resilient and flexible in the way they work so they can wear any type of hat be it sales, marketing, financial or production at any given moment in time.”