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If something feels right, I'll have it calculated first'.

April 23, 2018

Harm Tunteler was taken in tow by Cor Boonstra early in his career. From him he learned to rely on analysis and intuition. You must above all be reliable

Cor Boonstra is the most charismatic man I know. The way he led his team and managed to convince people, had an impact', says Harm Tunteler. He himself was moved by the words with which the older Boonstra asked him to continue his work as executive secretary in 1990 after the takeover of Van Nelle by Sara Lee DE. It's great that you want to do that for me. And call me Cor from now on, because we're going to have some great times ahead.' Tunteler calls this personal approach 'management par excellence'.

After the takeover of food company Van Nelle, the young lawyer Tunteler actually wanted to find a commercial position and warned that he would only stay as a board secretary for three years. Boonstra remembered this. In the past, I've had a lot of work done, but it's been a long time coming. The HR director thought it irresponsible and wanted to have me tested.

When I asked Cor if he trusted me, he replied: "Of course, but do me a favour and get yourself tested". It turned out that I was not only suitable for a commercial position, but also for that of director hr. I remember telling the director that I had changed my mind and wanted his position. Cor and I had a good laugh about it.

In the end, Tunteler opted for entrepreneurship. When the opportunity arose to take over the independent coffee roasting company Smit & Dorlas together with an external investor, he did so. I applied everything I had learned from Cor. After five years we sold the company to coffee concern De Drie Mollen. I went over with them, but was given no room to undertake things. I was only given marching orders and was managed like a manager. I felt I was too good for that by now.

Tunteler started doing interim jobs, first independently, later as partner and even managing partner of Custom Management. There too he left due to a difference of opinion. Nowadays he is director of JBR Interim Executives, which he co-founded. The similarity with Boonstra is striking. Cor was the director of dairy cooperative SRV', says Tunteler. 'When he presented plans to the board, he said he would leave if they weren't accepted. The directors didn't think it would go that far and didn't agree. Cor left. Later it happened again when he was on the board of Sara Lee in Chicago.'

He uses an example to illustrate the subtlety of the concept of 'policy freedom'. You can have a mandate for expenditure of up to €1 million, but sometimes you have to consult your boss about an investment of a tonne. And sometimes even when you want to give someone a bottle of cognac.

From Boonstra, Tunteler learned to trust his instincts and to analyze them. If something feels right, I'll have it calculated first', he says. Doesn't he have a plan calculated if he doesn't have a good feeling about it from the start? Tunteler hesitates. If someone is very enthusiastic about something, I tell them to run the calculations again. Whether Cor did it that way? Not entirely. You have to take from your mentor what suits you. Cor was more directive, I am more participative'.

The general image that Boonstra was a tough manager is not correct, according to Tunteler. He was very clear, very straightforward and very loyal. I've seen him lash out at someone during a meeting. Afterwards, I asked him whether he had not been too harsh. It turned out Cor had spoken to the man in private first, and then again. He saw this public outburst as a last chance to achieve something. If that didn't work either, he settled it nicely.

In passing, Tunteler remarked that organisations can never be loyal. You are loyal to people. Cor was like that too. I know he always bought his Jaguars from a man who had served in the same army as him. One Sunday, I was helped by a tire company in 's-Hertogenbosch. That's where I bought my tires for many years to come.

Tunteler has been thinking about the question of whether companies can really be disloyal. It's a difficult question, because it's abstract, but it's all in the corporate culture. It starts with the fact that agreement is agreement, that you are reliable, celebrate successes and try to build a community,' he says. But it's also about how you deal with retirees and people who have to leave the company. When people have to leave, it's very unpleasant, but you have to do it properly. No crying women at the gate.'

Tunteler, who was involved in the failed rescue of department store V&D, knows that an interim manager does not always have the luxury of being loyal. But if you are open, honest and businesslike, you can do business. When I start somewhere, I am the director of a drama and I have to turn it into a comedy. That only works if everyone is involved, not just the actors, but also the stagehands.'

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