News - June 29, 2017

‘I prefer hands-on leadership’

Albert Sikkema

Rens Buchwaldt (55) is Tijs Breukink’s successor, taking over the Finance, Business & Services portfolio on the Executive Board from 1 September.

Photo: Guy Ackermans

Buchwaldt stepped down in April last year after ten years as financial director at the ornamental plant cooperative FloraHolland. He took some time for his children and for reflection. When he was approached by a headhunter earlier this year about the job at WUR, he had a good feeling about it from the start. ‘Wageningen aims to contribute to a better world and has a great reputation. I am eager to collaborate on that with the knowledge I’ve acquired over the years.’

That knowledge is not related to education or research, but to business operations. ‘FloraHolland supplies the infrastructure for the flower and plant sector, which consists of about 4000 small to medium-sized enterprises. I learned how to weigh up those interests.’ Buchwaldt also has experience of improving business operations. This is mainly a matter of minor interventions, but at FloraHolland he carried out a sweeping reorganization too. ‘Just like WUR, FloraHolland is non-profitmaking, but of course you have to avoid making a loss.’

In 2014 Buchwaldt was the subject of controversy because he received a bonus from FloraHolland, while people were made redundant elsewhere in the organization. ‘That was a case of keeping to what was agreed. I had achieved my targets. In 2009 I turned down the option of variable remuneration because I didn’t think it was appropriate in the circumstances then. But that didn’t get into the papers.’ He earned a ‘nice salary’ of 400,000 at FloraHolland, and has no problem with taking a considerable drop in salary to work at WUR. ‘I think I can get great satisfaction out of the opportunity to contribute to the development of WUR. It comes with a good salary which is not negotiable: it is fixed and it is public.’

Buchwaldt does not see himself as a director from a distance. ‘I’m prefer hands-on leadership, steering things in consultation with staff and stakeholders, to board work. I want to know the important details. At FloraHolland, for example, I was the board member dealing with stacking trolleys. We wanted to go from two types to one, and the way the trolleys linked together was important to that decision. I literally got down on my hands and knees to have a look so I could help make a decision.’