There is still no rust on ‘the man of steel’: Wibo Feijen

“Accelerate when you get the chance and extend your lead”

29 July 2014

An article from the Dutch magazine “Hét Ondernemersbelang” earlier this year.

Frontpage 02-2014

There is still no rust on ‘the man of steel’: Wibo Feijen

The world of steel is a tough one. Who doesn’t have a fighter’s mentality is not going to make it. When you work your way up from the bottom of the staircase as an employee of an expediter, and become the owner of three successful businesses in the steel industry, you can be classified as a tough one yourself. It’s about relinquishing and accelerating and a boy’s dream which came true for Wibo Feijen. The Man of Steel and more.

Wibo Feijen is Director and Major Shareholder (DMS) of Steel Solutions and owner of SLE Global Logistics BV and Maasterminal Maastricht BV. A logistical tripod. Steel Solutions is a real specialist in steel which helps its customers in the most efficient way to get steel products from the mills to end-users all around the world. SLE Global Logistics is an expediter, who engages in road transport in all of Europe. But it also is an absolute specialist in overseas logistics solutions for customers who import or export (not only steel) goods. Maasterminal Maastricht offers extensive warehouse capacity for storage and transhipment of all sort of goods besides steel. These warehouses are used as a distribution centre for customers.


Wibo got to know the world of steel thanks to his father, who, until 1988, was DMS of Feijen Staalservice BV in the Beatrix harbour (in Maastricht). Together with his father and brother he later became owner of a steel company in Belgium, which was sold in 2002. Several years later, he started working for a small shipping agent in the Beatrix harbour, the start of an impressive acceleration. “The Beatrix harbour is the biggest steel cluster in all of Europe. Steel sometimes has a distant overseas origin. That is why both of the warehousing steel terminals were realised at the Ankerkade and offer excellent solutions for the transport of steel. With a lot of service possibilities for its customers.”

Taking the lead

And Wibo continued. A management buy-out allowed him to take the lead in 2012. “I noticed that it wasn’t just the transport of steel goods that needed good organisation from harbours to customers, but also everything around it. The steel mills and end-users require a chain direction, someone who has a clear overview of the playing field and can quickly and efficiently serve the market and respond to changes. Hence, added value. As a logistic coordinator for international steel processors, I started focussing on this chain direction. This is because my customers overseas require a partner who knows the market and demand. We now connect supply and demand, we make the steel market more transparent and we are growing as a ‘connector in steel’. All these activities have been accommodated in a separate company: Steel Solutions BV.”

Smart combinations

There are however also clients who solely have a logistical question. These are to be answered by SLE Global Logistics. Wibo Feijen emphasizes that this company is not just about steel, but about the logistics of completely different goods as well. “This creates a whole new clientele, with new products. This offers the possibility of smart logistics, such as the transport of heavy steel goods and different lighter goods in one container. Containers namely have a maximum payload. Looking at the fact that steel is, in many cases, indivisible, space arises for (sometimes voluminous) lighter products, that can be transported in the same container. In this way, SLE Global Logistics optimizes the container space available and could one container freight be the solution for multiple customers. Regardless if it is a big or a small customer, whether they import / export a lot of containers or only very few, they have a lot or very few cargo to transport, everybody receives the best possible service.

Extend the lead.

That is how he extended the lead. Step by step he succeeded to go from Steel Solutions, a steel distributor in Europe, to a multi logistical leading group of companies, which offer their logistic services to companies worldwide. Nowadays, those services are going beyond steel products only. “We are always looking for possibilities to bundle loadings, looking for combinations of different types of cargo. SLE Global Logistics is strong in overseas logistics, especially in the intercontinental import and export in which we want to grow. We are consciously looking for logistical orders outside of the steel sector.”

Leading group

Since the start of this years, a third rider became part of this group; Maasterminal Maastricht BV. This company exploits two conditioned warehouses situated at the Juliana canal in the Beatrix harbour, accounted for 20.000m2 in total. The large storage and handling capacity, own covered docks for dry loading and unloading of inland vessels at all times and its own railway connections, enable Maasterminal Maastricht BV to offer its services on a wide market. “To reserve this warehousing capacity exclusively for the steel industry would be a shame. Therefor both terminals are also available for companies in the region outside of the steel branch who are looking for smart multimodal solutions.” Especially companies with project cargo and break-bulk, like machines, paper, wood and ferrous metal, who are looking for temporary storage, are more than welcome.

 On bike

Let’s accelerate.

These three frontrunners are the result of good entrepreneurship. Of stepping on the gas at the right moment, of quick thinking, acting and responding. While undertaking, you have to have a team of people who support you in order to succeed. They have to understand the strategy and they have to be able to think and act along. Now that the transformation has been made to three companies, it is expected of each of them to put food on their own table and to live up to their leading position. It’s about learning to see and take their own chances on the market. “Don’t wait in the bunch, waiting for others to act, but choose your own plan of attack. Accelerate when the time is right and try to finish first”, teaches Wibo Feijen. “It is a strategy which requires adaptation of the entire organisation.”

Change of DNA.

In order to lead the entire process in the right direction, management is required, rather than entrepreneurship. Now, entrepreneurs and managers as we all know them have different DNA. Wibo: “Entrepreneurs undertake, managers manage. You can see that as soon as a manger takes over a company, there is little innovation. As undertaker, you however have little time to occupy with management. So to manage your progress, you need to attract good managers or hire external expertise.

Step on the gas

He chose both. Internally, the right managers have been put on the right place and an external HR agency is hired to accompany the organisation as a team leader with the transformation to a winning combination. The change of culture and the right accompaniment should lead to three companies in which specialization is leading. Wibo: “I strongly believe in the power of specialism and the advantages of smaller companies within one big organisation, where they jointly benefit from scale advantages. The employees also have to learn to see the benefits of this new way of working and the chances that come with that. Because even as three separate companies, we remain one family which supports each other. But if the opportunity arises, step on the gas en break away from the bunch. That is the only way to be successful.”

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