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THE VB-AIRSUSPENSION USA JOURNEY

Placed on 23/03/2022

Our VB-Airsuspension USA subsidiary's journey started in 2013 with a chance meeting between Gertjan Meijer, Iginio Voorhorst and Tiki Taljaard at the RVIA show in Louisville, Kentucky. This 'chance meeting' between the three took place just as Iginio and Gertjan were preparing to leave the show and fly back to the Netherlands. As a native of South Africa, Tiki picked up on a conversation between Iginio and Gertjan. The three of them spoke in Dutch for a few minutes, swapped details and as the saying goes, "the rest is history…”.

At the time, Tiki was working for his father-in-law’s company Liftco based in Elkhart, Indiana. Shortly after the meeting between the three, VB-USA entered into an arrangement to rent office and warehouse space from Liftco.

Back then, VB-USA consisted of just one employee. Gertjan Meijer acted as President, Sales Manager, Office Manager, Warehouse & Shipping Manager, and everything in between. He would generally spend three months in the United States before returning to the Netherlands for a period of four to six weeks. While he was in the Netherlands, Tiki and a couple of other employees from Liftco would help send out and take orders. Gertjan continued doing this for a number of years until he became a father at the end of 2017.

The American office in Elkhart, Indiana, not only serves the United States, but also Canada and Mexico. The very first order in the NAFTA region (North American Free Trade Agreement – between the US, Canada and Mexico) came from the EMS service in the Niagara Region EMS (or NR-EMS, the ambulance region of Niagara), which was the subject of an article at the time.

Due to the continued growth and brand awareness of VB-Airsuspension in the United States, it quickly became clear that VB-USA needed extra assistance and a permanent presence in the United States. The possibility of Tiki working full-time for VB-USA soon came up for discussion between Gertjan and Tiki. Following several meetings and discussions among the family, Tiki got the blessing of his family and, from 1 August 2016, he devoted himself entirely to VB-USA, acting as the Office Manager.

VB-USA continued to grow and eventually moved from Liftco's premises to its current location on Wyland Drive in Elkhart, Indiana in 2018. Mike Fleskens (Operations Manager, VB-NL) flew over together with Gertjan to help set up the new office. They also assisted in the hiring of new employees to facilitate the further growth of the subsidiary. This expansion and the recruitment process was highly successful: VB-USA grew from two to five employees in a single day!

As in most organisations, we have gone through various changes over the years. Employees have, to a degree, come and gone during the different stages of our development. Today, alongside Tiki as our Vice President, Spencer Taljaard acts as our Shipping & Logistics Associate and Wendy Disher is now part of the office team acting as Administrative Assistant.

VB-USA remained open and kept operating during the Covid-19 pandemic. Although we were faced with a drop in sales, we had enough orders coming in to keep our employees busy and in work. By contrast, in 2021 there were a couple of months when sales at VB-USA broke all the records! The combination of a global shortage of various raw materials, supply problems and record-breaking growth in turnover made 2021 hugely challenging in terms of receiving goods on time.

We currently serve more than 30 customers – varying in size – across a range of sectors. We are aiming to add new customers and dealers who fit within our strategic plans. Clearly, the goal is 'sustained growth' and, although we take a very pro-active approach in our recruitment strategy, we are also highly selective when it comes to choosing who we want to represent VB-USA.

The success enjoyed by VB-USA is down to the support we receive from the head office in the Netherlands, and the support we are able to give our customers throughout the NAFTA region. Just like everyone else, VB-USA is still experiencing product shortages and problems within the supply chain. We are confident that we will overcome this in 2022 and that – together with our VB-Partners – we will be able to build on our existing relationships to enable VB-USA to continue to grow.
 

Victor Benno