From a historical viewpoint, a leader has always been represented as someone in command or in authority; one who issued directives and enforced their execution from a presiding position, all the while dispensing wisdom, rewards and discipline. But advancing years coupled with evolving technologies and ideology, has changed this perception of a leader, from a business perspective. Today, leadership revolves around a timeless practice of guiding others towards the pursuit of a common goal, outcome or a desired conclusion. One such position or role, where leadership is of paramount importance, is that of a CEO. The Chief Executive Officer shoulders the responsibility of leading the development and executing the long-term objectives of a company.
With an unfaltering drive for success, Rob van Egmond is one such individual who is leading the way for his company to stand tall among its contemporaries. His inherent passion for technology and the power of IT led him to become the CEO of Quintiq, which strives to solve some of the world’s biggest and most complex planning puzzles.
An early introduction to technology
Growing up, Rob’s interest for technology and anything related to it stemmed from an office computer his father brought home. The computer came with a manual that explained all the rules of the programming language BASIC. He started going through the entire manual and developed an extraordinary interest for the power of technology. Soon after, at the age of 10, he was able to program and rebuild Pacman on that very same office computer. Thus began a lifetime of programming, even writing programs for his teachers in school to use for courses.
Using technology to solve problems
When it came time to further his education, Rob was undecided about which field of study to enter. After meeting with the Dean and expressing the desire to take on the most challenging courses the university had to offer, Rob was left with a choice between theoretical physics and operations research. Rob chose operations research, which he describes as using technology to solve problems, and the choice would prove to present him countless challenges and opportunities throughout his career.
Life after University
Straight out of University, Rob took a position that required him to use mathematics to solve puzzles in the advertising market. He created software to assess how many people would see an advertisement, if it was placed between two specific television programs, or if it was placed into a magazine. Rob wholeheartedly used his programming skills to analyze advertising placements. After some time, he was ready for his next challenge.
Up next, Rob worked in emergency services, where he developed software to help emergency service departments to dispatch the right ambulances and the right police vehicles. “It was basically an assignment puzzle.” Rob followed up that position by joining Quintiq where his career has expanded over the past 15 years.
The start of a new journey
After being introduced to Quintiq during its startup years, Rob met with its leaders and founders and realized that the vision and direction of the company aligned with his strengths and passion for solving puzzles using technology. Rob’s first project as a Quintiq specialist was with Jan de Rijk Logistics, which remains one of Quintiq’s longtime customers.
Throughout his journey at the company, Rob’s focus was on making sophisticated technologies useful to the business world. He was instrumental in closing key deals, opening new market opportunities, and identifying valuable growth for its clients. In 2015, Victor Allis, a founder and CEO of Quintiq at the time, named Rob as his successor.
Talking about his journey at Quintiq, Rob mentions, “It has been very interesting watching the expansion of the diversity of markets and I enjoy meeting with companies around the globe and working towards solving their puzzles and helping them achieve their goals.” Rob has armed himself with the vision, strategy and management team to lead Quintiq as it continues to grow in an ever-changing market.
Don’t wait for someone else’s permission
Rob likes to impart his philosophy of asking for forgiveness instead of for permission when faced with challenges and difficult decisions. “What that really means to me is that you must take initiative. Do what you feel is right.”
He mentions that one of the things that made him successful, which also happens to be a key value of Quintiq, is the freedom to pursue what you believe to be the right solution, without continuously asking for permission. As he says, “It might go wrong, but you need to keep moving forward.” This strategy has proven to work well for Rob.
Quintiq – Transforming supply chain planning and optimization
Since its inception, Quintiq has set the standards in the area of supply chain planning and optimization. The company has reshaped the paradigm by providing software that is a 100% fit to a customer’s needs. Users of other solutions have had to make do with an 80% fit which required users to adjust their processes to the software, instead of the other way around. Quintiq’s first customer is still using the software as are more than 95% of all customers. This stands as a testament to the flexibility of the software.
Leveraging the flexibility of Quintiq
Being the CEO of a growing company in an ever-changing industry is a challenge that Rob relishes. Rob feels that what makes him unique and successful in his current role is his wide-array of interests and his innate curiosity. Many CEOs only focus on one or two industries. Because of the flexibility of Quintiq’s software and the diversity of its client base, Rob has the opportunity to meet with companies across a wide spectrum of industries. “In a month, I can have meetings with a steel company talking about hot charging, a protein processing company focusing on demand forecasting and carcass optimization, an airline for crew planning, an oil refinery for pipeline scheduling or a retailer trying to optimize their back haul opportunities,” he points out, “And I can say with confidence that Quintiq is the tool to solve all of their puzzles, no matter the complexities.”
Learning about different industries, what makes each company unique, and the specifics of their planning puzzles, never gets old for Rob. “I guess it is that same curiosity that made me investigate my dad’s computer when I was eight and has defined my direction ever since,” he adds.
Qualities and challenges of a CEO
Rob believes that the most important characteristic for any CEO is their unfaltering drive for success coupled with the ability to listen to others. In regards to challenges, he states that one of the most pressing challenges for a CEO is “Balancing innovation, empowerment and risk taking, with growth targets and regulatory requirements and reporting. “I have a core belief that taking risks, along with making some mistakes is necessary for innovation so I prioritize keeping this all in balance.”
Change is Good!
There is often a natural tendency among people to think of change as bad. To the contrary, Rob thinks of change as something good, meaning change like a new market, a new organizational structure, or a sense of new leadership. “Of course too much is too much, but generally change is good.”
Over the last 20 years of Quintiq’s existence, there has been a significant change in terms of demand and rising individualism of consumers, which Rob explains as “…they want more of their product at their convenience and in their specifications.” This has put a significant strain on companies to be more agile, reactive, and to have a larger set of SKUs, while at the same time reducing costs. For Quintiq, the prevalence of change has been nothing less than great. “We have not been challenged by the change in consumer behavior. We have actually embraced that. This change that has happened over the last 20 years is precisely what our software is designed to address.”
The road ahead
“I think we are on a path, I would say, to become the number one supply chain planning and optimization brand in the world. We set that as a goal and I see the momentum carrying through in 2018,” Rob mentions. Today, the market is ever-changing and complex, and Quintiq is ready to take on the challenge. In the coming years, with the burgeoning support from its parent company, Dassault Systèmes, Quintiq is slated to expand into unexplored market areas, thereby accelerating the adoption of its unique technology into those markets. Rob envisions Quintiq, in the next three years, to become the largest company focused on supply chain planning and optimization.
Advice to budding and emerging entrepreneurs
“I would say that if you’re convinced of your idea and your ability to deliver, then go and do it independent of what anyone might say otherwise. There will always be people in the way that will tell you not to do it and that it won’t work. Do listen carefully to everyone, but if you’re convinced, don’t be dissuaded and move boldly forward,” Rob concludes.