André van den Elzen: “It is always service first”

Force of nature, all-rounder, multi-passionate entrepreneur. These are just a few words that come to mind, when you get to know the founder of Pager Services, André van den Elzen. Within his company he is clearly well-loved. With his warmhearted ways and his generous laugh, he certainly has a captivating personality. Even those who enter the room feeling very nervously, feel at ease within minutes. Today he tells us about how it all started and what the power of Pager Services is.

It is impossible to not become enthusiastic about Pager Services, when you hear André talk about his company. And the effect isn’t limited to Pager Services alone. When he starts telling about his life, it comes across as an exciting audio book with a humorous tone of voice. One thing is striking about his life story: this man has done many different things and successfully as well.

“I can’t say that I’m a typical maker or typically a commercial man. I like it both and seem to be good at it as well.”

André’s career illustrates this. He worked at Philips for a very long time, with the company deploying him for all sorts of things, as long as they were complicated.

Outside his day job, he managed to set up several companies of his own, in both the technology sector and in music. He plays the sousaphone himself and loves jazz, which caused him to import musical instruments for years.

An exciting audio book with a humorous tone

Name:

André van den Elzen

Age:

66 years

Family situation:

Married, 2 sons, 42 and 44 years old, 4 grandchildren

Job title:

Founder and managing director

Past career:

Philips and several own initiatives

It seems like you bump into opportunities all the time, recognise them and have them work for you. Is that right?
“Yes, that’s about right. All my life I have just recognised what came onto my path and I knew how to make the best of everything. I still do. As I am used to saying: I am not hindered by any knowledge. I am convinced that practically anything can be figured out and have always been proved right so far.”

I know no fear and I’m not afraid to take risks.”

I thrive when things go wrong

So you just tumble into things?
“Pretty much so. I know no fear, am not afraid to stick out my neck. What’s more, I am energized when things go wrong. That’s when I really get on a roll and am at my best. It’s a gift that I am really grateful for.”

Pager Services came into existence in 15 minutes time. Is that what happened with Pager Services?
“Pager Services is an excellent example of this phenomenon. I had been working at Philips for years, in different capacities with a continuously increasing degree of intricacy. It was at Philips that I got to know pagers, but I also led a sort of A-Team for repairs. If it was really hard to solve and had to be solved quickly, my team was sent in. I also developed several initiatives to the side, which all did well. One of them was subselling the pager line that Pager Services still sells. That went a bit too well, which resulted in Philips giving me an ultimatum. It boiled down to them offering me to take over the whole line, but I had to decide quickly. It took me fifteen minutes to load it all and Pager Services had seen life.”

Can you tell us what the secret of Pager Services is?
“The Service part, no doubt whatsoever. When there is a problem, our first priority is to solve it. Once it has been solved, then we will talk money. Continuity is our first priority, especially with this kind of product. I have always emphasised that. It’s even the reason why we could take over Atus back in the days.”

What do you mean?
“Well, I was always busy anticipating. I purchased well in advance and strategically. That is how I made sure I could always deliver. Thus the takeover of Atus went very smoothly, exactly because I focussed on continuity and never spared any cost or effort to be able to deliver to my dealers. Pager Services could supply and produce from her own stock for over a year. That was our strength then and it still is.”

The power of Pager Services is reliability of both product and company

Continuity seems to be a recurring theme at Pager Services. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
“The power of the pager is its reliability. There is no means of communication that is more trustworthy. Of course, a product like that has to be produced by a reliable company. Trustworthiness has always been our priority. We are completely committed to connecting people, as our slogan states. These are not empty words. It’s our motto and it goes for both our products and every person that works within this company. One of my main competitors once said: ‘You can’t beat André. He has pagerblood in his veins.’”

How does that show?
“Our corporate culture is all about dedication. I’d stake my life for the commitment of every single employee of this company. And our stock levels guarantees our ability to deliver. There is no development in the market place that will rock our boat.”

Are there questions we can’t ask you?
“Ehm, I have think about that one for a bit… (some minutes later) Actually, I wouldn’t know. I’m an open book, really.”

How do you see the future? Do you have any dreams?
“I have it all, to be honest. If I’d have to review my old age, I’d give it a 9+. Although… old age? I’m actually quite busy with all my hobbies. I love motorcycles and mountain biking, shooting and golf. I travel often and still like to play the sousaphone. And these are only a few things I do. I would like to build a boat someday and sail it myself. But if that doesn’t happen, it is fine as well, because I have a great life anyway. I’m beyond proud of my sons. They have achieved so much and all by themselves. That makes me happy. I think no one teaches you as much as your own children. I see myself in them. They are, like me, self-taught and fearless.”

No one teaches you as much as your own children