The slogan of the Schippers family 'Passion for Farming' makes a clear statement about the motivation of the company MS Schippers. Passion for Farming encloses the dedication to 'improve' agricultural firms, which is the main principle of 'founder' Martien Schippers. Actually, the company was never really founded, Schippers was originated from the passion for farming.
Becoming a farmer
Martien Schippers grew up in a big farmers family that lived in Oerle, a small village nearby Eindhoven. He was the sixth of nine children. He went to high school and afterwards to the Agricultural Winter School. Back then Martien wanted to become a farmer together with his wife Maria. She was also raised on a farm and they were also with 12 children at home. Maria worked in a greengrocery and also at her parents farm. All the children started young with earning an additional income, before and after their own work they had to help on the farm. In those days it was common that only one of the children would take over the farm, usually this was the eldest son.
When Martien was 21 years old he got his first job at the AI station in Hilvarenbeek. Before that he worked for several companies as a temporary worker. Martien took care of the administration for the offspring of the bulls. After working at the station for two years, the AI station merged with two other stations namely Vught and Engelen. The new AI station for cows and pigs was located in Vught. Less employees were needed due to the merge, Martien was one of the employees that had to leave the company.
The manager of the new AI station had a tobacco shop in Bladel. Due to the merge he had to move to Hilvarenbeek, so he suggested that Martien would buy his shop. Martien was thrilled by this idea but he didn't had the financial capacity to buy the shop. His former boss gave him a loan and that is how Martien and Maria became owner of the tobacco shop.
Maria and Martien got married shortly after buying the shop in 1996. Maria ran the shop while Martien tried to sell their products door to door. In 1968 they got two children, Harrie and Guus, Mark was born a year later. In those days grocers and dealers often went to farmers to sell their products, because most farmers only came to the village on Sundays to go to church. Also the transportation from the country side to the villages/cities did cost a lot of time, which famers didn't have. It didn't take long before 'farmers' became an important target group for selling tobaccos. Martien got successful with his charming manners and friendly talks. After a while he also got requests from farmers to deliver other products besides the cigars. One of his first customers was a farmer that expanded his farm and because of that he couldn't keep track of the individual cows. Martien got a piece of plastic, wrote different numbers on them and bound a rope on them. That is how he got his first satisfied customer. After that he got questions about all kinds of issues, he could answer some, but not all of them. Nevertheless he wouldn't rest until he found a solution. He met a lot of farmers, and was able to transfer the knowledge of individual farmers to other farmers. Martien was always trying to find improvements, which lead to new developments. In the past, the teeth and tails of pigs where cut with rusting wire cutters. Martien developed an alternative. He found a machine that was used to cut ropes, the machine also seared the rope after cutting. Only the knife was adjusted. Nowadays that exact same knife is still used by famers. Martien also adjusted the Dremel sharpener as such that it would grind the teeth instead of cutting them. This 'new technique for farmers' didn't cause any wounds or infections, which improved the welfare of the animals.
Martien Schippers established to get many customers in a short period of time. This was achieved through his persistence and innovation skills. He never lost a single customer! Farmers enjoyed having him on the farm, because he often introduced new and better products. Martien was very motivated and it almost became his mission to reduce the heavy work that farmers had to do every day. It became his task to help famers to become entrepreneurs.
Martien often made jokes by telling the farmers that they could get rich with his innovations. This joke however started to became reality. Martien never saw his shop as work, it was his hobby, he enjoyed the fact that he could make the famers happy and also earn decent money. Customers even stopped by on Sundays to talk with Martien and Maria. Martien was always supported by his wife Maria. She gave him all the space to let him work his way, which eventually became a success.
Blessing in disguise
Maria and Martien hired there first employee after four years. Soon his field of activity in the Kempen was broadened and the Netherlands was divided in regions. Each region got its own representative. Belgium was the next market. Many Belgium famers came to Bladel for their products, despite the problems with the borders. In 1973 the business moved to a bigger building in Bladel. The new building became an animal supply store. Martien worked with the farmers while Maria sold products for pets.
The 'poultry days' in Geel, Belgium, was the first fair where Martien had his own stand. The business developed steady. The three sons got also involved and at an older age they got their own region to represent. Everything went well until Martien got a stroke at the age of 50. Chances on a total recovery were small. It was possible that Martien would never get better again and that he had to live handicapped for the rest of his live. The question was if they had to sell the business. The sons made the decision to continue the business of their father. The sons took over the management of at that time 10 employees. They where enthusiastic about it and made sure that the business was run well. A good surprise was that Martien recovered entirely after three months.
Martien decided to go travelling together with Maria. These journeys took them to all agricultural fairs around the world! This was how they discovered the world, if they weren't visiting a fair they would made a holiday. They found new distributers and agents that would carry out their concept. If they couldn't explain themselves, they would hire a translator. The tour started by car, they went to Paris, Barcelona, Santarem, Galicia, Stoneleigh, Hannover, Poznan and several other European cities. The travelling got expanded after a year through travelling to countries outside Europe. From Johannesburg to Peking, from Manila to Toronto and Bangkok. Martien and Maria discovered many new products and people, thanks to the visits all over the world. This is how the export and import started. Harrie, Guus and Mark eventually took over the entire organization and are still managing the business with great passion and enthusiasm. Together with all the other employees they make sure that Schippers is well-known all over the world.
Schippers has expanded to one of the biggest suppliers for professional livestock farming. The professional organization with more than 250 employees has 10 European sales offices and is active in 40 countries world-wide. Martien had never dared to dream about such success back in 1967.
The successes of Schippers can be explained by the innovative and flexible work ethic and a continuing strive to improve and develop materials for daily farm use. The organization is young and dynamic, the average employee is 35 years old. Schippers went through a development in products as well as in the way of thinking. The 'managers' of today aren't the 'farmers' from the past. Schippers was able to fully adjust to the increasing demand from farmers for knowledge. Due to the innovative and flexible attitude of Schippers, it is able to keep ahead in the sector, this makes the company decisive. Internal, the short lines and the flat organizational structure, is a part of the force of Schippers. At the moment a lot is invested in knowledge. This is noticeable through recruiting and hiring high educated people with a agricultural background. People in the working field, the representatives but also the office staff are frequently extra trained in several important subjects, all with the main goal to improve the customer service.
Schippers is also operating outside the Netherlands and Belgium. The bigger the distribution area the lower the production costs, that is how Schippers is also able to be a strong player when it comes down to price perspective. The foreign customers are contacted through the subsidiary companies and the Export department. Schippers has offices in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Russia, England and Switzerland. The representatives, dealers and joint ventures in other countries are under the responsibility of the Export department.
Schippers has a big and wide product assortment. In the course of time the focus has been shifted to product specializations like Nutri Support, Agro Pest Control, Agri Safety, Schipmatic, Water Solutions, Hygene Focus, Animal ID and Coating Systems. The travelling sales representatives have contact with the farmer on a daily basis and is supported by the product specialists. Information exchange between representatives happens on a frequent basis both on a national and international level. Besides, the cooperation with research institutes and universities ensures that the current lead in knowledge will be maintained. The mix between experience and knowledge is an advantage for the customers of Schippers. Quality systems like GMP, ISO, QS and other certifications are a guarantee that the customer will get high quality products. Traceability is also a crucial part to be able to deliver the best products.
Independent, fast and flexible
In house graphical designers and an own ICT department ensure that the organization is independent, fast and flexible. The graphical designers are responsible for the development and circulation of all printed material. The ICT department, existing of 7 people, is involved in optimizing all computerized processes. Schippers distribution centre is located in Lommel, Belgium and is running smoothly. A huge hall of 20.000 m² with separate cold storage accommodates all the different products which are subsequently delivered to the customers. There is much experience in the well-managed logistic processes. Schippers is able to have all small orders ready in two days and big orders in four.
The farmer will always be at the heart of the organization. Schippers is aiming to broaden the distribution area especially towards Central and Eastern Europe, which will strengthen their position in Europe. Schippers is also still improving their work in the established countries. In a word you will keep hearing from the firm Schippers in the future. We look forward to continue being your partner for your daily farm animal requirements.