7 Questions with Ton Christiaanse
Name: Ton Christiaanse
Current title: Chairman
Current organisation: Various
Ex ceo largest food supplier to UK retail and former ceo UK’s largest foodservice wholesaler. 30 years pan European food and drink roles.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
Being a board member is a juggling act between various stake holders. It’s important to have everyone aligned. Most difficult remains dealing with personal agendas if they do not (appear to) serve the business.
2. How did you become a board member of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
As a CEO I turned around a medium sized business which gave a lot of exposure. As a consequence I was hunted in the board of the 2nd largest food company in the Netherlands at the time. The positions since came as a result of reputation and (industry) knowledge.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
There’s always travel and meetings planned. Time travel (train/plane) I use for reading and preparation. The rest of the days I try to keep as open as possible to meet and speak stakeholders where they are.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Consistency and integrity are important. Your message needs to be understood at all time and your behavior should support this. People in general are creative positive and can deal with adversity but need to be able to see the logic of board decisions.
5. What are some of the keys to doing governance well in a large enterprise?
The board needs to be touch with the organisation. Monthly board meetings and accounts will give an important picture but site visits and the occasional conversation with customers, suppliers and above all employees out that picture in a context.
6. How do you differentiate between the role of board member and the roles of CEO or executive team member of a large enterprise?
The CEO is responsible for day to day operations and the execution of the strategy. As a board member you have the duty to make sure the CEO is challenged and acts in the best interest of all stakeholders in an ethical fashion.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a board member of a large enterprise so far?
In one of the companies where I was on the board, we found ourselves in December ending a challenging year. No pay rise for the employees and even no Christmas present as a signal. When the traditional box with Christmas wine for the board was coming through I refused (and had the value given to charity) as I strongly believe the same rule should apply to all. As there were individuals accepting nonetheless it taught me something about those individual as well as emphasized again how important it is to act with integrity.