This year, Bram (75) took his leave as an executive chauffeur at Bouwens Chauffeursdiensten. For the past 13 years, he drove the CFO of a Dutch multinational at home and abroad practically every day of the week. When the top executive retired, Bram also felt it was time to quit. "We left together," he says.
It is with due pride that Bram notes that for a long time he was the oldest employee within Bouwens Group. "There are indeed not many people who only stop working at seventy-five," he says. "But I was enjoying myself so much that I kept postponing the retirement moment every time." Bram has had an extraordinary career. Until he was fifty-six, he was a commodities trader, flying all over the world. "I was on a plane all week. Then I was back in China and a few days later in the United States. An interesting but incredibly gruelling job. I have a family with three children and at some point I determined: I don't want this anymore. I was done with it overnight."
He did not know then what he wanted to do, but by chance struck out on a whole new path. "I was looking for a handyman and saw an ad in the Yellow Pages for a company looking for an executive driver. That's it, I thought immediately." He applied and got the job. "During that interview, I naturally had to explain a few things. Among other things, why I was switching to a job that paid considerably less. I then explained that money didn't interest me and that I couldn't wait to get started." After a few years, Bram made the switch to Bouwens Chauffeursdiensten, part of Bouwens Groep. With the CFO as a regular customer, he would spend countless hours a day for some 13 years.
Bond of trust
"As an executive, you get a lot of what someone discusses and experiences in a day," says Bram. "With the CFO, I built up a huge bond of trust. For instance, he regularly held things against me and it also happened that highly confidential documents had to be copied and transported that no one other than me was allowed to touch. Apart from the business aspect, you also get to know someone very well on a personal level, of course. A friendship might go a bit far, but the relationship we had is very similar. From day one, we dealt with each other on a basis of complete equality." Bram stresses the importance of the right chemistry between an executive chauffeur and his or her customer. "If there is no chemistry - or the wrong one - you have to stop immediately. Not only do you literally spend a lot of time together, but you also get close figuratively. If the click is then missing, such a collaboration quickly becomes uncomfortable."
Bram has not regretted his career switch for a moment. "I have seen the client I drove for grow from a company with 600 million euros in turnover to a multinational that now does ten times as much," he says. "It was great to be part of that. With the CFO in the back seat, you experience such an adventure from A to Z. Very special." In all those years, he also saw Bouwens Groep grow. "The management of Bouwens also continued to steadily build the organisation. A particularly nice employer, where I could always count on a lot of appreciation. So for me, my retirement is actually a double farewell. But, everything comes to an end. In any case, I look back on the best time of my life."