An interview with Pieter Gabriëls, Intercel’s new Managing Director.
Congratulations on your new role as managing director of Intercel. What background do you bring to this challenge?
“My career is shaped by two different roles. The first role comprises various management and executive positions within sales and marketing – mostly within the automotive industry. By thinking outside the box and looking at the market from a different perspective, I have been able to realise unique and successful projects. But also to break existing structures, discover what customers really need, and innovate sales channels. This has resulted in considerable successes for automotive brands such as MG and Hummer.”
“The second role was in business development. For me, this is about actually understanding, assessing and optimising complex business processes. These processes should be used to communicate with various target groups. Which experience and which values appeal to them? The marketing of Hummer in Europe is a great example of this approach. We offered customers exciting experiences that played into their wants and needs. We stayed away from regular car shows and created personal experiences in exciting sceneries; no standard test drives, but thrilling rides in rough terrain, where the cars really came into their own. For me, the success lay in the power of rethinking, and in an attuned team that was dedicated to escort customers on their journey.”
And then Intercel approached you. Why did you take on this challenge?
“I love to take on challenges. Business as usual isn’t really my thing. The challenge may be in further professionalising companies that need restructuring or, in this case, companies that are growing rapidly and are very successful. With our unique concept for custom lithium batteries, we are growing very fast both nationally and internationally, and this has consequences. The brand, management, organisation, processes and HR have to be aligned in such a way that we secure and further develop our unique family DNA. I view Intercel as a real gem. Therefore, I have accepted this challenge with both hands.”
“At the same time, building custom batteries cannot be viewed apart from our other business case: supplying batteries from stock and for UPS applications. This business unit is stable, strong, and growing as well. Supplying UPS batteries is what started it all for Intercel. Therefore, we cherish it with care. After all, you need to know where you come from to know where you are going.”
What are your goals for the near future?
”Taking the next steps. Currently, Intercel is a diamond in the rough. It should be cherished and polished in all its facets. Our three business lines, Engineered to order, UPS and our trading branch Intercel Batteries, are central to this.”
What specific growth opportunities do you see?
“Our custom lithium battery concept is very successful. Therefore, we will further roll out this concept in Europe under the name Engineered to Order. Sustainability is high on the agenda for companies and governments all over Europe – partly because of European regulations – and batteries play a crucial role in this process. The Netherlands has a unique position, because we do not have government-protected industries. This allows us to innovate at a higher pace than most other countries. Last year we made major investments in order to significantly expand our role in the DACH and Benelux countries. The first results are already visible, and we are quite proud of that!”
“Our trade division Intercel Batteries will keep growing organically, in line with market developments. It is a rock-solid business unit. Keeping the right stock and delivering instantly are central to this, and our customers praise us for it. But above all, they appreciate our expertise and advice. It is not uncommon that a new customer orders a certain battery, but ultimately goes home with a different battery because of our professional advice. That makes us special.”
“UPS is a stable factor for us, and we have been a leader in this field for decades. Data centres, banks, infrastructure and hospitals trust our solutions and are still an important customer group. But we also see that more and more regular companies want to optimise uptime and security. In Western Europe, but even more so in Southern Europe, where power outages occur more often, we will continue to expand this year.”
Intercel has the DNA of a real family business, how do you maintain that?
“I was literally born into a family business and understand the value of that. My father had a medium-sized installation company in the south of the country. Since I was a child, I have been aware of the importance of service, and realised that changes have to be implemented carefully. Now that Intercel continues to grow, the organisation changes in size and structure, but the core remains that we do it together. Just like in a family. We build long-term relationships, both internally and externally. We continue to do what we promise and take that extra step without being asked.”
Intercel is growing and is becoming a bigger brand. How do you view this development?
”The brand is important for recognisability, but only gains substance through your reputation. You build that reputation by keeping your promises every day. We stand by the quality of our products and our advice. Our products must live up to our promise 100%. In this phase, European trade fairs are important for Intercel. Our advice is accessible through a variety of channels and we aim to provide more than excellent service. We produce a large amount of content that inspires our customers and partners, but is also helpful in a practical manner. We build close partnerships with our customers and try to achieve success together.”
You started in this role at the end of 2022. What is your impression of Intercel?
”Our strength is that we really solve problems for customers. We create solutions for applications that often did not exist before. For example, we take the energy from solar panels on business premises and store it in our batteries. Another wonderful example is the transition of various types of construction machinery from diesel to electric. This makes them emission-free, and the end users become our best ambassadors. And not because we ask them to, but because professionals on construction sites work more precisely and pleasantly without all the noise of engines. In addition, the construction machines that we have equipped with batteries and a BMS can work off-grid.”
What challenge do you see for Intercel in the short term?
”In my vision, quality is more important than time. Currently, we are used to working in larger teams to develop a perfect end product. Through even smarter engineering and production, we can shorten our production time. As a result, we can create even better products that reach the end user even faster.”
How does Intercel distinguish itself as an employer?
“Personally, in my career, I have never been received as warmly as here. I was welcomed as a new member of the family. And I hear other new colleagues have the same experience. Diplomas and experience are relevant to us, but mentality is, if possible, even more important. A job takes up a lot of your time, so if you enjoy yourself here, you will have a good life. Intercel organises a lot for our employees: an annual long ski weekend, weekly boot camps, lunch together and drinks every Friday to end the week together.”