Lorenzo Baaijens - Supply Chain Lead - Interfood BV

Creating Connections and Finding Success: Lorenzo Baaijens on his journey as Supply Chain Lead at Interfood

Hi Lorenzo, can you please introduce yourself?

My name is Lorenzo Baaijens, I’m 29 years old, and I am the Supply Chain Lead at Interfood BV in Bladel, The Netherlands. Born and raised in Boxtel, a small city right next to the A2 highway and in the middle of bigger cities like Eindhoven, Tilburg, Den Bosch, and Veghel. I am happily married to my wife, Mirte.

I love to spend my spare time on the hockey field, in the gym, or hanging out with family and friends. You may also find me occasionally on the padel court or at a squash center. I really enjoy skiing down the slopes in winter and reading a book on a beach in summer. Besides sports, I like DIY projects. I love to support friends and family when they need a helping hand on renovating or any other physical labor.

I completed my Bachelor of Commerce at Avans Hogeschool in Den Bosch in 2012 and started working right after graduation. I felt completely ready for working life and couldn’t wait to start my career. “Learning by doing” and “learning from mistakes” felt like the best way to develop myself at that moment.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you ended up at Interfood?

After being in the fish business for over three years, I joined the dairy business at Interfood in August 2017, initially hired for the position of Junior Trader. A headhunter contacted me, mentioning "a great million-dollar company in the cozy city of Bladel." While living in Boxtel, in the same province as Bladel, North Brabant, I could hardly imagine finding a million-dollar company in such a small place. After three application meetings, both Interfood and I felt a strong connection. Six weeks later, I took my first steps on the Interfood working floor.

The first 1.5 years, I was "all over the place," working 7 months as a Logistics Coordinator for Cheese, 4 months at the holding preparing our organization for a new ERP system, 3 months as a Logistics Coordinator for Liquids, and 2 months as an 'interim' Logistics Liquids Supervisor. This period of serendipity (fortunate discoveries by accident) gave me a unique opportunity to get to know Interfood, meet people from all different departments and levels within our organization, and most importantly, gain a unique mixture of knowledge in a short period of time. After this 1.5-year journey, I continued my career as a Junior Trader at the Trade - Liquids department. I was immediately given a package of customers and suppliers to gain experience rapidly.

My trading life at Interfood came to an end when the management offered me a promotion from Junior Trader to Supply Chain Lead, which meant changing departments and roles. The management recognized some personal qualities in me that they believed would fit the role of Supply Chain Lead better. It took me a week to weigh the pros and cons, but eventually, I decided to make the move. In hindsight, it was a wise decision, and I'm still grateful that the management recognized my potential and gave me the opportunity to grow within Interfood.

What motivates you to come to work every day, and how does your role contribute to the company's success?

For me personally, Interfood provides a great "cocktail" of freedom, working in a dedicated team, responsibility, with a personal touch and attention. I find satisfaction in developing myself on a personal level in a completely natural way. If you believe it, you can achieve it, and Interfood fully supports this mindset. If you present a bold idea and can clearly explain its benefits, you'll receive the support needed to make it happen. As Supply Chain Lead, I feel like a spider in the middle of a web or the person in the control tower of an airport. Being in such a central position within the organization and in daily contact with all departments completely satisfies my desire to control processes and be involved. Our department works closely with our traders, assisting, advising, and supporting them in making the right deals. Teaming up with Trade and later puzzling towards the best allocation (taking into account all factors, from margins and contract prices to packaging and labels) makes our job inevitably crucial for our company's success.

How do you approach challenges and/or setbacks in your work, and what drives you to persist through difficult times?

Challenges are a part of my daily life, and life doesn't always give us lemons to make limoncello. First and foremost, we work as a team. If things don't go as planned, we decide together how to react and which path to take. Depending on the topic, these discussions may involve not only our supply chain team but also other colleagues. "Together for better" is ingrained in our DNA, and collectively, we make better decisions in our daily operations. One way or another, if things don't go as planned, we still need to address them. Problems can only be solved if you confront them. At Interfood, we support each other through difficult times, and this teamwork is what keeps us going strong.

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Can you talk about a project or initiative that you were particularly passionate about, and what about it resonated with you?

There are many projects at Interfood, but one that has captured my heart is one I'm currently involved in. Last year, Interfood and a major customer decided to collaborate on a strategic level, creating mini-projects focused on five different pillars: Value Leadership, Sustainability, Quality and Innovation, Price Risk Management, and Operational Excellence. The last pillar, based on Supply Chain and Logistics, is my area of expertise. Both companies designated a person for each pillar to communicate and work together as part of the larger project. We defined our goals to achieve over the upcoming horizon, and now those goals are gradually being translated into concrete actions and workshops. The project is organized with a strong emphasis on transparency and trust, creating a unique and exciting opportunity to find mutual benefits. It's amazing how the boundaries between companies disappear, and we almost become colleagues. I've never experienced a collaboration like this before!

How does Interfood support your personal and professional goals, and how have you grown since joining the team?

From the very beginning of my career at Interfood, the company gave me the time to become familiar with the business. They trusted me to do the right things at the right time and in the right way. The on-the-job coaching, literally sitting next to colleagues and supervisors, ensures that everyone is committed to doing their best. We keep each other sharp and follow the company strategy since everyone is involved. Personally, I have had the opportunity to learn foreign languages at a language institute near the office, and I have also joined Personal Development courses that allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of my personality and the reasons behind my actions. Experiencing the effects of this on my surroundings has been astonishing. As a team, we also took the ‘Birkman’ test, which provides a 360-degree insight into one's personality and reveals the things that energize or drain us. These courses and tests help build confidence and trust, which can be applied in both personal and professional settings.

What kind of work-life balance do you maintain while working for Interfood, and how does the company support your well-being?

Personally, I am very dedicated to my work. I have discovered that I have a high energy level on both physical and emotional levels. I don't mind being in touch with colleagues or external parties outside of working hours. Most of the time, it gives me a sense of inner peace, so I can truly relax when I'm not at the office. Exercise often helps me relieve stress and gain new energy, which is why I'm a big fan of the gym in our basement. It's convenient to schedule fitness sessions at the best time for me.

On the other hand, I find Interfood's culture to be "work hard – play hard." While we are dedicated to our jobs, Interfood also offers nice secondary benefits such as Friday-afternoon drinks, free lunches, and even full team-building weekends with the entire office. If you treat Interfood well, it treats you well in return. To me, this is a basic principle in life – doing something extra for those around you. It feels rewarding when you get those things back without even asking for them.

How does Interfood foster a sense of community and teamwork among its employees, and what role do you play in this?

At Interfood, we have clear corporate values for everyone: Teamwork, Commitment, Professionalism, Continuous Improvement, and Responsible Leadership. All we do is linked to these values, ensuring that everyone knows what's expected. These values also create a unique culture within our company. Over the past six years, I've found that this culture is special and makes people feel automatically part of our community. Interfood encourages this by organizing various events throughout the year, sometimes for colleagues only and sometimes including families. A part of our community is sports; as I mentioned earlier, we have a gym in our basement, and we also participate – voluntarily – in Mud Runs, Marathons, Iron Man events, or Dragon boat races. Participation is voluntary, but fun is guaranteed!

What sets Interfood apart from other companies you've worked for, and how has this impacted your career development?

Interfood isn't the first company I've worked for. It still feels like a small family company to me. Some decisions may be unconventional or even controversial, but that's what I like. "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got." By stepping out of the status quo, you can achieve things you never expected. What sets us apart from other companies, in my opinion, is that we do things differently and, above all, as a team. If I look at the bigger picture, we are now impossible to ignore on a global dairy level, with a presence all around the world. We do business with numerous major multinationals that use dairy in their end products, and even local stars know how to find us. Serving our customers close to them (having offices worldwide) makes us flexible, informed, and visible. Being in touch with colleagues from different offices globally gives you an international mindset, taking into account cultural and regional differences.

What would you say to potential Interfood team members?

We are always looking for talented individuals (who isn't these days?). If you believe in yourself and know what you want, options are endless at Interfood. In my opinion, Interfood offers a unique opportunity to take the first step or the next step in your career. If you put effort into it, results will be there, and you'll be rewarded for it, both intrinsically and extrinsically. Once again, it's about working hard and playing hard. If you like that dynamic, this is your company. And remember, you won't be doing it alone; there's a team around you to make the dream work. That feeling and being part of that team create a magical dynamic that we strive to maintain: Together for better.

Lorenzo Baaijens 2

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