Q & A with Martijn Mathot

Martijn Mathot joined Bata on December 1, 2016, as worldwide managing director for Bata Industrials, after many years of experience in top roles in the industrial sector. Bata World News recently interviewed him to hear his thoughts on his new position, and his future plans for Bata Industrials.

What are your top priorities in your new job?

To make profit again. We have a fantastic product line-up and a great, enthusiastic and well-motivated team. We have had some setbacks in the past years, and now it is our turn to retain our worldwide leading position in the world of safety shoes. In order to achieve that, we need to focus on sales, marketing and new product development. That is where my worldwide emphasis is going to be in the coming months.

What is a typical day like for you? What do you most enjoy about your work?

The first weeks have been full of meetings in order to familiarize myself with the organization and the products. Whilst I understand how to lead an organization to greater success, I am still a novice in the shoe business. I have also been on the road with the European sales team, and have visited our major customers on the continent. In February, we have the annual sales meeting with all the representatives from all the continents in the world. However, the best day so far was when I decided to work a day in the factory alongside our production team to produce shoes. It gave me an insight into how shoes are produced, and a chance to meet the production team as well. That was a great day!

How would you like to see Bata Industrials develop over the coming years?

The organization has the potential to grow. Employees and employers worldwide are becoming more and more aware of the necessity for good quality safety products. The market is good, and so are the products and our brand name. I like to believe that Bata Industrials will play a larger role in our BSO network around the world, and also contribute to the profits of each company.

What are the biggest challenges for you and your team, and how are you overcoming them?

We need to continue to be innovative. With our presence and reputation in the market, this is also what customers expect from us. We have a clear goal to achieve an ambitious sales result by 2020, and for that we need to come up with an international governance model for Bata Industrials, and our cooperation with the local companies who will play an important role in that.

Are there any important trends in the sector that you are focusing on?

We find that new entrants in the market of safety shoes are successful in gaining share in niche markets. Our answer is that we need a swift product introduction and to listen to our customers carefully. We are continuously looking for fashion trends in the consumer market that we can translate into our new designs. If you want to be successful in that, the time to develop new shoes needs to be dramatically reduced so that we continue to be ahead of competition.

Are there any new developments in terms of product innovation or manufacturing processes that you are excited about?

Last year, I visited a seminar by Jeremy Rifkin, a leading advisor and author of the book "The Third Industrial Revolution." He describes how companies and governments in the near future will have to deal with rapid changes in production technologies, the impact on the labor market, and with a transition into a sustainable circular economy. That last one might not be an issue today in the shoe manufacturing business, but in 10 years’ time, this will be the new standard. It is fascinating to understand how our world might look in a decade. We might as well set the new standard as Bata, and embrace the change in order to take the lead in the industry.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given about your work?

Whilst gut feel is an instinctive way to make a decision, in a modern, data driven world, decisions need to be made on facts. Or more bluntly, as one of my former bosses used to say: “In God we trust – anybody else needs to show a spreadsheet.”

Which of the Bata Core Values would you say best describes your management style?

What suits me best is "Be Bold." I like to think outside the box. Also openness, transparency and fairness would apply to me. What you see is what you get from me and my motto is: "say what you do and do what you say."

Is there anything else you would like to say to your Bata colleagues around the world?

Bata Industrials has a unique proposition to the group. Our shoes are aimed at professional users. Our sales are conducted through our own channels, but also a large part of our business relies on our local BSO companies. We therefore need each other to make this a success, and I look forward to working with all of you around the globe to achieve our mutual goals!

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