“I love numbers. Numbers don’t lie”
Barry Lemmers Joined the company in 2018, bringing with him over twenty years of experience in finance along with a significant number of successfully fulfilled projects in the field of company acquisition and process streamlining. During his time onboard, APOC has already tripled in size while securing a major shareholder to the business.
I started my career in EY (auditing firm) while I was still in college and worked there for 7 years. During my time with EY, my main activity was working directly with financial institutions – banks, insurance companies, etc. Eventually, I came to a point where I had to decide if I wanted to continue with EY, eventually becoming a partner, or develop my career somewhere else. At that point, I decided to stretch my wings and see what lay beyond.
At first, I tried internal auditing, but I soon discovered that it wasn’t for me. I then moved to the role of business controller for a Dutch bank, where my main duty was to supply relevant (financial) information designed to enable better business decision-making. This role allowed me to feel fully involved and invested in the company.
After a couple of years in this position, I was given a chance to join the Transaction Services team in PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). This role proved tremendously exciting as I had the chance to work on various transactions that you only usually read about in the media. This was an incredibly steep learning curve; tight deadlines, access to highly confidential information, in-depth analysis tasks, and reporting findings. All making the job both fun and rewarding.
The role involved learning about various company structures, and various business models, and also involved much travel. However, the downside for me was that the really interesting part of the acquisition process comes only after the analysis and reporting have been completed. I rarely got to experience the full process in practice – the integration, the business planning, and the development of critical business strategies. This was something I felt I was missing.
My final project with PwC led to my next challenge. The CFO of the company with whom we were advising asked me to join the company to help him, amongst others, improve processes and financial reporting. In other words: bring the finance department to a higher level. And that is what I did for the next 4,5 years. During that period, I successfully integrated the company’s finance departments in The Netherlands and Belgium.
My next job came with the appointment of my first role as CFO, where, in addition to finance, I was also responsible for HR and IT– streamlining, automating, and standardising. During my tenure, the company grew significantly in size and operations.
After another 4.5 years, I joined yet another company – APOC – where my function is to prepare the company for the significant growth to come.
After 4,5 years, I felt it was time to once again move on and find something new. Through a mutual relation, I came across APOC. After a couple of meetings with Max, his vibrant enthusiasm and the excitement in his voice when he spoke got me interested in the company and the entire industry. I have always liked and admired companies that build something, own something or create something.
When I joined in 2018, the factor that stimulated me most working for APOC, was that we were just at the beginning of the road. It was a growing company, a company with goals and a company with a journey to undertake. As the company was fast-growing, I determined that this company would not make the same mistakes in the development process – as I had witnessed in my previous roles. Working in a still relatively small company was a big step outside of my comfort zone. Armed with confidence and enthusiasm, I felt that this was a company bound for enormous success, and I wanted to be part of the journey.
We are now on track and have in our care a $100 million company to nurture and continue to grow.
Was becoming a CFO a dream of yours?
Not really a dream, but I always had the ambition to become a CFO before my 40th birthday, and I made it.
Numbers don’t lie. I decided to enter the world of finance after I finished high school. I specifically opted for accountancy because I thought if you become an accountant, you not only work with numbers – which I liked – but it also provides you with a good start to your career and enables you to see many different companies from the inside.
Why should a customer come to APOC?
I think it’s because we strive for excellence. We’re honest, and we don’t make promises that we cannot keep. We have processes and tools to fully understand the market, in conjunction with our attention to impeccable customer service.
It would be impossible to say that we never make mistakes. We do. But we are honest about them, take responsibility for them, and learn from them, making sure they never happen again.
How did the company change in two years?
The process of change has started, but it is far from done yet.
We are still looking to expand our portfolio. Every day, we realise that we need to move the company another step forward. Making it better, more efficient, more fun to work for. A process that will never be finished. We believe that you can always do better. If you are ambitious like we are, there is always some work to be done, some new improvements to be made, and some new goals to reach.
What was the turning point for the company’s growth?
Two major events acted as catalysts for growth.
Firstly, we decided to enter the landing gear and engine leasing market. For that, you need experts, along with more cash to buy assets. It was the trading and leasing route that kept us afloat and brought a steady supply of income during the Covid pandemic. Without this income, life would have been much more difficult. With hindsight, it’s fair to say that the strategic decision we made three years ago was a very sound one.
Secondly, the involvement with our shareholder, Egeria, has proven decisive in our plan to grow the company. Initially, we were striving to find external financing through informal investors and crowdfunding. Once we started to look for equity funding, we came into contact with Egeria. Their support with knowledge and funding opened up a whole new path for all of us.
Who is an ideal employee for APOC? What are you looking for in them? What quality do all employees have in common?
In short, we look for people with ambition. I wouldn’t want to have an employee who sits comfortably at their desk, day after day, without showing any ambition. That person has to have the desire to improve the company, to improve himself/herself. You also need to be a nice colleague to work with, a team member. We need to trust each other, rely on each other, work closely together, and have fun together too. Our employees need to gel closely with the team, and so far, I think we have succeeded in making that happen.
What is bigger – the company or the employee?
The company comes first. Sometimes that means that you need to put the company’s interest before yours. But, we cannot forget about the interests of the employees. If you want your employees to act in the company’s interest, you have to think about their interests too. You cannot expect employees always to choose a company’s interests over their own. Otherwise, you will lose your best employees first.
Are you a good CFO?
I think so. But I can always do better.
How do you make sure that you win?
I do my very best every day to win, but I don’t always win. One thing is important – you should know how to lose too. You should know how to deal with setbacks and how to react when things go wrong. If you deal with disappointment in the right way, you can only improve yourself.
Golf, sailing, family, friends.
How is success measured? How do you measure success?
I am a CFO. I like numbers, so part of my success can be found in numbers, but I am also responsible for HR, and in this role, you can’t use only numbers. So, even though I like and trust numbers, sometimes you have to trust your feeling as well.
How would someone write about your life for a magazine or newspaper? How would they describe you?
I am a hard-working, honest, no-nonsense kind of guy. If you messed up, be open, tell me, and we will fix it.
What can you give to employees?
Work satisfaction. When people are happy with their job, when they get fair compensation for what they do, have enough challenges, and work on a variety of projects, you create satisfied employees.
How do you find aviation?
It’s a fun and exciting industry. I like the people and the fact that it is an international industry. It is also an evolving and creative field, something that became evident during the COVID pandemic.