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The history of Heras: memorable anecdotes and memories

Heras has a rich history. In a series of articles, we look back at some of the key developments in our history. In part 10, you read how the business units Heras Construction Site Fencing, now known as Mobile Fencing, and Heras Production came into being. Finally, we would like to conclude this series of articles with some memorable anecdotes from our company’s history. 

Will Mr Heras be joining us?

Back in the early days of Heras, founder Frans Ruigrok would each year host a Christmas party at his house for his employees. Ruigrok’s five children are still very small and he doesn’t want to burden his children with company matters. All they know is that their father has a job working for Mr Heras. One day, in the midst of the preparations for one of these get-togethers, the children want to know if Mr Heras will be coming too. Ruigrok says he will. Then he asks one of his employees, who has some experience as an amateur actor, to play ‘Mr Heras’. The night of the Christmas party, to the children’s delight, ‘Mr Heras’ joins the festive fun and he certainly plays the part of big boss to a tee!

Chatting, laughing and catching up during coffee breaks

From the very beginning, coffee breaks are sacred at Heras. In the 1950s, Ms Seerden, a member of the family who rents out a garage to Ruigrok, used to make coffee for everyone. Each morning at 10:00 a.m. everyone would make their way to her kitchen across the street for coffee. By everyone we mean not only Heras employees, but anyone who happened to be in the neighbourhood. Especially in winter time, when coffee is served around a big wood burner, these breaks have a social value and are filled with joy and laughter.

Fence signs: the best advertising platform for Heras

What is the secret behind Heras’ advertising success? Fence signs! Our signs proudly tell passers-by that we made this fence, so it’s the best fence in the world. One day, Heras received a call from a customer claiming that the fence that he ordered is not complete. The call causes quite some consternation. An incomplete fence? Impossible! but the customer is absolutely right. The crew forgot to attach the sign after assembling the fence. The customer wanted it to be clear that his fence wasn’t just any fence, but a Heras fence. Our customers are not the only ones to appreciate our product. When Marinus van de Boogaard drives past a project one day and sees a Heras sign hanging askew, he gets out of his car to straighten it.

Never a strike at Heras

In his years as Managing Director, Frans Ruigrok always avoided confrontations with his employees. He didn’t shy away from discussing issues, but he never took a standpoint that conflicted with what the trade unions or his people were saying. As far as welder and unionist Jan Franssen remembers, there’s never been a strike at Heras and when the metalworkers union called for a one-hour work interruption, nobody at Heras was willing to lay down their work. Franssen: ‘We talked with Ruigrok and simply said that we didn’t want to strike, but we also didn’t want to get into trouble with the union. What should we do? It just so happened that the period of the strike happened to coincide with the period in which Ruigrok gave talks in the canteen about the development of the company. His solution: he held another one of his talks during the work interruption.’

The only way is up (stairs)!

The top floor of the office in Oirschot is finished but not yet furnished when the new building is opened. Built with an eye to the future, the top floor is the perfect place for a party. The space is decorated, illuminated and heated, and Tonny Eyk and his orchestra are booked to perform. When the first guests arrive, there’s just one ‘massive’ problem. How do we get the piano upstairs? But this isn’t a problem for Ruigrok. He simply asks a few hefty guests for assistance. To everyone’s surprise, they hook the piano beneath their shoulders and lift the piano up a step at a time.’