Born and raised in the Netherlands, Donald possessed in abundance two of the finest traits of his countrymen: a determination to get ahead in life and the willingness to cross borders in search of opportunity and adventure.
After gaining degrees in social studies and then economics, Donald started work as an editor but quickly rose to increasingly senior managerial positions. With his all-round publishing experience he was soon in demand as a consultant, successfully turning magazines and newspapers into ‘must-read’ publications.
Donald started in an advisory role to KCI in 1992, joining the company in 1999 as Managing Director and later CEO. At the time KCI had established strong brands for the B2B market but Donald was the one who foresaw the need for change. Under his stewardship KCI therefore moved from serving individual readers and conference delegates to creating communities of professionals with shared interests. He instigated the four-channel concept, which united print, live, on-line and research platforms, as the optimum way to connect these communities and to help resolve common challenges. This was yet another of Donald’s flashes of inspiration and continues to form the backbone of all KCI’s platforms to this very day.
One of Donald’s favourite sayings was: “we must get rid of the smell of sprouts”. This was his prelude to taking KCI along the road to becoming a truly global company. He booked some of KCI’s very first advertising contracts with Asian companies, for example, and then showed other colleagues how to follow suit. He also stressed that KCI needed to set up offices in more countries, where local staff would better understand and meet local needs. Always leading from the front, Donald soon had a KCI office up and running in Germany. He encouraged and facilitated KCI colleagues with similar international visions and today KCI has offices in the Netherlands, Germany, Canada and China – with more to follow.
A successfully businessman and entrepreneur, Donald was however certainly not focussed on figures alone. As a director and later CEO, his prime concern was always for his employees. He knew how to enthuse people, he helped them to unlock their potential, and then he gave them the space to do business their own way. He was, in short, a true inspirator long before this concept became mainstream.
Although still young in business terms, Donald stepped down from day-to-day involvement with KCI whilst in his early fifties. Not because he was tired of the corporate world– far from it – but to give the next generation of directors and managers full opportunity to do as he had done – to take control and to steer KCI to ever greater heights. Donald then turned his considerable powers and enthusiasm to complementary business activities and also to several charities he was passionate about.
A man with visionary ideas and a big physical presence to boot, Donald took centre stage wherever he went. He could be forceful, determined and committed but was never arrogant. A true gentle giant, we will remember him as a ‘people person’.
Donald is survived by his wife Monique and his children Louise and Diederick, to whom all at KCI send our heartfelt sympathies.