Owner, Geert-Jan Bakker. 50 years anniversary.

Bakker Magnetics:
half a century and still going strong

The attraction of Bakker Magnetics will never fade, even from a distance. Now residing in Miami, owner Geert-Jan Bakker is still involved in the company that his parents founded in Eindhoven. On the 1st of May, Bakker Magnetics will celebrate its 50th anniversary. “My father and mother started with nothing, now we have a cutting-edge company.”

From his home in Miami, Geert-Jan Bakker has every reason to take a long look at the history of Bakker Magnetics, because a lot has happened in fifty years. It turns out to be an attractive story.

It all begins on 1 May 1971, in Eindhoven, when Gerard and Bea Bakker start their own company. They call it Bakker Magnetics. Gerard has just left his job at Philips. There he worked in a department that makes and sells magnets. “Philips was the inventor of the ceramic magnet”, Geert-Jan explains via Zoom. “They were initially used for speakers. But my father received many requests for non-standard magnets that Philips wasn’t interested in. He saw a gap in the market.”

Bold move

Geert-Jan’s grandparents think it is a bold move. “My grandmother said: ‘Gerard, you have such a good job at Philips. Do you know what you are giving up? The uncertain future you are facing?’ That’s how people used to think. If you worked for Philips, you were in good hands for life. Especially in Eindhoven. My father said: ‘Don’t worry. There is no uncertain future. It’s going to be a fantastic future’.”

On 1 May 1971, the living room of their townhouse in Eindhoven becomes Gerard’s new workplace. Geert-Jan is five years old. “We had a small garden with a shed and a diamond saw machine in it. My father used it to cut non-magnetized ceramic blocks to size for customers.”

My father said, ‘Don’t worry. There is no uncertain future. It’s going to be a fantastic future’.

Gerard is soon asked if he can also make magnets for planning boards. This will require a plastic cup. The entrepreneur quickly has his first molds made. “The magnets came from Japan and were glued in in Eindhoven. At home in the living room. My mother’s sisters helped out. That first year, my father and mother had a turnover of 40,000 guilders. That was just great in those days.”

Villa

As he was too young at the time, Geert-Jan doesn’t remember much of those early years. “I have to rely on what I see in photos and what I’ve seen since then. I do remember that we moved to a villa when I was in the fourth grade. I think I was nine or ten years old. There were offices and a little workshop behind the villa. When a client of ours moved in next door and did not need the workshop behind the house, my father said: ‘Then I’ll take that workshop. I need it for the expanding company’.”

In 1977, Bakker Magneten takes over Madava in Rotterdam. Madava specializes in magnetic lifting and separation systems. “In the beginning my father did a lot of work for the automobile industry, shelf manufacturers and the electronics industry. Madava was a great addition in that respect.”

“In 1982, he had a new office built in Son and we moved the company in Rotterdam to Son as well. At that time, it was all about growth.” From then on Bakker Magneten becomes known as Bakker Madava Magneten and Magneetsystemen.

'My parents were both hard workers. They wanted to achieve something.'

When Geert-Jan thinks back on the enthusiasm with which his parents expanded Bakker Magneten, he cannot help but conclude that they were true entrepreneurs. “Otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to build the company from scratch. Entrepreneurship is in our blood, I think. Acquisition is your first gain. That’s where our strength lies.”

Geert-Jan’s mother also comes from an Eindhoven entrepreneurial family. “My grandparents had a hat factory on the Stratumseind. Just on the right-hand side, after you cross the little bridge. My parents were both hard workers. They wanted to achieve something. They worked on the business day in and day out.”

The same applies to Geert-Jan when he starts at the company in 1989. He has just completed his bachelor’s degree in Business at the European University in Antwerp. “I had originally planned to do my master’s degree at the University of Thunderbird in Phoenix, Arizona, but then I chose to go and work at the sales office in Belgium, which my father had just taken over. I thought I’ll do my master’s degree later. I’m now 55 and I still haven’t done it. But it all turned out well in the end, because I ended up in America after all.”

Business

Working at his parents’ company is inevitable. “I was attracted to business from the start. My parents have always involved me in the company. As a little boy, my father used to take me to see customers in southern Germany. I liked that. But I was also there when suppliers and customers came to see us. I was brought up with it. When I was 16, I went to visit a supplier in India, to see how magnets were made.”

'Staying at the top is harder than getting there. So I kept going for it. You set certain goals for yourself in life'

After joining the company, Geert-Jan quickly develops into becoming managing director at his father’s side. Geert-Jan is ambitious. “Staying at the top is harder than getting there. So I kept going for it. You set certain goals for yourself in life. Where are you now and where do you want to be in five years? Sometimes those goals have to be adjusted upwards, sometimes downwards. My mother used to say: ‘On every guilder it says: God be with us. It doesn’t matter what you sell, as long as you sell something’. So that spirit of business has always been there.”

Bakker Magnetics sources its magnets mainly from China and, as such, the Son-based family business is one of the first Western companies to do business on a large scale in the communist and, at the time, rather closed country.

Geert-Jan: “I remember being at the electronics trade fair in Munich in the mid-nineties. A Chinese man approached my father and said: ‘Mister Bak, Mister Bak, oh Mister Bak!’ He could not pronounce Bakker. I’m so happy to meet you. You’re the first in China. You’re the best company.’ He had recognized my father from a photo or something. Those are certainly fond memories.”

In 1997, Geert-Jan decides to change the company name. It has to be simpler: “With BM as the logo and Bakker Magnetics as the name.” By then, his mother has already passed away – in 1993 – and his father is slowly beginning to step back, withdrawing from the company completely around 2000. “Then I was on my own. But we had expanded the business very nicely.”

Trade war

All this time, Bakker Magnetics has generally been doing well. In 2010, Geert-Jan, his wife and their son move to Miami. Shortly afterwards, a global trade war with China leads to problems in Son. The Asian country is sharply reducing its export quotas. “China has 85 to 90 per cent of the stocks of rare-earth metals used to make magnets. Almost all magnets come from there. For the automotive industry, the aerospace industry and so on. You have to keep that country close.”

Nevertheless, the World Trade Organization (WTO) protests. “OK, said China, then we will close three of the seven mines. That still leaves the problem of supply and demand. Prices soared and not as much could be delivered. It was a difficult time for everyone. You learn from it: you learn how to protect yourself from certain things and set things out in contracts.”

Bakker Magnetics weathers the trade war without too many problems. In 2016, Geert Jan’s father dies unexpectedly at the age of 76. But even though Geert-Jan lives in the United States and the general manager, Pim Honig, runs the day-to-day operations, he is still involved in the company. “Despite I am now far away, I still look at everything every day. The turnover figures, the bank balances, the purchases, the order portfolios. I am in contact with Pim every week.”

'Despite I am now far away, I still look at everything every day'

He is proud of the excellent reputation that Bakker Magnetics enjoys worldwide. “We are a leading company. Why else would one of the world’s biggest players in the field of wind turbines come to Bakker Magnetics to develop and produce the magnetic modules for their offshore wind turbines? My father and mother started with nothing, now we have a cutting-edge company.”

'What do we need to do to maintain our leading position on the playing field?'

Pim Honig, managing director of Bakker Magnetics

Bakker Magnetics celebrates its 50th anniversary with a new strategy

In the span of fifty years, Bakker Magnetics has become a world class company. The Netherlands-based company located in Son is transitioning to a new strategy that will enable it to reach its full potential. In light of the golden jubilee, one thing is clear to Managing Director Pim Honig: “We want to grow across the board.”

From his office at the Science Park in Son, Honig surveys the company site, a source of knowledge and technological progress. He is busy taking Bakker Magnetics into the next phase “while preserving the heritage of the company”, he emphasizes. One question is central to this: “What do we need to do to maintain our leading position on the playing field?”

Bakker Magnetics was founded on 1 May 1971 in Eindhoven by Gerard Bakker. Over the years, the company has grown into a global player in its specialist field. It is known for its ingenuity and high-quality solutions in challenging technical environments.

It is Honig’s task to build on that reputation. When he took over in September 2020, he immediately set to work on developing new policy. Staying at the forefront of that process is paramount.

“That means we have to increase our online and offline visibility. We also need to better showcase our knowledge of the subject matter. At Bakker Magnetics, we are still very modest in this respect, and that is a credit to our company and our employees. But do our customers really know what we have to offer?”

Added value

To this end, Bakker Magnetics is putting more emphasis on its sales skills. This is to better highlight the company’s added value. And that added value is considerable, because, as Honig points out, “in the field of permanent magnets we can meet virtually any challenge.”

Meanwhile, the new policy is already on full display within the organization. “We look at our company more from the outside in. In addition, we are always working to improve and renew both our products and our customer relationships, focusing increasingly on involving customers in our activities.”

'Do our customers really know what we have to offer?'

The value of Bakker Magnetics lies in working together as early on as possible in the process, says Honig. “It is precisely the customers we involved in the engineering/development process early on that are the ones for whom we see much quicker results, which, in turn, results in savings in all respects. That makes doing business more effective.”

Vision

This vision applies to all three of the company’s product groups. “We want to grow across the board.” This leads, among other things, to high-tech solutions such as the development of rotors for wind turbines. “And we also offer turnkey solutions for waste separation and food processing, for example.”

It is precisely the customers we involved in the engineering/development process early on that are the ones for whom we see much quicker results, which, in turn, results in savings in all respects. That makes doing business more effective.

“We ensure that we are increasingly part of the process from the moment a plant is designed. Our specialist knowledge and experience in our field give customers the confidence that they are building the future with us.”

Bakker Magnetics. Delivering magnetic expertise.