1.5 kilometres from the Kaagbaan runway, Paul Bos owns 50 acres of farmland with 100 sheep, and leases a further 60 acres of agricultural land. In addition to being a farmer, Paul is also a coach and advisor, with the farm doubling as a place of inspiration and reflection. Under the name ‘Farmer Bos’, he is combining the worlds of farmer and coach.
‘For ten years, I was the managing partner of a medium-sized marketing communications consultancy. But I increasingly began to feel that I wanted to do something different’, Paul Bos recounts. ’In 1998, after a brief sabbatical, I decided to move on to my parents’ farm. My dad had asked me many times before whether I wanted to get involved, but my answer was invariably that I wasn’t interested. Two years later, I took over completely, and suddenly found myself a full-time farmer. In the first few years, I invested in the herd of sheep and in growing crops, which yielded organic meat and potatoes. These products soon found their way to retailers and restaurants in the area.’
‘Meanwhile, I frequently had former customers contacting me to ask whether they could come and visit. They wanted to discuss dilemmas they were struggling with, their work, their career or the team, in a different environment. One thing led to another, and that’s how I ended up branching out into coaching. There are a lot of similarities between life on a farm and the corporate world. Managers often come to me to ask how they can get the team on board with change. I take them out onto the pasture and ask them to move the herd of sheep. Instead of observing the herd first, they head towards them straight away. The sheep’s flight instinct kicks in, and they make a run for it. What they need is calm, patience and a sense of safety. That’s a great metaphor for the dynamic that takes place in the office. This type of hands-on experience is rather different from a management training course in some stuffy meeting room with a flip chart.’
‘Farmers manage nature. We can learn a lot from that. In order to reap a good harvest, you need to till the land, remove weeds, plant crops and water them regularly. Only then will the crops thrive. A farmer facilitates this growth as best he can. He doesn’t spend his time stamping his foot and shouting “Grow already!” Facilitating growth in the best way possible is exactly what a good manager needs to do.’
‘I grew up on this farm, with Schiphol as our neighbour. Farmers in this area can be a great benefit to the airport. All the people employed at Schiphol need to eat, and they need inspiration and recreation. The farmers in the area can offer that. In view of the rise of urban farming, I would argue that a fully-fledged AirportCity has an Airport Farm!’