There is something compellingly statesmanlike about Peter Voorhoeve, President and CEO of Volvo Group Australia (VGA) – a sensation that has become increasingly rare in an industry where the daily struggle to survive has seen finesse and diplomacy replaced by pragmatism and an all-pervading, yet often-misinterpreted sense of urgency.
Born and raised in the Netherlands and trained throughout the global Volvo organisation, Peter is surrounded by a natural aura of leadership, paired with a set of well-honed people skills and the kind of poise that cannot be taught, but has to grow and mature over time.
Then again, Peter V, as he is often referred to, is hardly the corner office kind of guy. His tailored suit is complemented by a pair of well‑worn RM Williams and a handshake that is refreshingly firm and decisive. He often doesn’t even sport a tie, but a tan boldly suggesting he doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty when he has a rare day off.
As such, there is no doubt VGA’s recent return to the top of the sales leader board in Australia is also linked to the new, strong man behind the brand, his contagious energy and incessant thirst for knowledge. But there is more on Peter’s agenda than bottom line growth alone: Much in line with Volvo’s philosophy to actively engage with those they serve, Peter’s mission is to examine, expound and, ultimately, expand the Australian trucking community.
After two and a half years in Australia, he has now delved deep enough into the local transport culture to develop a good understanding of the issues surrounding it and appreciate that there is a severe succession planning problem dwelling under the surface that could prompt the Australian economy as a whole to implode if not addressed in time.
Peter says learning that there may not be enough sufficiently trained people in Australia to use the very product he has been sent to Australia to represent was a “sobering” experience and prompted him to lift the country’s skill shortage problem back on the public agenda, hoping his influence and standing would help create some new momentum around it and inspire more businesses to follow. Yet, being the man he is, even the most comprehensive pool of anecdotal knowledge wouldn’t quite satisfy him on his quest.
To truly comprehend the undercurrents affecting what could be the most complex road transport market in the world, he therefore commissioned a study into the industry’s seething skill shortage issue that could see his local legacy expand from sales success alone into the field of education and training. Prime Mover met him to find out how the project came to life and how it has helped him evolve and refine his leadership style since he became President of VGA in 2013.
Q: Peter, you have been at the helm of Volvo Australia for two and half years now, but instead of preparing for the next international assignment, you have launched a new research project. Does that mean you’ll stick around for a while?
A: As an expat there is no avoiding that question, but I can assure you that I am only just getting started and have no intentions of leaving any time soon. When I came to Australia, everyone asked me what my ‘mission’ was and how I planned to gain market leadership. Back then I replied that I was a service man first and foremost, and that I wanted VGA to become recognised for having the most satisfied customer base. That service focus hasn’t changed since then, and it’s still getting me out of bed every day.
The full story has appeared in the June edition of Prime Mover. To get your copy, click here.