Interview with Theo Velis
Ever wondered how Theo came to establish DDM? We asked Theo to say a few words on that subject. Telling of the old days and his marvellous establishment - well, just leave that to Theo! What you get: a wonderful tale; you can see that Theo goes to work every day with the same energy and zest.
When I was 15, I went to work for an earthmoving importer. I worked four days a week and went to college one day a week, where I obtained my diploma as a diesel motor fitter. I also went to evening classes, where I obtained my diplomas for electric welding and hydraulics. I worked for two years at that firm.
With that experience and a few diplomas in my pocket, I went to work for a demolition company. My father worked for that company and that’s what I wanted to do too. To take something right and proper apart - big, complex edifices, like bridges, power stations and so forth. I started out on a mobile breaker/excavator and after that on a (then large) tracked machine. After two years of that, I had to do 18 months military service, which I completed with much pleasure. After my military service, it was back to the demolition business, where I passed through and experienced all the trades. By manual demolition, as well as using breaker/excavators and the crane and wrecking ball too, and then as foreman, general foreman and project manager, I ended up as deputy director. That’s when I obtained my blasting diplomas too. I had a lot of big buildings and chimneys blown up, mostly in Limburg. In 1990, I left that company, although that was not easy to do.
For one whole year, I stayed away from my ex-employer’s clients. Even though no restraint on competition existed, I didn’t think it appropriate. It was not easy to go back at the stage I was accustomed to. At my ex-employers, everything imaginable was there and available and, if not, you just bought it! I was back to square one again.
The first work I took on was manually spading out the spaces underneath the ground floor of the University Hospital of Utrecht. I was able to deploy all our resources for this job - namely, three shovels and two wheelbarrows. Everywhere I went they said: quite remarkable that you’re doing this, it’s a fair old challenge, eh? As soon as you’ve independently done some work as DDM, you’re very welcome again. We want to see your references.
I began to understand the story of the chicken and the egg - without the one, you can’t get the other.
The Berlin Wall had fallen - that was where we undertook our first big job.
30,000 tons of scrap materials and 150,000 m³ of solid concrete. This job allowed me to purchase the first big equipment. I also had the support of a few other companies, for which I am ever grateful to them. From Germany, back to The Netherlands and from The Netherlands, onward to Belgium and from Belgium to France. Now, we operate the whole world over and we have worked in every corner of the world. We always go where our clients go. We never let our clients down and we achieve what they request.
Our primary clients are: BSR Germany, DSM, ESSO, NS and the Power Station in Utrecht, formerly known as Reliant, now as NUON.
Currently, we work for more than 200 large organizations, including many multinationals.
When I started out, a few things were very important to me:
Safety and quality, Good colleagues and good clients who match you with mutual trust.
A good atmosphere, so you are glad to go to work and get that “us” feeling.
We built DDM up to what it now is with a good team. A company of specialists that completes projects throughout the world such as: demolition, clearance, dismantling, relocation and installation.
We also have strong trading potential; we purchase complete facilities, power stations, factory inventories, steelworks and such like. On average, we now annually process 100,000 tons of scrap materials alone, and it is all recycled and converted into new construction materials.
Our own, in-house company engineering office handles all projects in consultation with our clients.
We always find a solution. Impossible is not in our dictionary. We do this with a good team in collaboration with our clients.
A good, experienced team is something you can’t buy, it has to be built.
We have a good, experienced team. Specialists who take pleasure in doing their work.
I didn’t get this far alone, but together with all DDM personnel, and that’s what I’m proud of!