Thomas Mansvelt: “… there’s never a dull moment in the always-evolving e-commerce industry”
Today we’re going to the Netherlands where our Associate Commercial Director Thomas Mansvelt will guide us through his career growth at GSG and give his insights on the markets he’s overseeing, and how he and his team have adjusted to a new working mode during the pandemic.
Tell us about yourself and your career path.
I’m Thomas, 34 years old, living in Haarlem with my fiancee and a cat. I started as a trainee at a big Dutch bank, followed by an account manager role for an online car trading company. After about a year, I had the opportunity to manage an international team, which I liked and learned from a lot. Having done that for a few years, I moved to the online marketing industry as Business Development Manager for an influencer marketing platform. I picked up the knowledge and experience in affiliate marketing. I then applied for Head of KAM Netherlands at GSG and was successfully hired. After about eight months, I became responsible for the Nordic KAM team, and a year and a half later, I was promoted to a position of an Associate Commercial Director for the Netherlands, Nordics, Spain, Italy, Austria, and Switzerland for GSG Connect. In addition to that, I’m also the Managing Director for the Amsterdam hub.
What made you choose GSG back in 2019? Has the company changed much since then?
As I started my interview process, I remember thinking: “these guys know what they are doing”. I admired how data was translated into clear insights to serve both retailers’ and consumers’ purposes. That, combined with the ambitious and intelligent people working at GSG to ensure we’re the best in the business, the job offer was a no-brainer for me.
I think the company has changed quite a bit over the past years. I joined when it started outgrowing its startup phase and scaling up much faster. This period was my favourite phase because now we can focus on professionalising and innovating our company more than ever. This makes sense with three M&As, the growing number of employees, and our ambitions. That said, I do think our core values have remained the same.
What were the main challenges you think the industry and company faced when the pandemic started? How did you manage to address them and at the same time continue your career growth?
Obviously, there was a lot of uncertainty initially. Still, looking back at it, I think both the industry and GSG handled it very well. I remember leaving the office in March 2020 with an extra screen under my arm, saying to my colleagues, “see you in a week or two”. It lasted a bit longer than that… It turned out that we (and most of our partners) are in the lucky position that we can do our work from home with a bit of help from Zoom / Teams. The biggest challenge, I think, was to maintain the “GSG glue” in the teams. But also for the teams to handle the uncertainty and change the way of working while still being challenged. Video calls are different from in-person meetings, and a bit of ‘real’ contact now and then doesn’t hurt. Whenever local measures allow us to, we work from the office as a team and try to do small get-togethers. Both GSG and our partners in the industry have shown tremendous resilience during the pandemic. Together we looked for opportunities to boost the high-performing retailers even more. But more importantly, we are lenient and supportive with partners negatively impacted by the pandemic.
Honestly, in those uncertain times back then, career growth wasn’t on my mind at all. Like most managers, I was mainly looking for ways to keep the team members happy and motivated.
What are unique things about the region you are working in, and how do you empower your customers to make better purchase decisions?
I’m commercially responsible for nine countries, which means nine different cultures. So there are a lot of unique things. One of my goals is to have 100% knowledge of every country I’m responsible for and learn something new every day. I love the variety in cultures, business partners, consumers (and their behaviours), colleagues, and entire countries. Our talented local Operational and Commercial teams empower consumers to make better day-to-day purchasing decisions by listening to and analysing our partners’ and consumers’ wants and needs and acting upon them. I just guide them 🙂
What future trends do you foresee in the e-commerce industry?
I think there’s never a dull moment in the always-evolving e-commerce industry. Publishers, networks, and retailers are always looking for ways to innovate their business and deal with challenges. In the markets that I cover, I see two interesting things happening:
The affiliate business is maturing and professionalising more and more every day. We’re having more in-depth, data-driven, and strategic discussions with our partners than two years ago to optimise our campaigns and offerings.
I’m also happy to see that the industry contributes to a better world. For example: Instead of the traditional relationship gifts, we now receive and give donations to NGO’s. And with the Kortingscode.nl domain, in The Netherlands, we’re even protecting a piece of rainforest together with Wilderness International with every transaction we funnel. I expect and hope many of these initiatives will follow.
What resources and career development opportunities helped you get where you are today? What is your advice for people entering the industry?
I’ve always been interested in more than only the commercial part of the business. That’s why I have quite a few cross-departmental meetings weekly. It’s easy and safe to stay in your cocoon, but I feel that understanding what’s going on outside of it gives me a better view of the bigger picture. It doesn’t matter if you’re a product developer, account manager, or content creator; talking to each other is always an enrichment for your development.
Did you make use of our company’s flexible working policy? What do you think it means for our colleagues?
I think GSG Flex is one of the few good things the pandemic has given us. We have proven to still fully function as a company while working from home, in some cases maybe even more efficiently. But we miss the social contact from working from the office. After putting together a ‘hybrid-working group’ and doing company-wide research, we put together GSG Flex. I think our Flex policy is an excellent mix of both worlds. For example, I had a chance to have a road trip in Italy and work remotely. There is no difference between being at the beachside with a book or a laptop. It doesn’t affect my efficiency and productivity. Besides that, it, for instance, gives you the opportunity and freedom to combine your vacation with work if you’d like—something we couldn’t imagine happening in 2019.
Tell us more about yourself from an everyday perspective. What are your hobbies? How do you spend your free time managing your work/life balance?
Funny enough, managing work/life balance is easier for me now than it was pre-pandemic when my commute to Amsterdam was pretty long due to heavy traffic. My fiancee and I both love to cook for friends, and lately, we’re going for walks on the beach, dunes, or other nature. Besides that, we spend a large chunk of our free time finalising our ‘fixer-upper’ house. Also, we’re really looking forward to making up for the lost restaurant visits and vacations abroad once this pandemic ends and the world opens up a bit more!
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