A genuine spirit of enterprise emerges in a time of crisis

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With a total of approximately 165,000 cubic meters of timber production and sales per year, Megahout is one of the largest timber manufacturers in The Netherlands. Founder and owner Jan Sijbesma tells us about how this success story came about.

Timber as far as the eye can see: in the huge shed in Amsterdam, planks are stacked many meters high in long corridors and machines the size of an entire factory hall are on display; an impressive whole. Jan: “But that’s not where it all started for Megahout. The original company and its foundation are based in Drachten.”

Garage as storage

Jan started Megahout on the 1st of April 1999. “I was already working at a timber wholesaler, so the business wasn’t entirely new to me”. During this time, the construction world was undergoing changes. Where previously everything was only assembled on a building site, things were now shifting more towards industrial production where finished products are shipped from the factory ready-made. “The company I worked for wanted to specialize in this, but that didn’t really happen in the end. So I then said: ‘I’m going to try this myself.’” In the beginning, Jan traded from his garage at home, but as the trade began to grow, Jan rented a unit, purchased goods and outsourced the transport. “We still didn’t produce anything ourselves, as that only started when a large customer indicated they were looking for a supplier who could deliver the complete package; planing, sawing and cutting to size.” Jan takes a sheltered workshop over in Drachten that will process the wood for him and he builds an extra unit in Leeuwarden.

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Centralised in Drachten

Yet here, too, Megahout eventually outgrows its facilities. Jan faces a major decision. “I thought, we can keep building new units, but if I want to take the next step, I should really do it properly.” In 2010, his company moved to Drachten.” We have everything under one roof there, centralized on one site, but then the economic crisis hits. “That was definitely not our best period. A genuine spirit of enterprise emerges at such moments, as anyone can do it when times are good. We eventually came through it intact.” From 2013, Megahout really started to grow again, expanding rapidly.

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Expansion to Amsterdam

Megahout approaches Quadrum when Jan starts thinking about his future. “My children didn’t want to take over the company, and I didn’t want to be working into my seventies. I was looking for an investor who would ensure the continuity of my company when I wanted to stop so I could be sure of a good pension.”

Jan holds talks with various investors, but he felt a real click with Quadrum. “We found ourselves more or less aligned from the start.” And an unforeseen business opportunity has emerged from this partnership. “Quadrum offered me the opportunity to acquire an Amsterdam-based timber wholesaler, called TPA, that had already been around for 30 years. I jumped at the chance and TPA became part of the Megahout Group in 2023.” That means Jan has also entered the retail market now. “Drachten primarily served residential construction and the agricultural sector. Now I’m also trading indirectly with retail customers buying my wood at builder's merchants.” And that’s a very different kettle of fish. “It’s more intricate and much more logistics and distribution than production.” Integration of the two companies is quite a challenge, but one which he has been enjoying. “Amsterdam was not even on my radar, but I have absolutely no regrets and I’m really enjoying the whole thing.”

We handle 165,000 m3 a year, which is 3,500 lorries full of timber
Mega Hout Jan

Jan Sijbesma

Vision of the future

“In Drachten we now handle around 100,000 m3 of timber, and in Amsterdam about 65,000 m3. So, in total around 165,000 m3 annually. That’s about 3,500 lorries full of timber”, says Jan with a laugh. So, how does he view the future of Megahout? “For now, I have my hands full integrating my two businesses, and what the future holds, you never really know anyway. Quadrum offers many different opportunities. There’s always something that crosses your path.” He’s silent for a moment, then: “In 2024, we will be 25 years old, and that’s truly amazing. Time really flies!”

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