What inspired you to think like this?
When you are curious and eager to learn without avoiding every risk, it may bring you out of your comfort zone but you will certainly grow as a professional and as a person.
I have always set the bar high for myself. I am very result driven, but I have learned that – sometimes – I have to be satisfied with the result achieved. Drive and passion come naturally to me but I have learned when to slow down or give myself a bit more time.
At the start of my career I was eager to develop myself as a manager and participated in a middle management course. The most important lesson I learned was to find out who I really was. What are my values? What is my communication style? How do I influence other people?
How did your management style change during your career?
In the beginning of my career I was a real control freak. I wanted to have everything under control and my expectations towards other people were too high. What I learned is to let go. Every person has different and specific needs and situational leadership is very important to get the best out of people. If everyone in a team has the role that suits him or her best, results will be much better and it will be the most fruitful regarding their personal development.
Which challenges are you currently facing?
There are three challenges for me at the moment. The first one is finding the right people for the organization. Because of the labour market it is difficult to recruit people, let alone to find people who fit both our company culture and their role.
The second one is that Hygos as part of OptiGoup is a very fast growing company. The last two years Hygos did twelve business acquisitions and recently Hygos and OptiGroup merged and thus have joined forces . All these new companies and integrations bring changes and challenges. How are you going to onboard these companies without disturbing their own identity too much while giving them a warm welcome in the family?
The third challenge is the diversity between entrepreneurship and a more centralized structure. Hygos/OptiGroup is the mother organization of many smaller family businesses. How can you keep the entrepreneurial character of the organization alive and not become a centrally managed corporate headquarters?
How do you find a balance between your professional and private life?
This is the most difficult question. I have a lot of discussions about this with friends and colleagues. For me quality time is more important than quantity time. I also apply this to my family. I have two kids and I love them very much, but we do not have dinner together every day. I think work is something you should like to do from your heart. If you fulfill your job because you are interested and passionate, going to work is easy. Sometimes it is busier at work and sometimes it is busier at home, it is all about the balance in the long run. You have to find your own balance and not let somebody tell, push or influence you on your work-life balance. Stay the director of that yourself.
If you hire a new employee, what are the key elements/competences that are important to you?
In a team it is important to have different people, you need diversity. Not everybody is the same. You are not going to grow with all the same types of people in your team. You need somebody that fits the team, but has a different skill set than others. After all, the team has to be complementary.
Another element that is important to me when hiring new employees, is personality. It is not about a certain personality in particular, but I believe in being at the right time and the right place. Nowadays there is more focus on role descriptions than on function descriptions. So you can change your work without changing your function. If people are good at what they do and like what they do, you will have the best result. You have different role models, different kind of people in the team. I believe that this is the best match.
For younger and less experienced people, competences are more important. Because they are less experienced you have to look at their potential, which can be measured through their competences. Can they do it in the future? They will be coached and supported, but they should have the right competences to eventually achieve the right results.
Which (new) key marketing and sales competencies will be crucial to succeed in the future?
From the marketing point of view, storytelling and transparency will become more and more important via different channels. Digitalization is a very important strategic goal for Hygos/OptiGroup. All order and management flows must eventually be digital and will provide a lot of data which can be used for future propositions. Next to that digitalization will decrease costs and increase effectiveness. It creates great opportunities to cross and upsell and customer retention will increase. Besides this the market is moving very fast. Ten-year strategies are not working anymore, who thought COVID-19 would occur? You need to react really fast and you need to be very flexible where marketing and sales are key players. What’s the influence on our business, which people and processes do we need for this and which adjustments to our policy and actions should we make?
What is your general piece of advice for young marketers/sales professionals?
Know yourself, your strengths, your passion and your limitations.
At the moment I am reading a book which I would recommend to young sales people. It is called ‘Sales vanuit je hart’ van Richard van Kray (translated in English: “Selling from the heart”). It is about authenticity, you do not have to ask the right questions all the time during a sales call. Of course this could be important, but people who are authentic and really curious are most successful. What does the customer need? What is beyond these needs? This in combination with a good click and relationship with the client and thus creating added value will bring you very far. Having real interest in the other person is your first success.
Last but not least it is important not to give up too easily. You need to invest time to learn, learn from mistakes to find the rhythm and to develop your real self in the right role.
What makes Hygos/OptiGroup so attractive as an employer?
I think the answer is the mix between the environment of entrepreneurship and freedom in combination with the size and the support of the whole organization. The amount of people working in the organization is high, but because we have a decentralized strategy people are working in small, dedicated teams. We offer the possibility to develop yourself, while working with experienced people. And we offer you an environment with a lot of ambition to innovate. We are an international organization with a very broad oriented market. At Hygos/OptiGroup, people can develop vertically and horizontally.
Which mistakes did you make along the way?
Perhaps it is not a mistake but more a lesson that I learned: I am good as who I am. I do not have to be perfect all the time. To learn and accept this, you need some years of experience but again, you are allowed to make mistakes. Only in this way you will grow.
And finally, I have never had a job that I did not like or regretted in the end, trust your gut feeling because it is almost always correct.