A never-ending journey
of learning and self discovery
… – 2001
Growing up in Antwerp
The golden age of Antwerp dates back to the 16th century. Not for me. The city gave me the best first 18 years of my life that I could have dreamt of.
As time goes by, I realize more and more how we are all shaped by our childhood and our relationship to our parents. I am forever grateful for the way they raised my brother, my sister and myself.
During my teenage years, I became an avid competitive sailor. All my energy and time was focused on the sport, the absolute highlight being the 1996 World Championships in Australia. At one point I could have made it my career … but you’ll see below that life took a different turn.
Solvay Business School
Curiosity is like sea water. The more you drink of it, the thirstier you become. At university, I truly enjoyed learning as much as I could. It’s probably why I ended up with a double major degree, and why I combined business school with a bachelor in chemistry.
In 2001, in the middle of the dotcom craze, I graduate cum laude. It was time to get out into the world.
With a grant from the Prince Albert Fund in my pocket, I join Barco and move to Atlanta. My mission, which I chose to accept, was to accelerate the market development for LED screens.
Move to China
After a year in the USA, I relocate to Beijing. With a geographical scope covering the entire region from Japan to New-Zealand, it is where I learned to support and drive a sales team at the same time.
Move to Malaysia
Forever grateful to Barco for the international assignments they entrusted me with, I move to Kuala Lumpur to join the Boston Consulting Group.
The diversity of South-East Asian culture was just as interesting as the strategic consulting projects I got to work on: banking in Indonesia, oil&gas in Thailand, state-owned companies in Malaysia, and more.
Move back to Belgium
One of the benefits of working for a global consulting firm, is the ability to transition between offices. I move back to Belgium and spend another year with BCG in Brussels, working on process optimization and channel strategy for financial institutions.
In 2008 I joined my father-in-law’s business as interim co-CEO. The companies had been suffering for a while. With limited means and great resolve, we looked at the organization, finance, operations, partnerships and turned it around.
One of the most enriching experiences definitely was to outsource a significant part of our production to India. After my time in the US, China and South-East Asia, I once again learned the joys and challenges of working across very different cultures.
It’s all about the balance sheet
“We are looking for an interim CFO. Are you interested ?”.
I joined van Hoorebeke, a leading timber importer, for a 6-month project on ERP processes and re-structuring its finances. But why change a winning team ? I stayed on, became CEO after 3 years, and continue to serve on their board as a non-executive director.
To this day I owe a significant part of my growth to the trust I was given by the family owners.
It’s all about the strategy
I was hired as CEO of the Matermaco Group, a leading and diversified distributor of machinery for agriculture, landscaping, construction and mining. The challenge was triple : to reconnect with growth, to integrate with the Dutch mother company, and to transform the corporate culture.
Strategy isn’t just a buzz word when you’re in a structurally declining market in which the middleman is being cut out. Especially when you’re the middleman. Strategy isn’t a buzz word when your major supplier gets sold to a competing brand and you lose its distribution for the African markets.
It was like fixing the plane and charting a new course while the plane is in the air.
Summer of 2019
Suddenly it all clicks into place
Over the years I had benefited greatly from coaching. It brought me so much clarity and value. So I decided I should integrate these competencies in my work as CEO and board member.
I trained to be a certified coach. Little did I expect that it would change my life.
Executive coaching is a profession that requires very specific skills, and it’s awesome ! I felt the impact I could have on so many companies. That brought me energy and purpose. I heard that my style and experience were valued by a number of people I respect a lot. That brought me the courage to decide.
So I decide to leave my CEO position and all its perks to commit to a new mission : to help CEOs and their leadership teams make the best of these complex and amazing times.
After a 6-month transition period, just when I’m about to leave the company, the pandemic hits the world. I hated that I had to say goodbye to my team via Zoom. But that’s how it was.
My goal, after leaving Matermaco Group, had been to first relax and recharge. To take a sabbatical. To travel Europe on my motorbike. To sail the North Sea. To visit friends and family all over the world.
The lockdown decided otherwise. So I made the best of it. Together with my wife and children we enjoyed the time together, the pleasures of (re)discovering nearby nature and to make plans for the future.
It’s all about people
In May 2020 I felt it was time. I launched Strauven & Partners with a single goal: to fulfill my mission of supporting CEOs and their leadership teams.
It’s been a year now, and I’m so grateful for the chances I’ve been given so far.
Leaders opened their hearts and minds to me, and I did just the same. Considering the impact that our coaching conversations have already had, I couldn’t be more enthusiastic about the future.