Article on Made in Limburg at the end of last year explained the joining of forces of eleven Limburg entrepreneurs in the investment fund Renardmont. One of the prominent initiators is Maarten Bynens who, with his Hasselt-based industrial holding Initium, is in charge of seven Limburg SMEs with 150 employees. Renardmont focuses on specific industrial SMEs and wants to give them long-term growth opportunities and anchor them in Limburg. We took a look at his office in Dilsen-Stokkem.
No wonder Bynens is frequently on the move, as part of his commitment to Renardmont and his seven own SMEs, Bynens is often on the move and does not really have a central workplace. Not that his car is half an office full of file boxes, where many hands-free phone calls take place. But frequently being on the road to so many branches does force a choice of location, despite the possibility of simply plugging in everywhere with his laptop. That is why you will find him three days a week in his semi-permanent office on the Lanklaar industrial estate in Dilsen-Stokkem, more specifically at Seculux, a wholesaler in automation accessories. That is also the company where he has been active the longest, since 2014.
After a particularly pleasant drive – only trucks are on their way to confront the corona crisis – we are warmly welcomed into the renovated office building with a modern look. No receptionist to greet us, but the boss himself who guides us to his desk without shaking hands. We are allowed to sit at a very long, dark brown desk that also serves as a meeting table.
“In these difficult, unusual times, my office here is like our ‘war room’,” says Maarten. “It’s even a bit like a cockpit to have an overview of everything from here. Nevertheless, I like a homely atmosphere in the offices at work, that is the common thread in all our branches. People are very much present at work at the best hours of the day, behind their computer screen. It’s important that this takes place in a pleasant, comfortable atmosphere. And so it is here, in my cocoon, to work well and pleasantly.” Wooden floors, ceiling-high wall cabinets in dark brown wood without handles with all kinds of files in them, an ergonomic chair, it all contributes. “It really doesn’t have to look luxurious, but functional.
The digital age has clearly already made its appearance: There is hardly a single document to be found on Bynens’ desk. An extraordinarily large, curved monitor sucks all the attention away. (Fier) “That is very practical. You can connect two computers to it at the same time and have different apps open on the screens at the same time without having to strain your eyes with small letters. Many employees also do their work on such a screen. After all, it delivers unprecedented productivity gains.
I already mentioned that “cockpit” concept. Within our group, it is important that a lot of autonomy lies within our companies themselves and that the local management can do its thing with its own decision-making power. We have therefore not set up a central, uniform ICT platform for them, with a central accounting package and so on. We did, however, develop an umbrella monitoring platform to provide a clear overview of the group. And this giant monitor is of course an excellent tool for that, a digital dashboard to see how things are going. Visually, it’s all the same to me, but underneath it’s organised separately. When I’m on the road, everything I need just has to fit into my book bag. In other words, all documents are stored digitally here via scans and then go through the shredder so as not to have to keep a double archive.”
Art from my own home
With this digitisation, working from home is obviously an option. “Indeed, but I don’t have a ‘man cave’. There is an annex in the garden of our house, where a bar and work space would be. In the meantime, this bar has been built, but also a sauna, and so my better half has taken it all in and the whole project has turned out differently… So be it. But I also like it when I can stay a bit longer in one of the seven branches at the weekend and quietly soak up the dynamics and atmosphere.
There is not much green inside Bynens’ office. “That’s right, I don’t have much of a green thumb, but we are looking at a layout with green walls. And when I look out through the big window, I see our planting in front of the building, with that beautiful olive tree as the eye-catcher. You look a bit suspicious? Don’t worry, we can lift that olive tree with a forklift truck and bring it inside if necessary – if it gets really cold or something like that.”
A beautiful, colourful, somewhat Mondrian-like painting adorns the wall behind the entrepreneur. “I think it’s important that it’s nicely, soberly decorated here, also with plexiglass shapes like in the corridor. Here in my office, you don’t see any photos, works of art or certain trophies. At home, I do have some of those things. I even have a small, private workspace there, but at the moment it has become a classroom for the children. To come back to this painting here, it is one of my mother -Josette Mantels. There is one of her in all the branches. She is a painter, and rightly proud that her work adorns my office.”
But the most beautiful ‘trick’ is the glass partition, a sliding window as it were between his office and that of his assistant Sophie Vandeput. This is a fixed glass wall up to hip height. The opaque part up to the ceiling can be slid open and closed. When it is closed, it remains possible to have discreet conversations. If the glass wall remains open, very direct communication between Maarten and Sophie is possible. This is important in the pursuit of values such as a flat structure and transparency. “She is like my external memory and is aware of all the ins and outs of the group. (laughs) And so it often happens that an appointment appears in my digital agenda before I have been able to fill it in myself.