Pauwels Consulting’s fourth acquisition on the Dutch market is yet another example of its ambitious growth. And yet there is more to it than just an eagerness to acquire another company. Science@Work is a unique player that matches the DNA of Pauwels Consulting Group perfectly. We asked Pauwels Consulting Managing Director Bert Pauwels and Science@Work Director Dirk Burgmans about their plans.
Science@Work’s position in the market is goal-oriented and efficient. What makes you unique?
Dirk: We specialise in laboratory and science staff. The big difference with other generic players is that we all come from the industry ourselves. Our roots lie in the lab, so we are in a perfect position to accurately assess what a jobseeker is looking for in a job and what a client wants to see in a new employee.
Bert, that personal approach and Science@Work expertise, are they what sparked your collaboration?
Bert: Yes, very clearly. I am always amazed when outsiders point out to me that rapid, aggressive acquisitions also constitute growth. However, the problem is not so much the number of acquisitions. It is the quality that counts. My focus is on culture, quality and the way people approach things.
It goes far beyond the financial transaction and contracts. Long-term collaboration is the essence, and a cultural fit and the pursuit of quality are absolutely crucial. When I spoke to the people at Science@Work, I really felt we are all on the same wavelength.
Dirk, Science@Work is a solid story of organic growth. How does a sales process fit into all this?
Dirk: When we started talking, we weren’t specifically looking for an acquisition, but the Pauwels Consulting organisation really appealed to us very quickly. We really like the specialisations and the different industries it serves, for example. That really suited us, but it was the company vision and philosophy that convinced us most.
Also important is the quality Pauwels strives for in its long-term relationships with its own employees and clients. That is so much better than pure and simple profit and profit optimisation. After all, we are together serving an industry that is largely about quality.
Bert: Science@Work brings additional specialisation to the group. Last year, it gave over 450 people a new job. That is exactly why together we offer unique hybrid expertise. Whereas we provide quality in consultancy and the secondment of specialised staff, Science@Work offers more of a mix to the market.
After all, it is the clients who lead the way, and that is precisely where our future collaboration adds huge value. The war for talent is a given, but the jobs to be done are the same. We can respond much more quickly than the competition and make proactive contributions to the client with solutions for the market.
Specialisation and full-service solutions – do they sum up your model?
Dirk: Professional knowledge and the assurance of this knowledge remains very important in the scientific sector. However, there are certain specialisations that consultancy is very suitable for. Preclinical research, for example, takes a long time, so clients usually attract permanent employees for that. However, there is a huge need for additional professional knowledge in this wider area, which the labour market currently is unable to meet. We can’t allow these companies’ growth to stagnate. I see potential for traditional consultancy here.
Pauwels Consulting and supporting that growth of the Dutch market seem like a match made in heaven?
Bert: Absolutely, our ambition was to build a company in the Netherlands of the same reputation and scale as in Belgium. And that always leads us back to that unique DNA of ours, which enables us to offer our clients solutions in the life sciences, engineering and IT industries.
We have been active in the latter two fields for some time in the Netherlands, but Science@Work has made the portfolio complete. We already had a strong regional presence throughout the Netherlands across several fields, with three offices in the market and now Amsterdam as a hub.
And is it right to say that Science@Work has been making inroads in Belgium for some time now?
Dirk: We adopt the same approach and philosophy in Belgium, in that we combine a targeted methodology with in-depth expertise and quality. Our highly experienced recruitment team in Belgium – not least our longstanding experts Ilse, Els and Goedele – have worked to bring about very rapid growth in the Belgian market. In this highly differentiated and specialised market, their years of experience and skill sets dovetail perfectly with the desires and preferences of both jobseekers and our Belgian customers. In this sense, we are the ideal partners for Pauwels Consulting, and we expect that both will complement each other to maximum effect in Belgium.
Companies are only as strong as their employees, so what do they have to gain from this acquisition?
Dirk: With more than 25 years on the clock, I have seen several companies grow from within. Science@Work started at my kitchen table, but we always had high ambitions. That was very clear right from the beginning. However, besides the business as such, I derive most energy from seeing our employees grow around me.
That is exactly where the strength of this acquisition lies: it is a magnificent development, primarily for the people of Science@Work themselves. It is therefore the clear wish of the management team to stay on board and continue to guide growth.
Bert: I look at it in the same way. My motto is to challenge the status quo, which automatically leads us to growth. For the sake of clarity, this is a growth story for both our staff and our clients. If we all start pushing forward the things that can be improved together, we will automatically achieve a better professional situation for all parties.
The result of this is obviously growth, but in an organic way with respect for all employees. That has been the Pauwels Consulting’s recipe for the past 23 years, and it will continue to be for a long time to come. People development is not a buzzword for us. We have an army of resources ready within the group to add substance to talent development at the most individual level.
To me, that is what will make the difference in the future. It is my firm belief that Science@Work employees really make a difference to their clients. Just as our Pauwels Consulting employees challenge our clients on a daily basis with the aim of improving things for them.
Dirk: Our employees are a perfect fit for this structure. We provide our clients with laboratory research, quality assurance and regulatory and commercial positions in and around the lab. That is after all the essential purpose of merging our companies: to focus on the client’s interests.
Finally, I understood that besides the organic added value for the two companies, there is also some healthy competition?
Bert: If you are referring to my invitation to Dirk and his team to take part in the Ghent marathon, then you are absolutely right. It is no secret that Pauwels Consulting has a big heart for sport. Cycling, workouts in the office, padel with the staff, running competitions … We do it all.
Dirk: Challenge accepted, but be warned, because at Science@Work we also like going the extra mile. So, Bert, why not go straight for a half triathlon?
Bert: (laughs) Perhaps we can also take a pragmatic best of both worlds approach here and start with a quarter triathlon?
Thank you for this interview, congratulations again on the acquisition and I wish you every success with your plans.