Congratulations on this new nomination, Bert! Pauwels Consulting is now one of the fastest-growing companies in the province of Flemish Brabant for the 10th year in a row. How does that make you feel?
Bert: Thank you. Every time we’re chosen as one of the Trends Gazelles, it makes me feel happy and proud. All the more since this is a team effort! Pauwels Consulting doesn’t yearn for recognition, but we do know that this award is an external indicator that confirms we are doing a good job. And that’s great!
We do our utmost every day to make sure we support our customers and employees in the best possible way, our figures keep improving and we give something back to society. I’m pleased and grateful that we can offer so many people job security, satisfaction and prospects, especially in these challenging times.
I certainly agree that it was a bizarre year, Bert. How do you look back on the past COVID year?
Bert: 2020 was a challenging year, to put it mildly. And the challenge is still there. Everyone has had to give up some certainties and freedoms, and the lack of future prospects can really wear people down. Many of us have seen loved ones, friends and acquaintances experience problems both on a personal and professional level. I sincerely hope that soon we will all find the resilience to pick up where we left off together. I’m counting on everyone’s understanding, solidarity and sense of civic responsibility, because we need to get through this together.
COVID-19 and the lockdowns also put Pauwels Consulting in a situation that we’d never experienced before. All our consultants usually work at customer locations, and our internal employees are used to going into the office. Suddenly, this was no longer allowed. Or it was allowed, but to a much smaller extent. It was a pretty radical change.
“Business as usual in exceptional circumstances.”
How did Pauwels Consulting respond to COVID?
Bert: We took a calm and well-considered approach with a very clear focus on the long term. We’ve always considered COVID-19 as a temporary situation, a ‘short-term problem’. Short-term issues shouldn’t be tackled by changing our strategy. On the contrary, they require us to stick to our strategy. We talked, evaluated and adjusted a lot over the past year, but our focus and philosophy always remained strong.
This allowed us to continue to recruit people and invest in the training of our staff. We’ve also completed two impressive acquisitions in the past few months. We managed to keep furlough levels to an absolute minimum, and we haven’t had to let anyone go because of COVID-19. It’s been business as usual in exceptional circumstances. It hasn’t been easy, so I’m proud that we succeeded and that we’re now reaping the benefits, which has now been confirmed again by this Trends Gazelle nomination.
How do you see 2021?
Bert: Hopeful and ambitious. When spring arrives and we find the right way to live with this virus rather than be controlled by it, our society will be able to move forward again. I look at nature for inspiration. A sunflower doesn’t exactly look its best at night, but during the day it raises its head, follows the sun and displays its colours in all their splendour.
Pauwels Consulting will continue to focus on our momentum. 2021 will be characterised by further growth in Belgium and abroad. Our primary focus in that respect is the Netherlands. Last year, we acquired the ambitious engineering company Bruggenbouwers and two attractive IT companies, Developers.nl and more recently Open Web. We now have five offices in the Netherlands. If we can add a life sciences group to that, that would mean we can also serve our customers in the Netherlands with our three key areas of expertise.
What is the ultimate goal?
Bert: There is no ultimate goal. That would be too final and too restrictive. Over the next five years, we certainly want to become an international consultancy group with more than 2,500 employees and a 250 million turnover. That’s a big but realistic ambition, and I’m convinced that our team will achieve it.
By the way, we’re always looking for extra talent to join our wonderful crew! So if you’re an engineering, life sciences, IT or HR professional with the ambition to step things up a gear, you’re invited to get in touch so that we can get to know each other. We have ambitious plans, and we would love to discuss how you can be part of them!