“The programme gave me the solution to the biggest problem I was wrestling with”

25 January 2021

Johan Van Meenen was initially sceptical about enrolling on a management programme at Vlerick. Not because he’d already learnt everything there was to know, but because previous courses had taught him too little. Nevertheless he enrolled at Vlerick for the SME Excellence programme. But could this programme fulfil his expectations?


Story of a business

“Let me start by telling you something about our company, Revimaxx. For that I need to go back to the 1900s, when the copper kettle maker Van Landuyt started up in Wetteren. It later became a tin can factory, and in around 1965 there was a switch to mechanical engineering. That is still our business today.”

“So where do I come into the picture? Around fifteen years ago, Falcon Fund took over the business. At the time, I was the technical director of another Falcon company. I was offered the opportunity to move to Van Landuyt as CEO in 2011. Two years ago, I organised a management buyout along with two partners. Since then we have constructed a whole new building and changed our name to Revimaxx.”

Training expert against his own better judgement

“I came from big companies like Barco and Bekaert. As a young engineer, you’d have training programmes rammed down your throat, if you’ll excuse my French. At that point in my career, I wasn’t particularly interested in management. Engineering was my thing. And what was my problem with the training courses? Great in theory, but what use were they to me in practice?”

“That was exactly what I thought of Vlerick too: far too high level. On paper it all sounds great, but how are you supposed to implement all those fancy concepts? As a business manager, you can’t simply clear your diary for a day to calmly survey your plans. But that was exactly what I needed: a strategy. I realised I’d become far too entangled in the operational side of things. Every day I would literally work myself up into a sweat to get projects completed, but I’d lost sight of the wider perspective.”

Sceptical, then everything fell into place

“I’d first come into contact with Vlerick through a negotiation skills programme. A firm had offered it to me for free. Katia Tieleman was the tutor. I was seriously impressed by that woman. She was truly inspiring. That’s what made me think that perhaps it would be worthwhile to follow a programme at Vlerick. So I signed up for SME Excellence.”

“Was I immediately convinced? No. I’m a critical person. And the first series of sessions were still too far removed from my daily experience. Too unrealistic, I thought. Until we got a coach who really made all the difference for me. She understood what I was doing and came up with some really useful, relevant ideas. That was one of the things that made everything fall into place.”

Added value on the ground

“I understood that I needed to take action, but that I didn’t have to do it all on my own. The information we were given during the programme suddenly seemed relevant. Or perhaps I only understood that afterwards. In any case, I saw more and more applications for our company. Take the session about retention policy, for example. Previously, that had seemed to me to be unnecessary in our company, with its thirty contented employees: people rarely leave. But during the programme I understood that it’s all about clarity. And honesty too, including a transparent remuneration policy.”

“Or that session with Filip Roodhooft, who explained the activity-based costing calculation model to us. I’ve been using that model for years. Except that I was unaware that something like that is more than just a passive Excel spreadsheet. I didn’t realise that you could also use it to make prognoses and simulations. That was an eye-opener. We have now found two Masters students who are going to develop this for us.”

Just the push I needed

“Has my thinking evolved? Absolutely. The programme provided a solution to the biggest problem I was wrestling with: how do I incorporate all these things? We are now working with an external consultant. Every third Monday of the month, he sits down with us to for a highly concrete run-through of the tasks and goals from our strategic exercise.”

“I have taken a number of steps that I would never have made without Vlerick. Our business has gained fresh momentum. And a great side effect is that the balance between my life and work has improved. I can confidently claim to be a believer. We are ready to embark upon a new chapter at Revimaxx. All thanks to Vlerick.”

Johan van Meenen, CEO at Revimaxx