I am still amazed at how quickly 15 years go by.
When I left my previous employer, I also worked there for 15 years. And now for 15 years Link2Europe. The last 5 years have been very hectic and sometimes stressful for our company, but at the same time very instructive and challenging.
At the beginning of 2017, I look back especially with great gratitude to my employees who worked 200% to keep the company running smoothly, I myself was less present due to my illness and followed things from a distance for a while. At the same time, we had our best year ever. The market was growing, more and more companies found their way to Link2Europe. The economy was booming and the team's marketing and sales efforts were paying off.
Link2Europe was preparing for another growth spurt. For myself, it was also a period of reflection and thinking about the future. How could I myself continue to grow the company in a healthy way for my employees and for myself and where did we want to be within 5 years.
During a networking meeting, I was inspired by a speaker from a consulting firm who I later invited to come and explain more. The theory of "Crossing the chasm" had many similarities to the phase we were in and became the lever to think about our future strategy.
The starting point was simple: double our turnover in 5 years. With the entire team, a comprehensive plan was drawn up in which all facets that are important within our company were highlighted and in which all kinds of actions spread over several years were described and discussed. From sales to marketing, personnel, customer approach, financial organization, HR, logistics and housing, recruitment partners, new business, etc., everything was discussed and a 100 actions and action points were created that would take us about two years to complete.
To strengthen our image and new way of working and challenges, it was decided to move to a new office. The old office had become too small for 10 employees and very impractical. The building would soon be swallowed up by Pfizer anyway so moving was a must.
After visiting many premises in the wider region, we decided to settle along the Rijksweg in Bornem and set up this office as it best suited our organization.
I did not make it easy for the staff, because just as a young family when moving or buying into a new home usually also starts having children and working full time, we at Link2Europe were also doing everything at once. In 2018 and 2019, the market grew and we try to keep our service optimal. We were forced to completely separate our service checkout company Help at Home accounting from Link2Europe and implement the necessary new software. The software to manage temporary work was also updated by our IT partner and thus new working procedures had to be learned.
Our accounting was also organized differently and other software had to be installed. We also thought about the practical and technical move with suppliers and a new IT partner who took care of the server, cloud applications, new hard-ware, VOIP, etc. I must thank Inge and Christel, who mainly managed the back office during this time and made sure that everything kept running behind the scenes.
Still, I am convinced that our customers must have felt this. We were very busy internally getting everything ready for the future but we didn't really grow much in the years between 2017 and 2019. We received support from Peter, an external JDI consultant to make some steps forward even operationally, for which we thank him. But this was not enough...
So time to really work on that business plan, and the last link that was missing was the hiring of a General Manager who could really take charge of Link2Europe and the further operational development of the organization. At the end of 2019, Natascha Nagels was recruited. She fitted perfectly into the profile we were looking for and, also through the advice of my loyal staff, it was decided to take the plunge and effectively recruit someone who could much better monitor and realize the lines laid out and who was complementary to myself so that everyone remained happy.
Natascha and the team started 2020 .... full of dedication, plans and good spirits.
And then suddenly there was CORONA. 2020 was a marker for many companies to bet on growth, digitalization, going full steam ahead, big plans, and then the world fell silent.
That this would have an impact on our economy and way of doing things was something everyone realized pretty quickly, but that it would be so drastic and that it would take so long no one dared to predict.
This was also very difficult for Link2Europe as an organization. Both our staffing operations and the service check office quickly experienced a major impact. But how long would it last?
Natascha and her team were immediately presented with challenges that were very different from what they had expected. Communication with clients, temps, cleaning ladies, individuals, ... many questions from all sides, without real answers. Different changes and rules every week or every month. Meanwhile, we all tried to save the furniture, find new customers where there was still work, support people who were "stranded" in Belgium...
However, nothing much came of our very ambitious business plan and exponential growth. There was no panic, but some concern. Our Link2Europe fiscal year runs from April to March. A whole accounting corona year pushed our annual revenue down by about 40%. How long can we keep this up? And how can we keep all our employees on board. Those were our main concerns.
Finally during August 2021 the skies cleared. During the Corona period, Link2Europe did not sit idle. We maintained a presence on social media, ran communications and marketing campaigns, continued prospecting and market presence. And suddenly, we got one request after another. Between August 2021 and December 2021, no less than 120 new temps started up and it was all hands on deck to match the sudden high demand in the labor market and the search for international talent. In record time, about 5 new recruiters and 2 additional consultants were recruited so as not to miss the train racing by.
Everyone went to extremes and long and very long days were knocked around. Once again, I would like to thank all my staff very much for making this possible. All of the Link2Europe and Help at Home team can rightly be proud of what we have accomplished in the last 6 to 9 months.
Stay tuned for the next part - Next time: Our Future
Where does Link2Europe stand now, and where are we going? You'll read about that in a forthcoming piece on the next 5 years .....