How it began... 15 years of Link2Europe: 2007-2012
People regularly ask me sometimes ... How did you get the idea to do this? Actually, this is somewhat of a confluence of circumstances. Since 1992 I have been active in the staffing sector and worked for the now "defunct" company Vedior.
At Vedior, there was a real entrepreneurial mentality. You did what you could and what you thought was right, within a certain region and within a framework. After many years working within an office and district environment as a manager, I mostly got my energy from starting up and trying new things.
My fellow sales managers knew this and so in 2004, a specific automotive customer in Ghent asked if we could recruit in Poland. Bottleneck jobs are of all times and the manager in question came to me with this question, as I liked to work on the "speciallekes". It was the time after the year 2000 and by then a lot of former "Eastern" European countries had joined the EU. So the question was not even that crazy.
My then CEO at Vedior was a man of few words. When I put this question to him, his answer was, "Well Igor, you'll have to go to Poland then."
Recruit in Europe & employ in other countries
And so it happened. In this way I came into contact with a completely different branch of sport that apparently also existed. Recruiting in Europe and employing in other countries. Of course, the Dutch had been doing this for much longer and this way of working had been highly developed by the Dutch since 1999. No less than 4 offices of the then Dactylo Netherlands, in the Silesia area focus on recruiting "German" Poles who could already work in Europe for much longer.
In the city of Opole you found (and still find) about 100 recruitment companies targeting mainly the Dutch, but also the German labor market. High time, therefore, that 1 Belgian also "settled" there.
The launch of Link2Europe
Then in 2007, based on the demand and my experience, I decided to set up my own company that would exclusively offer this service. The big staffing companies did not know how to make a clear strategic choice in this area and this made me decide, after 15 Years, to say goodbye to Vedior and together with some investors to bet on this niche market.
Link2Europe was born and the Polish recruitment office was also opened in early 2008.
Besides myself, I obviously needed someone who spoke Polish and could assist me with the introduction and welcoming of the first employees. Support has always been one of the important pillars of our organization. Monika became the first employee and with 2 we started to build the operation from a small office in Puurs.
2007 and also 2008 was a booming year in Belgium in terms of economic growth. Soon we had some big clients and employed about 30 people. But soon we also saw black snow in those early years. At the end of 2008 and in 2009, we had the severe banking crisis and economic growth was over. That first "crisis" caused a sudden drop in cooperation with some logistics and industrial companies. To make matters worse, one of our largest customers in the food sector (an industrial bakery) literally "exploded" where we employed a large number of people. Apart from the dramatic personal consequences for the company and its employees, this also meant no more work for a large part of our remaining temporary workers. It would take at least 6 - 9 months before the company could be rebuilt.
The service check office Help at Home
To keep our heads above water, and as circumstances allowed in May 2009, we then started the Link2Europe Help at Home service office, where we focused on the Polish cleaning lady who was widely known in the Antwerp area.
In the meantime, our team had expanded to include Inge Schokkaert, my right-hand man, who was able to take care of all the administration and, as my American uncle described it during a visit, "She keeps you out of trouble." And she still does.
Fortunately, after a very difficult 2009, we had the wind in our sails in 2010. We gained some pretty big clients, references were growing and it was time to develop future plans, further refine budgets and work on the strategic growth of the company.
Monika decided to head the service checkout office and in Puurs the time was ripe to build a steadfast team that could support our growth. At that time, Dominika and Sandra also started. With both of them, together with Inge, they ran the office, took care of the welcoming, administration and matching of candidates and I could fully focus on prospecting new clients, arranging the accommodation practically and building the strategy and future.
Our Board of Directors was expanded to include Dirk, and my associates Roger and John also assisted me with practical matters and negotiations with banks. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Christel did the necessary accounting follow-up from the offices of LIS.
The team continued to expand and Johan also came on board to take care of all practical matters concerning logistics and housing. Quite a help because screwing together beds and fixing washing machines was not really my thing.
Link2Europe is unstoppable
Our company grew and we employed between 70 and 120 temporary workers. The service check office also had about 50 cleaning ladies around 2012.
It then felt like: we are finally on track and our business strategy and vision began to "live."....
Igor Van Assche
Stay tuned for the next part - Next time: 2012 - 2017