share this story via
This time we visited Callens, a Belgian family business located in Waregem and established in 1966.
Before entering the Callens premises, you immediately notice the company's strong human touch. You’re welcomed by a gigantic poster with the faces of the employees. Once inside the reception area, you cannot miss the picture of founders Willy & Lena Callens, which is accompanied by the strong slogan:
“Behind this company there is a history.
Behind this history there is a family.”
Bam! A wonderful opening line. Within half a century, Callens has become a fully integrated partner in heating and ventilation technology for the processing industry.
Warm and effective
With much respect for the legacy of Willy and Lena Callens, the second generation is now at the helm of this (both literally and figuratively) warm family business.
CEOs Annick Callens and Windy Moerman have a clear message: “Delivering the highest quality on the basis of expert knowledge, excellent timing and effective service is part of our DNA. This enables us to always provide our customers with what they expect from us: swiftness, reliability and security!”
“Titeca is the ideal partner for small and large family businesses to remove emotionality and approach everything from an objective and human perspective.
Alternatively, Titeca is the ideal partner to
allow some emotionality if required.”
West Flemish entrepreneurship
Initially, this company specialised in central heating and sanitary solutions for residential villas, flats, restaurants, etc. In the 1970s, Willy Callens became active in the industry; over the years, he became one of the leading suppliers of industrial heating solutions in Belgium.
“Willy was a genuine West Flemish entrepreneur. He had the courage to take risks. Willy listened to his customers and was reputed for providing high quality solutions and good service swiftly 24/7.
In 2003 we acquired a company with important values and standards. Customer intimacy continues to be one of the company’s principal basic values. At the time, the company had customers in many different sectors: private individuals, schools, restaurants, industry, government, … We quickly decided to focus on industrial customers only. We do more than regulate the temperature in a particular space. Nowadays we mainly regulate the temperature in the machine, in the production process of companies.”
From beer to cars
“Our customers are large industrial firms that require heating or cooling solutions in very diverse sectors such as the food industry, breweries, the textile industry, the timber and construction sectors, floor covering production and the pharmaceutical, automotive and petrochemical industry.
We are mainly active in Belgium. We are the market leader in Flanders and want to lead the market in Wallonia as well. We have opened a small plant in Geel and certainly have ambitions for expending to the Netherlands and northern France. We provide containerised solutions to Belgian companies active abroad (in Portugal, Lithuania, etc.) These customers then work together with a local partner for the service. We grow with our customers. We have recently acquired the Dutch company Optimum, which specialises in odour control and heat recovery technology.”
“We enjoy ourselves!”
The tasks have been divided appropriately between Windy and Annick. They complement each other well in the everyday operational organisation of the company. Together, they are each other’s sounding board to monitor the short-term and long-term strategy.
“We make all decisions together. There is strong cross-pollination between Annick and me. My sometimes impulsive entrepreneurial instinct and Annick’s rather cautious supervisory approach complement each other perfectly. By following a middle course, we have been able to achieve considerable growth without jeopardising business continuity.
We enjoy ourselves here, we’re not in it for the money. We wish to successfully pass on the business from the first generation to the third. We don’t push our three children, but answer any questions they have and especially give them the freedom to be kids.
Annick and I attach great importance to human values: honesty, courtesy, loyalty, openness and transparency. By adhering to these values, our 200 employees become our ambassadors. Many family businesses are inefficient because they focus on the wrong thing. Callens is a family business, not a business family. The company always comes first; personal issues should never interfere with the decisions made.
Big enough to cope, but small enough to care
“Over the past 50 years, we have served some 3000 industrial customers. We are the market leader in Flanders with a 50% market share. We do not impose any fixed growth targets on the company. We grow organically and look for interesting opportunities and business acquisitions. We don’t want to be held hostage by the company. We enjoy seeing our children grow up. It also gives us satisfaction to see our employees develop their career. If you’re driving in your car and you feel like you’re going fast enough, you will probably be overtaken. And if you think you’ve got everything under control, you’re not driving fast enough. To put it briefly, Callens is growing to stay one step ahead of the competition. Of course, growth is not an aim in itself. We opt for well-founded and justified growth which does not jeopardise business continuity. That’s what running a business is all about!”
Beyond the figures
“Emmanuel Titeca is a member of our advisory board. We made his acquaintance in 2001 when we acquired a competitor. Emmanuel had so much knowledge we hadn’t found anywhere else. The collaboration with Titeca enabled us to grow. We soon entrusted them with our accounting and contract management. We can also rely on them for social, legal and financial advice. Veerle is our account manager. Emmanuel has also helped us a lot to overcome the emotional issues that occur in any family business.”
“Titeca is the ideal partner for small and large family businesses to remove emotionality and approach everything from an objective and human perspective. Alternatively, Titeca is the ideal partner to
allow some emotionality if required.”
We have now been working with Titeca Accountancy for 17 years. Emmanuel Titeca understood the emotionality of founder Willy Callens when a new generation took over. So we have a very close relationship with him.”
Delegating is vital
“We receive fantastic guidance from partners such as Titeca Accountancy, our advisory board and other consultants. This enables us to delegate ever more and continuously ensure a healthy work-life balance. All of Annick’s free time goes to her family. She makes sure her children grow up in a safe and warm environment. “In addition to my family, I also like physical activity and I work out every few days. I need to exercise from time to time, as I love to go out for dinner as well. Once every two years I try to get out of the rut and go on a trip with the kids.”