In Man behind the machine we give our staff the opportunity to talk about their work here, their colleagues, and what makes them tick in their free time. We also ask them to pose with an object that typifies their job. This time we’re putting our Managing Director Bart Aerens in the spotlight. He brought along a pair of binoculars.
Why did I choose binoculars? They symbolise focus and creativity, show the unseen and help us reinvent ourselves, both as human beings and as a business. Managing a business is much more than simply delegating. It is learning, integrating and inspiring in a way that is tailored towards individual staff and clients; looking together at what direction we want to go in, and at what we are capable of. That’s the best thing about my job.
Engineering continues to excite and fascinate me. Nothing beats coming up with solutions during a tendering phase and already visualising in your mind how they will work. When we launch a project and I think about our people actually creating and building something, I still get goosebumps! Yes, even after all these years.
“Even now I still get goosebumps every time we launch a project.”
We make machines that don’t exist yet: how do you put a price on that? I’m aware that this puts a considerable amount of pressure on our staff, which is why I always take final responsibility, even though I’m not a fan of that term. I act as a sounding board and liaison between staff and clients.
The fact that I have been through the whole journey in prototype engineering – from mechanical and hardware engineer to technical and commercial project leader – quickly instils a feeling of confidence in clients. I know from experience exactly how a machine works, which screw is missing, or how to weld. In term of managing staff, I have taken a specific management course and learnt a great deal from IMA’s former owner. A business is only as strong as its people, and I am incredibly proud of our exceptional team.
The manager behind the machine
Staff are not machines. For me, their attitude is far more important than their technical know-how. I prioritise the wellbeing of my staff, based on three core pillars: how they feel about their job, the working atmosphere, and competitive remuneration. In other words, everyone should feel good and respected and have access to the necessary resources and materials. And all this should be achieved without compromising the overarching interests of the business.
With us you don’t operate as an individual; it’s as a team that we work wonders for our clients. I think it’s important to have a working atmosphere in which subjects such as ambitions, evaluations and obstacles – both professional and private – can be broached. At least once a year, I go for a walk in nature with each member of staff. This fosters valuable discussions.
“A business is only as strong as its people, and I am incredibly proud of our exceptional team.”
Humanising engineering in a way that is tailored to the client, and deploying human engineers? Absolutely! A job that you enjoy is one you do well, and this benefits our clients. In this way we create a win-win situation for everyone concerned.
The dream behind the manager
It’s true that I have a competitive streak. This certainly comes out when I’m playing tennis in my spare time: it’s not that I have any lofty ambitions in the sport, but I’m always motivated to beat my friends! With IMA, there are numerous possible openings ahead of us. Currently there are still plenty of opportunities in our own region, but I don’t rule out an international breakthrough if the time is right. “First we take Maldegem, then we take Berlin!” 😉