Given that he grew up the son of a diplomat and one of six children, one could say Joep was pre-destined for an international career with a large organisation. After studying economics in Leuven and Louvain-La-Neuve, he gained international marketing and business development experience working for some of the biggest names in the financial services industry including American Express, Paribas and Citibank, Fortis and BNPP in London, Paris, New York and Brussels. In March 2011 he swapped an organisation of almost 200 000 colleagues for one of closer to 20 and joined Namahn as a partner.
How did your upbringing influence your choice of career?
My childhood was largely spent living abroad, which nurtured my natural curiosity and openness to new experiences and people. My father’s advice of “do whatever you want to do but do it well”, certainly left enough room to pursue my eclectic interests and so I found myself going from small business advisor, to financial management consultant, to international marketer, to strategic alliance negotiator etc. … in locations ranging from Brussels to Mexico and from Sidney to Stockholm.
How did Namahn enter your radar?
Synchronicity! A number of long term evolutions came together at the right time. Over the years, my work in marketing and cross-channel distribution led me to appreciate the importance of a conscious and pragmatic design effort with the user as a starting point. Having worked for large organisations, it became obvious success could only be achieved in a highly collaborative way. At a personal level, I was looking for a professional solution where I could do what I loved without forsaking those I loved. At the same time, my many conversations over the years with Joannes had convinced me that I could make a useful contribution to the further qualitative and quantative development of Namahn and luckily Kristel and he agreed.
What is you view on teamwork?
I function best in a team and I am convinced you need collaborative environments in business to get things done. At the different organisations where I worked, our greatest successes derived from close teamwork between IT, Business, Operations and other teams. Sadly, in many organisations adversarial relationships continue to be the norm. One of Namahn’s key contributions in design projects is precisely fostering and enabling collaboration between different parts of our clients’ organisations. It is also hugely important that Namahn itself functions as a real team. At Namahn, people are not recruited only on skills: their attitude, energy levels, enthusiasm and way of looking at the world are also all hugely important.
What does your role as a partner entail?
A partner in a smaller firm has to be flexible and do whatever is needed. While we have divided the main roles and responsabilities between Joannes (marketing and sales), Kristel (knowledge management) and myself (the rest), each one of us jumps in where needed. We also ensure that each of the partners is actively engaged in client projects. This is part of our continuous effort to ensure we deliver the highest possible level of quality to each of our clients. My long experience of being on “the client side” definitely helps in this regard.
How do you relax outside work?
I have a wide variety of interests in work as well as in play. One activity I particularly enjoy is cooking. Beyond the challenge of getting better at transforming and combining ingredients, the main satisfaction comes from the joy of eating together with family and friends. Sharing is an intrinsic part of the pleasure. I like to experiment while at the same time attempting to master Belgian classics. I have even found inspiration for Service Design in the world of gastronomy. My best dining experiences have included a level of perfection and skill at creating delicious dishes, but also exceptional service. Service design is certainly present there, whether consciously or unconsciously.
And do you miss international life?
I don’t have to … my life remains very international and not just during vacation periods. Many of our clients have an international scope and projects have already taken me to places like New York, Paris and Vietnam.