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#2 - Semper paratus

Article by Michael Bouwens

I come from an entrepreneurial family. My grandfather founded Funeral Home Bouwens in 1927 and the company now has the third generation at its helm. I started my own business in 2003, when I was still in college. Since then, I‘ve always been an entrepreneur.

The personal requirements - in terms of character and attitude - to become successful as an entrepreneur have been explained to me at a very young age. But please note: by successful I do not mean achieving a certain financial status or position in society. For me, being successful means, just as my grandfather and father have told me: knowing what you stand for and sticking to it. Never deviate from your deeply rooted core values. And moreover: expect the people around you to respect and promote these values. The latter may sound a bit authoritarian, but as the owner of a company you must explicitly decide what your company should look like. What the culture is and how you want your people to present themselves as a representative of the company. Evidently there should be room for personal characteristics, own interpretation and authenticity, but it is imperative that every employee has a fit with the culture and is comfortable with it.

"Family businesses have a certain responsibility to give (back)."

In addition to defining and nurturing culture and core values, other success factors - you see them in many family businesses - include a long-term focus and strategy, attention to retention and development of employees, investing and innovating in challenging economic times instead of cutting costs, and a strong social commitment. As you can see, the common denominator of these factors is that the level of success is - again - not based on financial parameters, but on (social) impact. On how they make a difference and on how they add value and contribute. Perhaps you could even say - or at least this is how we experience it - that family businesses have a certain responsibility to give (back).

I am not going to mention every core value of our - almost one hundred year old - family business. But there is one - the personal motto of my late grandfather - that should not remain unmentioned and that is semper paratus. Always being there for others - your own people, customers, suppliers and consciously your family - has been the true foundation of our businesses. It is a way of life that - I think also in non-family businesses - strongly contributes to personal happiness and satisfaction.