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Carl Becquet gets out of bed at 6 am every day. He lives near the office and always arrives at work an hour before everyone else. During that hour, he does things he would not otherwise be able to: concentrates on finding prospects, puts together offers, places orders to Sweden.
Axelent was a ’Folke-style’ family company, says Carl. That family mindset is important to Carl. It means that you are working for something special and that you “can sense the presence of the Axelsson family in the company”, as he himself puts it.
“Even though the company has grown over the years and you always need to find new ways forward, that family-run feeling remains a part of the company”.
In 2003, Carl Becquet founded Axelent Belgium, and five years ago, Mats Hilding called Carl and asked him if he also wanted to take care of the Dutch market. He did, and today Carl is CEO of Axelent Benelux.
“Our core values are strong, some of our employees have been working together almost from the very beginning. I have built up a very tight-knit team here. But it has been a challenge to bring the Belgian and Dutch teams together. It was three years before I felt that they were really integrated. Today, we have an international feel, but it is a challenge to combine mentalities from different countries and make them work together. You always have find the right balance between business and private life, but you also need to maintain the right mentality and the team spirit. It is important to ensure that everyone is working according to the same values and that the perception of what kind of company Axelent is the same for everyone”.
Axelent Benelux, with the subsidiary Axelent Netherlands, has been wholly owned by Axelent AB since September 2015 and now has sales of 10 million Euro. When Carl describes the story of Axelent’s success, he points to the sector itself as one key aspect. The safety sector is simple, he says, because people always need safety solutions. A second aspect is that Axelent has always developed new products, even when the existing products sold well.
“A third aspect is all the entrepreneurs that Axelent has engaged around the world, who all work very hard to achieve their goals. 25 percent of sales come from Scandinavia, but the rest come from companies all over the world. Then you need people you trust. Trust is one of the reasons I stay at Axelent. And one of the reasons I work in Sweden. Swedes may not be the most social people in the world, but they are always polite and you can trust them”.
Carl remembers his first sales meeting in 2004, where he would present his figures of the Belgian organisation.
“I estimated that we would place orders to Sweden amounting to at least 1 million Euros that year and remember how everyone’s jaw dropped to the floor when I said that. They stared at me, mouths open, probably wondering what kind of crazy, over-ambitious person I was. But the fact is that we managed to even exceed my estimates that year”.
Carl’s work day ends at 7 pm. So he is not only the first one into the office in the morning, he is also the last to leave.
“But I never really stop working. When I was young, I could get up in the middle of the night and write down something that came into my head, but I don’t do that anymore. But the job is a part of me.”
“In the beginning, I packed up the orders that came in and sent them out myself ”.
Carl started working for the Axelsson family way back in 1987 after he was contacted by Stefan Axelsson’s father, Folke Axelsson, who ran Troax at the time.
“I took a plane to Sweden to meet Folke, who had established the company in Germany and the Netherlands by that time. The next step was to get something going in Switzerland and Belgium. We reached an agreement we both liked, and my company became a distributor for Troax products in Belgium”.
Carl remembers his first office: six square metres, documents were sent by fax, and he sat behind one of the first, big clumsy computers from IBM. The office was in an office centre with a shared switchboard operator.
“1994–1995 we moved into an office with storage in the same building. It was a fantastic experience”.
When Troax was sold to an investment company, Carl decided it was time to leave.
“I had a few other things in motion at the time, but when Folke heard that I had left Troax, he called me up and said he wanted to work with me to start Axelent in Belgium. Axelent was a family company, which was exactly what I liked”.
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