5 Years of Sweet Mustard: what did we learn?
As managing partners, Lander Bouten and Mike Seghers look back at the first five years of Sweet Mustard with great pleasure and satisfaction! As we hit this milestone, it’s the perfect time to take a moment to reflect on the company’s foundation and first steps. However, it’s also the ideal moment to look ahead to the future. What have we learned from the past years, what are achievements to be proud of, and what are our ambitions going forward?
Planting the (mustard) seed
When Cronos and TVH started thinking about setting up a joint venture five years ago, we were very interested. We both felt the urge to start a business, so when Sam Bambust, founder of the OECO Group, called us, we didn't need much convincing. Cliché but true: we got to know each other over a cup of coffee and discovered a common interest for West Flanders and all its fantastic companies. We put our ideas on paper and after just half an hour Sweet Mustard's three pillars - Cultivating Talent, Inspiring Community & Innovating Business - came to life. Five years and more than fifty employees later, they are still as firmly anchored in our (company) culture.
We were ambitious from the start and with our passion for co-creation, multidisciplinary teams and local anchorage in mind, we took the plunge. For Lander, software development was new, but Mike's experience as a developer and architect more than compensated. Mike, in turn, learned the necessary tips and tricks of business development from Lander, as well as people management skills. In short: from the moment we planted the first seed, we proved to be a complementary pair.
The first milestones
We thought carefully about our vision, starting from our own previous experiences. To us, it was very important to bring together and strengthen local talent: both young and experienced profiles. We would encourage them to grow by making room for experimentation and innovation, encouraging their own initiatives, and so on. That became the concrete implementation of the Cultivating Talent pillar. Our first hires were people who obviously took our story to heart, because most of them are still on board. Something to be proud of.
In the years that followed, we were open to both internal and external ideas and initiatives. The Cronos network continues to offer us connections and our current clients stick around or even come back for extra projects. New projects keep flowing in as well, and opportunities that are not part of our core business, such as giving guest lectures or participating in events, cross our path more and more often.
In addition, we have been actively teaching primary school children how to programme for several years now, because we believe that this is an important mission. For instance, we are a partner of Whizzkids and we founded Code@School. The building and forming of a community therefore do not stop at the walls of our office. Forget the well-known short-term collaborations; at Sweet Mustard it's all about co-creation and a strong, lasting bond of trust.
In recent years, we have learned that open communication and giving each other feedback are important points to be worked on. The more our team expanded, the more challenging it became to keep in touch with everyone. Therefore, we pursue communication through both online and offline channels. Admittedly, there is always room for improvement, but we keep working on it and feedback, as our employees know, is always welcome.
The development of specific consultancy soft skills proved to be another lesson. For some, it was quite a new world to enter, but even the more experienced profiles had to get used to the different contexts of our clients sometimes. We consider it important for everyone to be able to develop to their full potential, so we looked for suitable training and customised guidance. It is wonderful to see that many of our team members are taking the plunge themselves and ask for specific training courses or spontaneously help others.
Despite our growing pains, which are quite normal for any start-up, we soon got confirmation from different clients that we were doing great. They told us that they especially appreciate the fact that we involve both them and the ultimate end-users in the software throughout the trajectory, ensuring their commitment and adoption.
Lastly, when we see at our all-hands how colleagues take hold of their projects and continue to fight for innovative results, this naturally leads to a great feeling of pride!
On to the next five!
The next five years will be filled with what has gradually become our motto: growth. Not only in numbers - our team consists of just over fifty people - but also, and especially, in terms of initiatives. We enjoy seeing such growth immensely and we aim to support and guide every one of them through our own values. And we’re happy to say that there’s news to be shared on that front soon, so stay tuned!
Sweet Mustard itself will continue to build on the same enthusiasm: growing, optimising partnerships and refining communication. That way, great ideas can continue to emerge. We look forward to the next generation(s)!