This is the Sweet Mustard origin story
When like-minded souls come together, ideas come to life. Sweet Mustard is the result of a partnership between two companies with the same vision. Today, we use innovative technologies and the latest methodologies to help companies grow across a wide range of industries. Sweet Mustard Managing Partner Lander Bouten and mateco CIO Didier Dhaenens reveal the origins of Sweet Mustard.
Why not help other companies, too?
How did you think of creating a tech company out of a machine rental company? Easy: it was all to do with a shared passion for new technologies and innovative ways of working. Didier Dhaenens talks about the needs of mateco, a company operating in Belgium under the name TVH Equipment. "TVH used to be one big ship with a single IT department. This resulted in two business units, each with its own focus: TVH Parts and TVH Equipment. We wanted to invest in the technological acceleration of TVH Equipment and mateco. A digital transformation would help us to save costs, add value in terms of revenue, attract talent through technological innovation and more. This would pave the way for e-commerce, smarter use of data and the development of scalable, modern applications for employees. To do this, we needed additional technical expertise in the short term.
Lander Bouten adds: "mateco was on the verge of a major transformation project and was looking for partners, knowledge and skills to help make that happen. They called on Cronos aan de Leie, a local entity of De Cronos Group that focuses on West and East Flanders and Northern France."
Didier continues: "We soon realised the knowledge we gained, the products we built and the architecture we set up could also add value to other companies. This is how Sweet Mustard was born – as a joint venture between Cronos aan de Leie and TVH. Our vision at the time was that the solutions, services and methodologies developed for mateco could also serve as digital accelerators in other organisations. That vision has become a reality today."
More experts, stronger impact
According to Lander, it constituted an interesting opportunity for both parties. "For mateco, it was crucial to attract knowledge and talent quickly. Sweet Mustard could make more impact through growth. We grew rapidly: after six months, we had nine people on board. After one year there were 30 of us. This growth happened very organically, with Cronos aan de Leie’s philosophy at its heart: based on a modern way of working with multidisciplinary teams and an innovative approach."
Entrepreneurship and an innovative approach
This philosophy fits perfectly with mateco's vision, states Didier: "mateco is committed to entrepreneurship, a core value they share with Sweet Mustard and Cronos aan de Leie. The departments in the different countries within our group have the freedom to grow and be successful in their own way without being managed from the top down. Our people are given all the tools and opportunities they need but can follow their own path."
"We were also able to do innovative work on a technological level. Although we can usually see whether there are any existing legacy systems to build on, mateco offered us the luxury of a blank canvas. We had a clear vision for the future: we looked five years ahead and chose the technology that would help us at that time."
Why a joint venture?
Why start a joint venture rather than look for new people or train them internally? To Didier, the benefits are clear. "There are technological advantages, such as Cronos’ knowledge of state-of-the-art architecture that we can rely on. In the end, it’s all about people. Our collaboration with Cronos aan de Leie and Sweet Mustard gave us intelligent, brilliant people with expertise in future-oriented technologies on a European scale, such as event-driven architecture (EDA). This has helped us to set things up much quicker and in the right way. Mateco does more than just IT, so without a partner on their side, this kind of transformation would be very difficult. We give talent the opportunity to thrive, even if they do stop working on the 'mateco project' after a while. What's more, this long-term collaboration and partnership are a solid basis on which we can continue to build."
Lander: "It is great to have a partner and customer like mateco for Sweet Mustard. There is true synergy here. We have the opportunity to coordinate things as one team, so we can inspire and cultivate talent. We believe we need to give young talent the opportunity to grow by surrounding them with the right people and connecting them with experienced experts. This collaboration gives them the opportunity to grow and learn. At first, they do this in the context of the mateco project. Afterwards, their talents can move between mateco and other clients. This also allows their knowledge and expertise to increase over the years."
“The local aspect is also a real bonus in our collaboration,” Didier adds. "As local partners, we are more productive and creative because we can challenge and motivate each other in real life as well. We truly believe in the human aspect and the added value of face-to-face contact, even though there are many technological ways to work together remotely."
“That's absolutely the case,” confirms Lander. "Connection, interaction and sharing ideas are essential for coming up with solutions as a team! This also builds a close group of employees who pull together to truly go for it as a team."
Part of the bigger picture
And the fact that Sweet Mustard is part of Cronos aan de Leie? This also has its advantages, states Didier. "On the one hand, there are the obvious factors: people, knowledge and expertise. However, in addition to their consultancy role, Cronos aan de Leie also provides continuous inspiration: they bring professionals together and offer a network of knowledge on all levels, from software developers to CIOs. It’s truly a long-term partnership – we are partners who constantly push each other to become stronger."
What can we expect in the future? Didier: "To date, we have already written a great story together in terms of technological innovation. Our current ambition is to make the most of this investment to generate more value for the business. Our goal is to stay ahead of others in the market, for example by making clever decisions based on the data we have collected. We now need to be able to reap the fruit of our collaboration and find the added value through technological opportunities. In the joint venture, we want to serve as a customer case to support the growth of Sweet Mustard and the other Cronos aan de Leie companies, as this also benefits us. This is why we are planning to make that growth truly sustainable."
This is also the type of growth Sweet Mustard is focusing on, states Lander. "We need to achieve exponential growth with new technological opportunities and other chances. We should not be afraid to keep evolving or questioning ourselves. We need to break away from what we set out to do five years ago and rethink what we can do even better."
West Flemish family business mateco operates in Belgium under the name TVH Equipment. Since 1969, the company has sold, rented out and serviced aerial platforms, lift trucks, excavators and other equipment for companies in all kinds of industries, from event organisers to gardeners. Under the slogan rent, buy, or learn from a friend, they support customers domestically and abroad with services, consulting and training, and make more than 40,000 machines available for rent.
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