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3/6/2019 - Posted in Strand Associates

How we remained a Trends Gazelles throughout a turbulent 2017 and 2018

Trends Gazelles for the 4th time in a row

Strand is ranked 5th in the category “mid-sized companies in Antwerp” once again. Moreover, Strand is the number 1 multi-specialist in recruitment and consultancy in its category. Needless to say we are over the moon! Especially because our last two years of growth were no walk in the park.

Looking back…

Since our first nomination back in 2016, a lot has changed. As a company in full expansion, the world was at our feet. We were looking at new business units, a new office, new markets … Back then, Trends still categorized us a small company, but we had big dreams.

Of course, the transition from start-up to scale-up is challenging. We experienced this firsthand in 2017 & 2018. Our rapid, organic growth made it painfully clear that we weren’t the mean, lean start-up anymore. We lacked clear procedures, career paths, company structure and some leadership skills too. It generated irritation and some good people left. The first step to get back on track was owning up to the mistakes made and learn from them!

People first!

What we lacked in organizational maturity, we made up for in attitude. Our mission: reboost the organic growth! 

Never change a winning team! But keeping that team together is a challenge in an industry known for its high churn rate. The solution is as simple as it is difficult; really put your (good) people first and they will stay! Growing Strand year after year is not an individual performance, it is a team effort. In the spirit of collaboration, we like to share four key take-aways that helped us boosting colleagues’ engagement.

1. Challenge your leadership

I am confident stating that we have a talented leadership team at Strand. Yet, most of us are young in terms of age and experience. One of the best decisions we took in 2018 was accepting external help. First of all, we got help from amazing, experienced business coaches. Secondly, we called upon the experience of long-term Strand consultants at our clients. A lot of our colleagues do projects at big multinationals, so they have incredibly valuable insights in how big corporations run their businesses. By being humble and open to learn, it is amazing to see how engaged colleagues are if you ask for feedback!

2. Shift from "employees" to "partners"

At Strand, we hate the word “employee”. I can’t fully explain why, but it denotes a relationship where one is superior over the other. Of course we have a hierarchy, but we nurture a culture where everyone has a strong internal locus of responsibility. Every single colleague is the face of Strand at the client. To ensure continuity, we collaborated with multiple of our consultants to win 2 big staffing projects in Pharma and Engineering in 2018. Selling Strand is not their job, but you can imagine how involved every colleague felt, especially when getting recognition from our CEO!

3. Stretch your budget

If you are all about putting people first, you need to invest in them. By giving back, you achieve more. In 2018 we spent well over € 80 000 on events & goodies for our colleagues. Because of the nature of our business, a lot of Strandies work remotely at clients. To create a true family feeling we needed to bring everyone together as often as possible. That is why we organized a Tour de Strand by kayak on the Semois, we brewed a Strand beer, we went skiing, we organized beach volley after-works, we organized an amazing Christmas Party … Our family has never been closer!

4. Do. Feedback. Learn. Repeat.

When it comes to putting people first, don’t loose yourself in (HR) strategies. Start with simple things; show interest in their work, ask how they are, celebrate birthdays, go for a lunch together … Whatever you do, ask for feedback, but more importantly do something with it. After a year full of events, we gathered extensive feedback and optimized our 2019 events accordingly so they fit the need of our Strandies.

Celebrating 10 years

Though 2017 and 2018 were tough, we never stopped growing; from a small company in 2016 to a strong mid-sized SME in 2018. We can truly say this is because our people went the extra mile!

2019 will be a year full of celebration! We are having our 10th anniversary, so being nominated as a Trends Gazelles for the 4th time in a row just adds to the fun. The best thing of all is that we are just getting started …

- Tom Vanhecke, Marketing Director

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