Like a lot of people, Roel wasn’t exactly sure what he wanted to do after university, but he did know he’d like to be in a sales or marketing role and maybe even try his hand at being an entrepreneur. After meeting Chris though, the blurry vision for the future started to come into focus and Roel started working at Aexus in December 2007.
Starting off in sales, Roel was relishing his new job. Actually, at that time, Aexus was only five people, so everyone worked in sales, but he certainly felt energised by the whole operation. “I love doing business internationally,” he says. “Back then I was working with Israeli partners and US partners as well as Belgian and Finnish partners on some really cool tech.” The technology, primarily in Telco at the time, was only part of the attraction for Roel. What really lit him up was the fact that he was able to own things from day one. He’d realised his entrepreneurial spirit could flourish, even while he was inside an organisation.
“This is the way Aexus operates. From the very start, you are given the opportunity to really own your position. As soon as you are assigned to a certain task, it’s yours. It should feel like it’s your company within a company.”
As Aexus had been his first and only job, after 6 years Roel felt he needed to spread his wings and see what it was like at other companies. The years spent elsewhere helped Roel develop new skills in the field of international software sales both within larger corporates as well as midsized ISVs. As much as Roel may have enjoyed the experience, at a certain point, the time was right to get back onboard.
What makes Aexus truly unique is that it offers freedom, flexibility and new career opportunities which all appeal to the inner entrepreneur and that is something you won’t find anywhere else. “If you’re committed, engaged and take ownership, that’s what will make you a success at Aexus. Your destiny is very much in your own hands, and it is certainly not predefined by your background and experience.” Needless to say, Roel returned to Aexus.
By this time, Aexus had grown to 35 people and had started an operation in Germany. What they needed was someone to manage the entire team. It was not possible for Jos, Chris, Eric and Maaike to be looking after acquisition, working for partners, managing and nurturing people as well as everything else. It was time for Roel to step up to the plate. Roel recalls that he thought at the time:
“I love to work with teams, I love to help people perform better and if I take care of this, Aexus can really grow. Let’s do it.”
The ‘Let’s do it’ approach has sustained Roel’s work at Aexus over the last few years, and this unburdened the rest of the management team to build the business. With so much business coming on board as well as new people, there needed to be a bit of a restructure. Consequently, there needed to be more managers to look after the teams and Roel was needed to look after them. This is how his position has changed over time and he is now responsible for the wellbeing and performance of the whole team. This is not static of course, it is an ever-changing process and as the business continues to grow, the process may need to change to accommodate that. “What we definitely want to keep though is the scale up vibe and keep giving people the opportunity to take matters into their own hands.”
We already know that one of Roel’s favourite parts of Aexus is the ability to take ownership of your work and that is probably what shapes his philosophy. In his own words:
“Don’t look for excuses externally.”
What he means of course is that if something you’re doing isn’t working, then find a way around. Don’t just stop and blame the obstruction. It’s something he tries to live by himself as well as instil into the younger colleagues he is helping to nurture.
So, as we celebrate Roel’s appointment to COO, it’s probably best to leave the last words and thoughts on the future to him. “We’ll continue to look at expanding the business and opening in new territories and that means taking on new people. My commitment to the people remains the same. You will be given your opportunity to own your own work. You will always be given the chance to excel at what you do best and whatever support you need to help you be successful, we’ve got your back.”