Partly due to the Covid-19, the turnover of the cleaning company Klien increased only slightly compared to the previous two years. And turnover and profit are above all the conditions for the manager-owner of the cleaning company to be socially involved.
Raymond Kouwenberg (51 years old) is certainly not the classic entrepreneur of a local cleaning company, although his beginnings can be defined as such. He was a working student who got "stuck" in the cleaning business. While studying civil engineering in 1987, he started working as a student at the cleaning company Klien in Breda, founded in 1974, where he became project manager after two years. After graduating in 1994, Kouwenberg worked for the municipality but remained in contact with Klien, where they worked exclusively with students. "Imagine: in an age without cell phones and laptops, managing, calling and scheduling eighty students," says the entrepreneur. He was good, because in 1997 he became co-shareholder of Klien BV and ten years later director-owner. In 2011, the cleaning company moved into its current almost 200 square meter premises in the De Mark business park in Breda.
On the entrance door there are the stickers 'Accredited training company' and 'We train professionals'. This is only a pale reflection of the projects Raymond Kouwenberg is busy with. To name just a few: the company is a member of nine networks, supports thirteen charities, has the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) quality seal, specifies its CO2 footprint on its website and helps people far from job market. Kouwenberg also serves seven functions on the board, including chairman of the VNO-NCW Breda, and is a city councilor for the VVD party. Kouwenberg and his cleaning company are socially involved, and he is an associate of at least twenty boards and interest groups. "Cleanliness has been the leitmotif of my life for 34 years. But there are three founding principles in my DNA: government, education and finally business. Being socially involved, helping people, is especially important to me. The trick is knowing how always find a balance between these goals and time for my family, my wife and my three children".
It seems that being socially involved as a cleaning company prevails over doing business as an entrepreneur in the sector… "No, this is the common thread and it provides the income that gives me the possibility to count something for others. Primarily I am an entrepreneur in the cleaning sector". In this role he manages a company with approximately 85 employees from a subsidiary. Seven of them work in the office, including three project coordinators for implementation. The working area covers a 20 kilometer circle around Breda. “We don't need a bigger area, because this also limits our employees' travel time.”
In 2019, the turnover was 1.7 million euros and for 2020 the forecast is 2 million euros, with a growth of 15%. Here too, the Covid pandemic has put a spanner in the works
"We lost almost €300,000, because the gyms and offices closed. We compensated for this to some extent by carrying out many sanitizations. This year, we expect to have a turnover of €2 million. We don't have a burning ambition to grow, we are not active in sales and always ask ourselves: Do we want to work there? Is this customer right for us? We prefer respected customers and also demand respect in return, towards the cleaning industry and our employees. If not, we withdraw. We have even canceled a €70,000 contract – a lot of money for a company like this – because the customer spoke disrespectfully about cleanliness and our employees."
Kouwenberg dice di voler gestire un'azienda caratterizzata da stabilità e calma. Questo sembra funzionare, perché il turnover tra i dipendenti è solo "un po' ai margini", con i nuovi arrivati che a volte si ritirano rapidamente. L'assenteismo è solo dell'1,7%.
L'imprenditore dice che lavora sempre su processi e procedure per ottimizzare la pulizia, supportato dall'informatica. "Nel 2014, tre anni dopo che abbiamo iniziato a lavorare in un vero locale commerciale, ho iniziato a esaminare i processi intorno alla pianificazione, alla timbratura in entrata e uscita, al consumo di materiale, al trattamento amministrativo e agli acquisti. I requisiti imposti dai clienti sono sempre più alti e un buon livello di soddisfazione del cliente sta diventando sempre più difficile da raggiungere. So per esperienza personale che questo è particolarmente vero per le PMI di questo settore con circa 40-60 dipendenti. Se non si digitalizza, si rimane bloccati come impresa di pulizie. Ma la digitalizzazione con l’ aiuto esterno è incredibilmente costosa per le piccole aziende, perché bisogna pagare un extra per ogni modulo. Negli ultimi anni, ho quindi costruito il mio software passo dopo passo. Per e dal settore della pulizia.
The result is that Klien-IT-Systems, led by Kouwenberg junior, has just been born under the umbrella of Klien. The software system includes all modules, including future ones, for small and medium-sized cleaning companies. The system can be rented for a fixed price: up to 100 employees for just under 300 euros per month.
C’è una relazione tra il software gestonale e il settore delle pulizie? "Sì, perché la nostra iniziativa è nata dalla mia convinzione che bisogna raggiungere le piccole e medie imprese del settore in un campo che è ancora loro estraneo, e la mancata digitalizzazione sta minacciando la loro esistenza e la loro crescita".
Da addetto alle pulizie a direttore-proprietario dell'impresa di pulizie in cui hai iniziato come studente lavoratore. Qual è l'aspetto più difficile dell'essere un imprenditore? Kouwenberg: "I problemi del lavoro. La sicurezza del lavoro per il dipendente è fondamentale, con pilastri come il pagamento continuato per due anni in caso di malattia, la transizione e un'alta indennità di licenziamento. Tuttavia, sono queste le cose che fanno paura a un datore di lavoro e che purtroppo disincentivano l'assunzione di persone su base permanente".
Kouwenberg's advice to politicians in The Hague is to make being an employer attractive again. "We have to move towards flexicurity, which is the new direction of the VNO-NCW and MKB-Nederland. A dynamic labor market, with a guarantee of social and employment security for all rather than the job itself. In other words, security to go to work and stay in work. An active labor market policy, lifelong development and modern social security to bring jobseekers back into the labor market permanently. It is now too fixed and flexible is too flexible, for both sides. We need a kind of Scandinavian society where someone can always earn an income through work or receives temporary support".
Finally, what's the best thing about being an entrepreneur? "Being socially involved as a cleaning company, getting results and translating them into added value for society," says Kouwenberg. "Helping above all by offering internships, through sponsorship, giving opportunities to disadvantaged people, supporting charities and creating a company characterized by calm and stability."