The company celebrated its 40th anniversary last year. "My father started the company in 1976, when he turned 50," says Lieven De Groote. "It was a powerful example of perseverance, because 6 years earlier he'd had a major accident which kept him out of the running for years."
From thistles to road markings
However, it was rather coincidental that the De Groote family ended up in this sector. "My father and his brothers were active in the 1950s in combating thistles and nettles, mostly along watercourses. One day they took their lunch break in Drongen under the bridge of the highway. They heard an engine running, went looking and saw men drawing lines on the road. Because plenty of highways were being built then, there was plenty of work to go around." The De Groote brothers also bought that type of machine and went to work themselves.
Growth and diversification
From the first day that my father started working for himself, I went along," says Lieven De Groote. "In '83 I joined the company full-time and in '94 I took over. We then had 5 employees. Today we have over 30. The lion's share of our work is still road markings. From ordinary road paint in various colours over thermoplastic for intensive use to ribbed markings for better feel and audibility. We also apply markings at car parks and in businesses and sports halls. But because the outside work is strongly weather-dependent - it's waiting for the first paint that adheres to a wet surface - we've also started looking for other activities. At the request of a customer, we started to install iron barriers and we gained name recognition in that market. Meanwhile, the wooden crash barriers are also on the rise. A third activity is the sale of marking machines."
Look ahead and stay on the ball
Wegmarkeringen De Groote started in Ghent and then moved to Nazareth. Lieven De Groote: "I had bought a farm there. Fortunately, my wife was far-sighted, because we'd certainly have had environmental problems there. That's why we bought land in Deinze 20 years ago, where we expanded in 3 phases - each time there was money. We've had our office building here for 12 years. The arrival of the third generation has, however, been less gradual. Two years ago, I was suddenly struck by triple pneumonia. That day Fréderic decided to come into the business. Christophe, our eldest son, works in another company where we train race horses.
Vandelanotte is an active partner and a sounding board
"There are four companies in our group," continues Ann Dessein. "I enter all purchase and sales invoices. Britt Simon does a monthly check, before I do the VAT declaration for the group. But Vandelanotte also does the year-end closing of the four companies and looks at the investments and depreciations. It's important that they track the evolution of our company and also make proposals themselves that we wouldn't think of. The fact that Vandelanotte doesn't just support us with accounting is something that came about gradually. That's logical, because they have a very broad service. We use the HR part less because we can go to the Belgian Construction Federation. But if I get an inspection in connection with social security or working hours, I will certainly check with Vandelanotte how they would deal with this. I like two opinions. Meanwhile, our permanent contacts at Vandelanotte have become real confidential counsellors, who also assist us privately with all our family members' tax returns. On our referral, not only did our friends of Transport Van Renterghem become customers, but Vandelanotte also became a partner in the De Prijkels Business Zone."
The self-driving car is not the end but the future for our sector.
Lieven De Groote
Self-driving car needs lines
Now that the succession is assured, the company dares to look ahead. "Our future is determined by two factors: finding good staff and having enough work. The first isn't self-evident. This isn't a 9 to 5 job, and that flexibility sometimes scares people. On the other hand, my father's first employee is still working here 40 years later! I'm not worried about enough work now. My father once said that we would have work for the rest of our lives. But when the self-driving car was invented, I thought we were at the end of our story. However, nothing is less true, because that Google car can only drive where there are lines. The road markings will therefore have to be better in the future than they are now, and be extended to the smallest street," concluded Lieven De Groote.