Kortrijk IT company wants to keep West Flemish talent here: “Too much knowledge leaks away from our province”

Sweet Mustard has been specializing in building custom software for almost every major player in our province for five years now. The local character is very important to the company, because the pride of West Flanders is just visible. “There is so much talent here, but it’s a real challenge to convince the best artists that they do not have to go to Ghent or Brussels for an exciting job,” says managing partner Mike Seghers (42) from Ostend.

In an old linen factory on Leie, the Kortrijk software company Sweet Mustard, together with seven participating companies, have found shelter. Sweet Mustard is a subsidiary of Cronos aan de Leie, where Bruggeling Neal Van Maele (36) is at the helm. “Cronos aan de Leie is a kind of ecosystem of fourteen different companies, each of which forms a puzzle piece of the whole. They each have their specialty. Entrepreneurship, technology and creativity are at the core of our society. You can actually see us a bit as a main contractor who works with various smaller professionals and thus relieves the customer and provides an overview. What one cannot, the other will complete. That flexibility characterizes us very strongly, ”explains Neal.

Focus on the local

As part of the big puzzle, Sweet Mustard’s 52 team members are responsible for building custom software. “We fill in the gaps in standard enterprise software packages. You can see this very broadly: from administrative accounting programs to the machines in the production line. From the moment a lot of data collection and integration processes are involved, the basic software quickly falls short. †

We will then work with our interdisciplinary team to tailor what the customer needs. We ensure that the right information reaches the right person at the right time. And above all: in a user-friendly way. It is difficult for companies to find new people with the desired educational background. We ensure that newcomers are fully updated within two days flow We also always build on what already exists, we do not waste the customer’s time and money by starting from scratch, ”says Mike Segers. (read more below the picture)

Atmosphere of an innovation day in sweet mustard.
Atmosphere of an innovation day in sweet mustard. © Cronos on Rent

The Group’s customers are mainly located in West and East Flanders. True to tradition, our region mainly deals with family businesses in the manufacturing industry, which have grown into international players over the years. Belgium Pork Group, Daikin, Van Marcke, Vanheede … just to name a few. Apparently they also find a local partner very important for their IT problems. “First and foremost, it is always useful if you are physically close. When it has to go fast, we can usually be with the customer within an hour. But pride also plays a big role. West Flemings are known for their entrepreneurship and common sense. Our customers quickly notice that we are on the same wavelength and that we are result-oriented and pragmatic just like them, ”says Mike.

Prevention of brain drain

In order to provide all the customers with good service, the company also needs sufficient employees and that is where the problem is. Currently, there are about 30 vacancies that can be filled by more people. The need is as great as it was about two years ago, but the search for suitable people is proving to be more difficult than ever. That brain drain in our province there is already something in between. “After the world wars, we saw many machines and companies move to other regions and abroad. It was a tangible loss. Now it is happening again, but with the knowledge seeping away from our region. Our economy is increasingly digital and service-oriented. To be able to meet the demanding consumer as a company, you need technological knowledge and creativity, ”explains Neal.

A good salary is one thing, but people do not stay with a company alone for that. We make the difference through our approach

The problem is that the talented people that, among others, Sweet Mustard is looking for, often think that they have to go to the center of the country to develop. A misjudgment, Mike believes: “The war for talent is widespread in this sector. Offering a competitive salary is one thing we primarily want to excel in our approach. We do this by primarily presenting our team with challenging and exciting projects. We work very closely with the customer. They teach us how their processes work, we bring our expertise to the table and help find a solution to their specific problem. Our employees follow a project from A to Z, they see real results of their work. In addition, there are many opportunities for growth with us, where you start does not necessarily have to be the place where you end. ”

Job happens

To attract young talent, the various teams hold regular seminars at the colleges in the area, and it succeeds fantastically. But in order to guide these starters properly, experienced candidates must also find their way to Sweet Mustard and his colleagues. “The influx must remain in balance. But the current circumstances do not promote job shopping, people are now choosing security. Therefore, we are arranging a job event on May 21, where we invite interested parties with their whole family to get to know all the subsidiaries in Cronos aan de Leie. In addition to a food truck and bouncy castle, numerous employees from dozens of different functions will be on hand to answer all sorts of questions. As in everything we do, we especially want to be transparent about our operations. Everyone is welcome, a background in computer science is certainly not necessary, only interest and passion to learn. We have both bioengineers and people from the hotel and construction sector here. Come and listen to their experiences “, Mike blinks.

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