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BLOG: Luyckx. The story...


BLOG: Luyckx. The story...

This year Luyckx is celebrating the 70th anniversary of its founding. A perfect moment to get the 3 children of the founders, Louis and Céline, together for a chat about hard work, enthusiasm and what it´s like working in a pure-bred family business.

Jos, Paula and Chantal smoothly took over the torch from their parents and further expanded the family company into a specialist in the distribution of machines for civil engineering, goods handling and agriculture. Luyckx also enjoys an international reputation in the construction of special applications. A unique company with a unique story...

How did it all begin?

Jos: Both of our parents come from farming families.

Paula: But our dad was never truly interested in devoting his life to farming.

Chantal: That´s true. He wasn´t a farmer for long. Within a year after their marriage he bought his first tractor and began taking on jobs pulling out bushes and clearing forests.

Paula: That was in 1952. Our mom continued to run the farm while dad was out with his tractor from the break of dawn until late in the evening…

Jos: After a few years it began to look like there wasn´t much of a future left in forest clearance. Most of the woodlands and heather had already been converted into agricultural land. However, a new challenge presented itself: the distribution of MAN tractors.

Paula: As if that wasn´t enough, a few years later, in 1963, our dad began to import loading cranes of the Italian brand Carlo Pesci. He saw a new future in that and began mounting the loading cranes onto the back end of the MAN tractors.

Chantal: Back in those days our dad was already very innovative and with his own construction work he laid the foundation of the branch “Luyckx Special Applications”, which is still an important activity within Luyckx today.

1952: Start of forestry.

Make or break!

Jos: That´s true. When we started working together with Carlo Pesci, our father travelled to Italy. In fact, without money and without speaking a word of French or English - to say nothing of Italian. So, since he didn´t speak any other languages and had no money, he went looking for a financial backer. That´s how he came into contact with a local baron who was willing to lend him the capital to get started. Anyway, that Carlo Pesci story turned into a real success. With his first employees our father built large numbers of ‘tractor with Carlo Pesci crane’ combinations and sold them in the local region. So what happened? At a certain point, the baron insisted on getting his money back immediately, within one week. Naturally he had understood that our parents were building a success story. He thought he’d be able to take over the business and then have our parents work for him. Our father said: “No way that´s going to happen”.

Chantal: But he did have to find a way to come up with all that money within a week.

Jos: So he went to the bank - but they didn´t want any part of his ambitious story. Finally he went and asked for advice from the long-time veterinarian for his parents´ farm.

Paula: Mr. Pluim!

Jos: Who immediately provided all the money that was needed, without anything being set down on paper. Within a week the baron had his money back. It was literally a make or break situation.

Paula: So we have a great deal to be thankful for to Mr. Pluim. Total respect for the Pluim family, that´s for sure.

Jos: As of that moment, our father and mother went for it with their heart and soul.

Chantal: They were always highly complementary. Our dad saw the opportunities and had a great deal of daring, while our mom kept the finances firmly under control. Both of them with their feet on the ground.

Paula: The agricultural contractors and the farmers were frequently paid in the café at our grandparents´ farm: “The Tall Chimney”.And you have to remember that substantial amounts were involved. The investments weren’t trivial either. So all that had to be properly managed - thanks to our mom.

Jos: And she had to learn all that on her own. Our mother went to school until she was 16, and our father until he was 12!

1963: First demonstration day with a Carlo Pesci crane near Abbey of Trappists Westmalle.

By foot from Scherpenheuvel

Jos: Born entrepreneurs, you could say, who always thought a step ahead. For example, when MAN stopped as a manufacturer, they shifted seamlessly to distributing Ford tractors (the later New Holland).

Paula: In this way we could continue to serve the farmers and agricultural contractors of our region. They even came from a long way off. We sold equipment as far away as Stabroek.

Chantal: For sure.Once our dad even delivered a tractor in Scherpenheuvel and came back by foot, since they still didn´t have a car. Fortunately, his work shoes were greased with dirty oil, so they were good and flexible. (general laughter)

Jos: That’s how it was in those days. But all that effort wasn´t a problem for him. Going the extra mile for the customer lies at the basis of Luyckx.

Chantal: That immediately calls our values to mind. Character, Inspiration and Drive - I still find that they perfectly characterize our mom and dad.

Paula: They were also always on the lookout for potential opportunities. Alongside the agricultural tractor with the Carlo Pesci loading crane they also began importing the Hydromac excavators, which allowed us to significantly expand our customer base between 1967 and 1982.

Jos: And it must be said, many of our customers from way back are still customers. 3rd generation!

1978: A first large order for delivery of tractors in Algeria.

What are your earliest memories of that time?

Jos: We literally grew up amongst the machines. I remember how the ‘parts warehouse’ was actually set up inside our house. And the hay bale machines were in the stable. We really lived in the middle of the business. On Friday our mother cleaned house, and when the mechanics came to pick up parts, they had to climb up via a ladder to reach the ‘parts warehouse’. They didn´t want to get the kitchen of ‘mother Luyckx’ all dirty again (laughs).

Paula: We would just run around and help out. Our parents were always working. At least, most of the time. And we did whatever we could.

Chantal: It was self-evident for us to participate in the business and that we would carry on our parents’ life´s work. They naturally passed on to us their passion for the profession and for working hard.

Jos: It was our father who was the entrepreneur and our mother who did the finances. He put the pedal to the metal and she often had to step on the brakes.

Paula: Our dad wasn´t afraid of anything. He had a lot of guts.

Chantal: Absolutely, and we can’t deny we still ask for his opinion sometimes, despite, or maybe precisely thanks to, his now being 93 years old.

When did you officially join the business?

Jos: That was in 1979. At least, for Paula and myself. Chantal, who is 16 years younger, naturally came in much later.

Paula: My dream was always to become our dad´s secretary. I had done 2 years of Secretariat & Languages, and I thought I might go along to other countries together with him in order to translate. That seemed to me like an exciting life. But it never happened (laughs).

Blood will tell...

The entrepreneurial blood of your parents was passed on to the 3 children?

Jos: To the 4 children, in fact. Our brother Marc was a true sales talent. He would have become a top salesman - but unfortunately he died far too young, at just 22, due to a very unfortunate accident.

Chantal: Indeed, our Marc was an extremely talented and likeable brother. He should have been here...

Jos: Anyway, that ‘passing on of entrepreneurship’ sort of happened naturally. In fact, our parents distributed their genes quite nicely. Paula has fully assumed the function of our mother. She’s our treasurer. She approves the financing of our innovative and sometimes bold ideas - at least most of the time (laughs).

Chantal: And Jos is just like our dad. If you give him free reign there are no limits. But... with an incredible insight into the market.

Jos: Oh, I suppose so...

Paula: And clearly also very modest. Sometimes too modest. He works 7 days a week (looks at Jos). As you see, he’s lost his tongue now. (laughs)

Jos: A bit like our parents, I think. Me with my foot on the accelerator while Paula holds the brakes. And our Chantal sitting in the middle, meddling. (General laughter)

Chantal: Yes, you can write it down just like that! Or should we call it “mediating”?

Paula: Chantal is a lot younger and from the start she took over tasks that we weren´t actively working on at that moment.

Chantal: I fully enjoyed doing so. It was a way for me to get to know every aspect of the business, from bookkeeping to the parts department, HR, IT, … Today I apply that broad interest to the further development of Luyckx, with a great deal of attention for the well-being of our colleagues. That gives me a huge amount of energy every day!

Paula: In fact, our tasks divided up naturally without us having to draw up an organizational chart or hold long discussions.

Jos: Like our parents always were, we 3 are extremely complementary as well.

And you secured the Hitachi and Kubota dealership in 1982?

Jos: That´s right, those 2 brands further boosted the growth of Luyckx. A very important step in the company’s history!

Chantal: And after that came Ammann as well, because that line was an excellent supplement for road building.

Jos: It was important to be able to offer a wide range of machines. Those who bought one machine frequently ended up buying another one as well.

Paula: Later the distribution of the truck-mounted cranes of Kennis was supplemented by Effer.

Chantal: Today we’re still active with the same brands in the 3 specialized areas: goods handling, civil engineering and agriculture. And we want to keep going with them!

Paula: They have all become very long-lasting collaborations. That’s typical of Luyckx as well: loyal customer and supplier relationships.

1954: The first welding station that was used for 13 years by our parents' first employee Jos Vinck.

From Brecht to ... the Middle East

Then in 2010 you set up a branch in the Middle East: Middle East Crane. Hardly a small step... How did Luyckx end up doing that?

Jos: Here´s what happened. Luyckx has actually always focused on development. Our father was already doing so on a small scale and we’ve continued this philosophy on a somewhat larger scale, let´s say. The big contractors and dredgers challenged us to adapt excavating machines to the needs of their job sites. In this way we began conceptualizing, designing and building numerous so-called ‘special applications’. In part we were surfing on the success of those customers. We started out together and shared successes together.

Chantal: That´s the way it often happens here. A customer has a special request. We analyze and search for the perfect solution as a team. The heart of our Luyckx family, and by that I mean all of our employees, begins to beat faster and our most beautiful achievements spring from that process.

Paula: Thanks to these special applications, we became involved in projects all over the world together with our customers. Until at the beginning of 2000, when we started working with our customers in the longer term in the Middle East.

Jos: Over time, demand for our ‘specials’ also came from the local customers there, which prompted us to set up a company in Dubai.

Chantal: That´s right, and 3 years after its foundation we became a dealer in Sumitomo cable cranes. Hitachi followed in 2016 and then we were really off. In the meantime, we’ve built up a team of 22 employees in the UAE.

From Brecht to the Middle East, just like that?

Jos: Well, we just sort of did it. Didn´t think about it too much, because then you might not do it at all. It´s true. It happened rather spontaneously.

Chantal: And also thanks to Wim, who took charge of our activities there and did – or rather, is still doing - a magnificent job.

Paula: Indeed, Wim is another born entrepreneur. That generates an enormous power.

Jos: It´s also necessary, because it isn´t an easy market...

Familial and human

So here we are in 2022, but there´s no resting on your laurels?

Chantal: No, standing still is going backwards. In the Middle East we recently bought another hectare and in Brecht we expanded our buildings. Our next step is moving the entire production department to new facilities about 5 km from our current site. Robotization will be embedded there as well.

Jos: So the least you can say is we aren´t standing still...

Paula: It’s proof that Luyckx isn´t stopping at 70, the saga continues!

3 children at the head of a single company. How does that work today?

Jos: It ‘works’ because our company is big enough and because our responsibilities are nevertheless adequately delineated.

Chantal: We mesh smoothly with one another, but sometimes we find ourselves at loggerheads.

Jos: Naturally, there are disagreements sometimes.

Paula: There´s no way around it. It isn´t realistic to expect that we’ll always be in perfect alignment. So there is the occasional argument ... But 2 seconds later we´re laughing again. In fact, it all works out very well.

What characterizes Luyckx?

Paula: We’re a family business through and through, a Luyckx family with a great deal of affection for one another!

Chantal: That´s right, and we aren´t directly financially driven. Of course, the figures have to add up, but we’re more focused on our passion for the work. We like to do everything we can to deliver the best possible result for our customers. And when it really matters, we’re delighted to go the extra mile.

Jos: It´s our employees who have made the company. All these talents together are the driving force behind our business from first to last.... What certainly is also typical for us is the involvement and the respect for both large and small customers. The personal contact as well. Everyone is welcome at Luyckx.

1964: The first 10 employees.

Is there a secret success formula?

Paula: It´s simply a question of hard work.

Chantal: That and our innovative spirit. Always staying a step ahead. Then, on the technical level and market knowledge, I look primarily to our Jos, who has a real nose for all of that.

Jos: (smiles slightly and remains his own modest self)

Chantal: I would add: thinking together with the customer. Applying our 70 years of expertise to take a load off our customers’ shoulders. That requires constant innovative drive. Always wanting to do better and constantly optimizing our machines and service. With our special applications and our eco applications, we’re at the forefront of what’s happening today within the sector.

Jos: We’re pioneers in that segment with our Hydrogen Dual Fuel. The know-how and expertise that we’ve put into that together with CMB.TECH is really state-of-the-art and offers a realistic interim solution on the path to zero emissions.

What does the future of Luyckx look like?

Chantal: Well, because I’m a late arrival, we’ve now got a kind of ‘one-and-a-half generation’. This ensures that an organic transition between the generations will be possible. It’s still too early to say exactly what that’s going to look like, but we are carefully preparing a secure future for Luyckx.

Jos: And the goal is really to ensure that the business remains in family hands.

Paula: That’s indeed what we’re aiming for!

What is your ultimate dream?

Chantal: That 70 years from now someone will retrieve and reread this blog post and that the soul of Luyckx will still be tangible and recognizable. We don´t dream of being the biggest, but an ultimate dream would be that Luyckx continues to fulfil its mission successfully and therefore continues to grow in a steady and controlled manner.

Jos: Indeed, do what we´re good at and keep our finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the market.

Paula: Our great strength is our flexibility for changing direction when the time is right. We have to do that constantly, always reinventing ourselves and remaining innovative. In addition, Ultimated was created: a joint venture between 3D Consult and Luyckx that focuses on 2D and 3D machine guidance.

When you look back at these 70 years, do you feel a sense of pride?

Paula: Absolutely! I see 70 years of hard work. You might not see it immediately from the facade of our company, but if you take a peek behind it, you’ll see all the things that have been achieved. And we are genuinely very proud of that.

Chantal: The most enjoyable thing I find is how the company wakes up each morning. When the lights go on and then shortly thereafter there’s this beehive of activity, this dynamism. It gives us all energy to achieve goals with a large team of colleagues! I can’t overstate how proud I am!

Jos: Yes (smiles and avoids the question)

Paula and Chantal (in unison): Come on, Jos! How can that be?

Jos: I didn´t say anything!

Chantal: That´s the point. Surely we can be proud of this?

Jos: Yes but, well.... Look, our company is built on several pillars; a very strong team of employees, being close to our customers, and offering top products and services. And maybe also financial strength. Meaning we are able to act quickly when opportunities arise.

Paula: You know, our parents have been blessed to reach a ripe old age. Actually not a day went by where they weren’t involved with the business. It’s always been their pride and joy. You could see it. That was their life.

Chantal: Passing that entrepreneurial joy on to us was their greatest gift.

Jos: They´ve always helped us with good advice... and given us a lot of freedom to continue building on their foundations. We received unconditional support. Of course we’re proud of that!