How the newly renovated HQ office reflects Aptco Group’s values and its vision 

Q&A Interview with Kathleen de Kegel, CFO and Fien Fourneau, HR Coordinator at Aptco Group

“We aimed to create a workplace where people enjoy being. And, of course, a beautiful office or a well-equipped workspace certainly contributes to that.

Kathleen De Kegel

In 2017, Aptco Group relocated to Nazareth, where it settled in a unique location. Before the building was transformed into an office, it served as a showroom for handbags. The unique spatial design quickly resulted in many spaces being underutilized and inefficiently used. With the goal of creating high-quality, efficient, and flexible workspaces, Aptco Group enlisted the services of the interior architects from Het Kantoor van Morgen. The brand-new office was officially opened in early 2023. Following an exclusive tour by Kathleen and Fien, who were instrumental in the renovation, the conversation shifted to one of the brand-new spaces for further discussion. 

Kathleen De Kegel (51) has seventeen years of experience at Aptco Group. As the Chief Financial Officer (CFO), she is responsible for the financial aspects of Aptco Group. Additionally, she is involved in general administrative management, accounting processes, and human resources policies, which she oversees in collaboration with Fien Fourneau. Fien (33) works already for two years as Human Resources Coordinator within Aptco Group. She serves as the primary point of contact for various personnel-related inquiries, payroll, recruitment, and selection for all companies within Aptco Group. You might be wondering what could be so interesting about a conversation regarding office spaces that would warrant an entire article.

Well, as we have come to expect from Aptco Group, it is a multifaceted project with a focus on providing exceptional sales and service for customers and suppliers while placing those who use the space most at the center.

First and foremost, the new office looks stunning. What were the initial reactions? 

Kathleen: It was delightful. We have WhatsApp groups with colleagues. There was a colleague who made a video just after everything was set up and the furniture was in place. My phone was buzzing all evening. All the pieces of the puzzle fell into place. Everyone was very enthusiastic. From various quarters, we heard that the new office felt cozy primarily. 

Fien: Indeed, the office is now filled with color. There’s plenty of natural light, plants, and even some artworks. It’s great that the architects played with our atypical structure, creating a pleasant dynamism that you won’t easily find in other offices. 

How did you come to the decision to undertake these renovations? Was it a project that had been on the back burner for a while? 

Kathleen: Initially, I am, of course, the sponsor. I am responsible for the financial aspects of the renovations, although it quickly involved much more.   

After our move in 2017, the rear building, where the warehouse and labs are now located, needed to be renovated. We had configured the main building into a co-working space with flexible desks. Although this setup was certainly pleasant, we noticed that it didn’t align with the work context. Some employees need to make many phone calls, and they required individual spaces. Conducting a video call or a brief meeting was very challenging. Additionally, there was no suitable space for large group meetings. 

Fien: Aptco Group’s growth has also played a significant role. When a company grows, the service must naturally grow with it. 

Kathleen: Absolutely! In Begoniastraat, we had twenty people in the office. Currently, the team of Aptco Group shared services itself comprises approximately sixty individuals. At the same time, the office needs to function as a meeting place for the companies within Aptco Group. Through the renovations, we aimed to address those aspects. 

The building has changed in many ways. Does it align with your expectations regarding a workplace and the employees? 

Kathleen: We aimed to create a workplace where people enjoy being. Work is a significant part of life. And, of course, a beautiful building or a well-equipped workspace certainly contributes to that. My goal is that when we hire someone new, they should primarily be happy here. We, at Aptco Group, believe that this is the starting point for enjoying and excelling in one’s job. 

Fien: The more energy people derive from their job, the more they can contribute to the results themselves. Furthermore, the renovations offer many more possibilities. Various companies are part of Aptco Group. All these companies work together at the same table. One day, you may sit next to someone from Benelux Scientific, while the next day, you could be facing someone from GrafiMedics, LHM Instrumentation or Calibration Lab. 

Kathleen: We aim to promote cross-pollination between people and companies. This synergy allows companies and colleagues to learn from each other, share ideas, and pick up on innovations. 

“We are a company that embraces challenges, which entail all sorts of changes and naturally requires flexibility from its employees.”

Kathleen De Kegel

Fien: I also believe that the new layout plays a significant role in this regard. Previously, we tended to choose the same spaces, which kept the divisions between the companies clear. Now, I see that these divisions have dissolved. Of course, if you want to have a team meeting or a brief discussion, there is ample space for that. 

Kathleen: We have all the tools to facilitate collaboration. Standing or sitting desks, large screens, training rooms, large meeting rooms, and focus areas for concentrated work. Essentially, everything is available in one building. Whether you work in sales, as a technician, or in administration, we have ensured that everything is in place to perform your job perfectly. 

Delving deeper into the company culture, you mentioned that it’s important to create a workplace where people enjoy being. How does this manifest itself? 

“The first thing that comes to mind is an open culture driven by optimism and loyalty.”

Fien Fourneau

Fien: Everyone who works here should feel at home and find their place. I think we have succeeded in that regard. Flexibility and trust play a role. We give employees the freedom and responsibility to perform their jobs as independently as possible. 

Kathleen: That’s definitely true. At the same time, we expect it in return. At our company, we actively embrace challenges, which often entail various changes and naturally demand flexibility from our employees. 

How do the values of Aptco Group translate within the new office? 

Fien: The first thing that comes to mind is an open culture driven by optimism and loyalty. We strive for customer-friendliness and flexibility in everything we do for our customers, suppliers, and employees alike. We really enjoy working with each other in an informal, open and fun environment where everyone feels appreciated and loves to come to work.  

Kathleen: Indeed, our unwritten values transpare in the way we work and the vibe in the office. We want to go that extra mile to create additional value for everyone involved with Aptco Group. We aim for greatness, and we think along from start to finish to offer the best product, service, and most valued job to our customers, suppliers, and employees alike. 

Photography credits: Jens Compernolle, Sightways.