“We behave as if we are still shareholders in a company for the next 100 years.”

Last modified: 30 November 2023 14:06
Hans Swinnen and Koen Haenen from 3d investors talk about their ambition to further expand in the Benelux.

Investing in companies can take various forms. There’s the well-known ‘spray and pray’ method: investing in as many companies as possible and hoping for at least one successful investment. This often comes with minimal guidance from investors to the entrepreneurs. The question arises whether entrepreneurs truly benefit from just a pool of money. It’s the advice and guidance from experienced investors that can make a difference.

The Belgian family business, 3d investors, takes a different approach to investing compared to the ‘spray and pray’ method. Instead of just providing capital, they actively guide and support the growth of the companies they invest in. This family-owned investment company, founded in 1992 by the Donck and Desimpel families, manages a portfolio that includes both listed and private equity investments, along with a focus on real estate development.

Hans Swinnen, a partner at 3d investors since 2006, emphasizes their unique approach: “We invest as a good steward would. A crucial differentiator is that we have no exit horizon. We manage family assets, assuming that 3d investors will still exist in a hundred years.”

Koen Haenen, who joined 3d investors in 2023 to expand their activities in the Netherlands, brings a diverse background in banking, corporate finance, and global operational responsibility. He highlights the importance of combining analytical thinking with strategic execution, emphasizing the need for both a keen understanding of business fundamentals and the ability to navigate the complexities of executing a strategy.

The interview also delves into the essence of being ‘passionate business builders’ rather than mere investors. Swinnen and Haenen emphasize their joy in scaling companies, working alongside entrepreneurs, and taking calculated risks to achieve ambitious growth.

The family-oriented culture at 3d investors sets them apart. Swinnen explains their philosophy: “We behave as if we’re shareholders in a company for the next 100 years.” This long-term perspective allows them to weather economic fluctuations and ensures ongoing investment in their companies, even during challenging times.

The conversation touches on due diligence, where the screening of entrepreneurs is as crucial as financial assessments. The emphasis on empathy and understanding the company’s culture sets 3d investors apart in their collaborative approach with businesses.

Discussing the concept of ‘wendability,’ Haenen explains it as the ability to swiftly decode opportunities and proactively capitalize on them. He emphasizes the importance of quick thinking, proactive decision-making, and aligning actions with the company’s long-term vision.

The interview concludes by highlighting the success of 3d investors in the Benelux region, managing to connect the dots between Dutch and Belgian companies. Swinnen and Haenen stress the universal factors that determine a company’s value, such as the quality of management, corporate culture, and effective strategy execution. They affirm that, ultimately, “it’s all about people” and share valuable lessons learned, encouraging companies to have a bold yet achievable ultimate goal, much like the famous call to “put a man on the moon.”

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