Sramana Mitra: Where did you get the money to invest?
Fred Guelen: That’s always the big secret, isn’t it? I had a very successful law practice and I made a lot of money as a lawyer. I was able to largely finance that with my own equity, and I also took a loan.
Pierre Guelen: He built his law firm from 2 persons to 150 persons. It was a very successful law firm in the Netherlands. What I did in Planon, he did in the law firm. He created a lot of value there.
Sramana Mitra: Did you sell the law firm or do you still have the law firm while you’re now working with Planon?
Fred Guelen: When I moved from the non-executive position to an executive position, I sold my law firm.
Sramana Mitra: You made money by selling the law firm also?
Fred Guelen: Correct. For the financing, I think what is important is that all earnings of the company were always reinvested in the company for further growth. We, as shareholders, never received dividends. We always reinvested the earnings into the growth of the company.
Sramana Mitra: That’s still true?
Fred Guelen: That is still true. Most of the times, there was no outside debt except for a current account financing with the bank. Last year, we had a new credit facility because we are now clearly accelerating the growth. We have secured a mid-term financing for above $10 million. We were the first Dutch company that obtained financing from the European Investment Bank, which was a fund created and managed by the European Union to stimulate research and development in the European Union.
Sramana Mitra: What else is significant in your story at this point?
Pierre Guelen: I think the most significant thing is that we found out that different countries have different approaches. By staying with one software package, we were able to deliver to all these different cultures. We were able to deliver them the same solution because our software is so configurable. That’s a great strength. I always say, “We come from a small country, so we always have to adapt ourselves.” We really complied to local laws. We were able to do that.
Fred Guelen: What it really comes down to is that the software, by design, was created for an international environment. That simply had to do with the fact that the Netherlands is a small country. Just 50 miles east, people speak German and they have a different set of compliance requirements. 50 miles south, people speak French. It is, by design, an international, integrated software package that is multi-language and multi-currency. That gave a large advantage to other software vendors who were not, by design, an international product.