The entrepreneur | Centipede Eric van Schagen: ‘I stand with my heart and…

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He is a great gentleman at PSV and Het Noordbrabants Museum. And foreman for all employers in Brabant and Zeeland. Thanks to the growth of his ICT company Simac, he also shot Quote 500 i. The question is whether Eric van Schagen would have achieved all this if he had simply become a mathematics teacher.

Maarten van Helvoirt

31 October 2022

Eric van Schagen is director of Simac in Veldhoven, sponsor of PSV, chairman of VNO-NCW in Brabant and director of Het Noordbrabants Museum. In his office there are works of art as well as football and cycling jerseys. Photo: Van Assendelft Photography

A small entrepreneur does not shy away from challenges, Eric van Schagen (66) knows that all too well. But at the moment, entrepreneurs have a lot to worry about: from a lack of staff and materials to congested highways and from the consequences of the corona lockdowns to exploding gas prices.

Immediately after leaving the waiting room with two mannequins in PSV uniform – he is a major sponsor with his Veldhoven company Simac – Van Schagen gives an insight into the current turbulent economic climate as far as his office a few floors up. As chairman of the employers’ organization VNO-NCW Brabant Zeeland, he has the sole task of helping companies through this.

‘Consuming a little less is not wrong’

“It is up to the entrepreneurs to react to it, but it is now really important that the government takes a more flexible stance. Entrepreneurs want and can adapt, but then they must have the opportunity. I understand that there should be laws and regulations, but too many of these laws are there to prevent people from committing fraud. This leads to lengthy procedures to obtain a permit, which frustrates many entrepreneurs. They don’t have that time now,’ he says A.D.

“It doesn’t have to come from the government alone. Some employers will not be happy with what I say now, but I will do it anyway: I think it would be wise if the dividend tax went up. So the shareholders also contribute, because you cannot put the entire burden on the employees. And all in all, it would not be wrong for society to consume a little less.”

“Too many laws are there to prevent people from committing fraud”

‘Companies can only flourish if society is in balance’

Many companies face a shortage of staff, and this is especially true in the ICT sector. Meanwhile, your neighbor ASML is basically sucking away all the technical people in this region. What do you think about this as a representative of all employers in Brabant?

From his window, Van Schagen looks straight out onto a construction site with cranes. An ASML campus is being created here, where 8,000 hurry children and engineers design and build chip machines. A stone’s throw away, another 12,000 ASML employees work on the parade of the Dutch economy. His own company is surrounded, so to speak.

“It doesn’t really matter to me. Whether they want this land too is debatable; then Simac sits somewhere else. ASML is the driving force of the high-tech industry, but a negative effect of their growth is that they attract many bicycle workshops, auto mechanics and other technical staff. They are tempted to an extra 500 euros a month.”

“As a resident of Veldhoven, I also suffered from this. Last April I wanted to replace my winter tires with summer tires, but my garage only had time in June. Because there aren’t enough mechanics. ASML can only thrive if the society in which they operate is in balance – and fortunately the company is well aware of that.”

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ASML, Simac and a lot of other companies, especially in the Brainport region around Eindhoven, are doing well. But a survey by VNO-NCW, to which four hundred companies in the south of the Netherlands responded recently, also revealed that there is a clear difference.

For example, it appears that 13 percent will have payment problems within a year, that 21 percent are already making a deficit this year (and probably another 15 percent on top of that next year), and that 70 percent have no idea how they could cope themselves. on the enormously increased costs at all.the consumer. Because they have contractual obligations with their customers.

Van Schagen himself was in the red for DKK 160 million

,,I recently spoke to the owner of a garden center who is no longer interested. He will spend 1.25 million euros more on energy this year, the rent for his building – and it is a lot of square meters – is indexed, and the cabinet has increased the minimum wage by 10 percent. Of course, a gardener has a lot to do with that. The same applies to distribution centers, of which we have a part in Brabant.”

Eric van Schagen knows better than anyone what it feels like when your business is headed for the abyss. In the late 1990s, a customer that accounted for a large part of Simac’s turnover went under. After ten years of only growth and invariably a top position on the lists of the most successful entrepreneurs in the Netherlands, the ICT giant was suddenly 160 million guilders in the red.

Read also: Simac ICT partner in PSV: ‘Technology is indispensable to deliver top performance’

Stand up for your people with heart and soul

“I was deeply ashamed because I had caused this. I almost didn’t dare go into the Jumbo, because I was afraid that everyone was looking at me. I felt sick and started sweating from stress. When our CFO had to leave, I said, ‘Why not me?’ ‘Cause the difference is you see it’s your problem and you want to do something about it,’ said my board. So yes, I have a lot to do with all the entrepreneurs who are struggling right now. But I also say to them: take action. It was because of me that Simac almost went bankrupt, but I also brought us back to the top.”

Also because you have a safety net. Like your father, who founded Simac, and the successful entrepreneur Wim van der Leegte, who backed you with millions, so that the banks regained confidence. Not all entrepreneurs have it.

“It’s true that they helped me, but I also had to convince them that it would be okay. I also click well with Wim; we think the same about how you treat your staff. Stand up for your people with heart and soul. Unfortunately, my father did not have time to see how well we have recovered.”

In the capillaries of society

You have also provided for that at PSV since last season and are a major sponsor, half a million euros a year. A year earlier, you joined the board that manages the shares in PSV. Is one the consequence of the other?

,,No, I think not. I ended up on the board because I have been a PSV supporter all my life and because they wanted an entrepreneur on board. We have had a few good years financially with Simac, and therefore I like that as a sponsor I can now also mean something to the club. PSV provides connectivity in this region and that’s what I love.”

“I think that as an entrepreneur you have to be in the capillaries of society. That’s why I sponsor a few sports associations (including a total of eight football clubs!, ed.) and social initiatives and I was chairman of the hockey club for a period. If I see how nice people interact with each other on the scale of Veldhoven or an association, why can’t it be on the scale of the entire country?”

“There is a tendency to put away all the crap in The Hague, while they generally do a lot of good there.”

“There is enormous polarization and a tendency to put all the crap in The Hague. While they generally do very well there. One of the biggest challenges facing this country is restoring trust in government.”

His passion for sports is clear – football, hockey and cycling come first – but Veldhovenaar is also a great lover of opera and the visual arts.

Last year you also became chairman of the board of Het Noordbrabants Museum. What is your heart more: art or football?

Van Schagen remains silent for a moment, behind him in his office PSV’s artwork and framed football shirts and local pride UNA wait ‘in suspense’. But then he says resolutely: ,,Art! Because in the long term, the societal importance of art is greater – and I mean that across the board. From amateur art to the museum.”

Also read: Advice on business sale: don’t get involved in your old company

So one last dilemma. What do you prefer: managing or running a business?

Another long silence and then: ,,I think I’m a better manager than an entrepreneur. My father, he was a real entrepreneur; he could make something out of nothing. He started this company, I built it. I am handing it over to my daughter at the end of next year.”

Eric van Schagen in his office. He is a great art lover. Photo: Van Assendelft Photography.

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