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The New Normal – Jürgen Everaerts

The COVID-19 pandemic will leave a lasting impact not just on our businesses, but also on our lives. The way we see the world right now is completely different from one month ago. Our companies’ strategic goals, work logistics or plans for the future have had to change to adapt to The New Normal.

But… what will the “new normal” look like? How will our clients adapt to it? How will Rydoo adapt to it? To find some answers to these questions, we have interviewed some of our clients around the world and Rydoo’s CEO. We wanted to understand how their businesses and industries are being impacted but also how they see the future, because this situation won’t last forever.

Jürgen Everaerts, Accounting & Tax Manager at Tiense Suikerraffinaderij, is the last guest of our remote interview series: The New Normal.

How is COVID-19 impacting your business operations?

”The demand for sugar has increased dramatically in the last couple of weeks, a fact starting with the lockdown as we saw all the people going to grocery stores. We had to supply, let’s say, sugar in a couple of days, which normally we would sell in four to eight weeks. It’s a huge challenge for people in our supply chain and production conversion section of the factory… to make sure that we can pack all the sugar according to the demand in retail and make sure also the logistics can follow with delivery studios, retail companies.”

Is it because end products containing sugar are in higher demand today than before?

”When you go to the supermarket -in situations like almost in a war or as a grown-up era- the first things people buy are flour, sugar, water, the basic potatoes… and also sugar is one of them. So we had to make sure that we could follow all the orders and deliveries for this huge amount of sugar.”

How has the crisis impacted your strategic goals for the next quarters?

”Let’s say that financial goals settings are no longer there so we have to start with a complete new forecast budget for this. What this the new normal? How will we travel? When will we travel? When will we use a company car? From which location will be work? It will have an impact on the whole business, working organization.”

How are you drafting those new goals and rules for the future?

”From admins’ point of view, we have done quite a lot in the past, and especially with you guys from Rydoo. I think we started back in 2014, but we have always been busy with automation and digitization, looking at how we can improve and make our processes more efficient.

And that’s also the reason why we closed our books on February 29 this year. We did our final closing just in time, let’s say when the lockdown started, so middle March, when we usually have our external auditors on the floor, which is a team of about 10 to 15 people who are running around in our company in Tenent to refuse the figures for all Belgian entities. And this was now organized from home, where we were in contact on a daily basis with the auditors and managed to finalize the audit, in fact, with the same quality or even better quality than we used to have in the past.”

Have you planned for a crisis scenario?

”It’s hard to predict a situation like the Covid-19. But of course, we have a crisis team that in any kind of crisis situation -if there is something technical or an issue in the factories, with the sugar or one of the products, or there would be contamination of products- is automatically alarmed.

Then, they sit together or are in contact with each other. Also with the external world, with legal advice, with the press and so on. So there is a road map for this kind of situation but not, of course, with the magnitude of Covic-19. It makes no sense to make road maps and books and procedures for situations that you normally would never encounter. I mean, that would only create a lot of work and paper.”

How digital is your company now?

”Let’s say apart from people in the factory who really have a critical function in the supply chain, production or logistics to make the factory run every day, there are very limited or no people in the offices and central services, in fact. Everyone is working from home: HR Department, Control, Legal… Everyone is just sitting at home doing their job. We organize ourselves. We have regular conferences.

What we also realized is that in the past we sent plenty of mails. But now, to gain time, we pick up the phone and we call people more than we did in the past because we want to speed it up and we do not want to wait for an answer to that mail. So I know that this person is home and yes, probably has more time than in the past. Sometimes it’s good to have a meeting face to face to discuss some topics, but actually we realize that in this kind of situation we can do the same from a distance.  We do not longer need to be physically in an office to exchange information.”

Do you see opportunities?

”Yes. We could really call it a new way of working where we will only be in an office like once or twice a week to share information with colleagues and have meetings and discuss several topics. But the need to have office spaces in the future could change drastically because, in fact, you no longer need buildings for 100 people, 200 colleagues, but maybe five meeting rooms would be sufficient to organize meetings.

A company can maybe pay for the energy costs of an employee working from home. There are these kind of opportunities to reduce the office space and your energy costs and so on.”

How do you think business travel will change?

”Travel as a whole will change. From my point of view, If you can do this job during five, six, seven, eight weeks from home, then we should reconsider how much we actually need to travel. To do what? To have which kind of meetings? Sometimes, of course, it’s necessary to have a face to face meeting but, from all the travel that we had in the past, maybe we could review that and we can do this in a different way.

There is a lot of potential things to change in Travel, not only going to work and back home, but also to go to other countries where we could do much more things as we do now via Zoom.”

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