25 years ago, CREON was registered with the Chamber of Commerce. A quarter of a century in which CREON has contributed to making the world a little nicer and safer. Three years ago, together with Mark Bastiaansen and John Driessen, director Ralf Bogaerts took over CREON from founder Pieter Louwers. With Ralf, we look back on his ‘history’ at CREON.
The first encounter
“Look further, that doesn’t sound very rock & roll…”, was the thought of Ralf Bogaerts when he was approached by a headhunter to join CREON seven years ago. “‘How many control rooms do we have in the Netherlands? You can’t make a living out of that, can you? I really couldn’t imagine it.”
From the moment Ralf entered CREON’s premises for the first time, he was won over. “It’s the same as customers and new employees visiting CREON for the first time: the atmosphere of the company, the market and the products somehow appealed to me.”
Back then, CREON was even smaller in scale, as were the premises in which the company was housed. Three tables were set up in the showroom that was just a few square metres. At his first visit, Ralf met Pieter Louwers and John Driessen (Design & Development). Ralf was immediately enthusiastic: after an extensive application period, his first working day at CREON began on 1 January 2016.
Although he already had affinity with technology from his previous job, Ralf lacked any knowledge about the control room industry at all. “I even didn’t know the difference between a UTP and a USB cable!”, laughingly explains Ralf. He was immediately thrown into the depths: “Just do it. As a result, you learn very quickly. The freedom to organise it yourself means you pick up the knowledge faster. I have learned a lot in the first six months, which helped me find my way in the matter anyway.”
Ralf has experienced several notable milestones at CREON, such as (on his first working day) moving into the new building at J.F. Vlekkeweg 2 in Tilburg. The founding of the Belgian BVBA marked the first step abroad. CREON recently set up its first control rooms in Sweden. The first contract of the National Control Room Cooperation (LMS) in 2016 was the biggest project. With 121 workstations in a brand new, ‘state-of-the-art’ control room, Eurocontrol Brussels has been the largest realised project since 2023. But it’s not just about the size of a project. One beautiful, suitable workplace in a special environment gives a thrill that cannot be explained away. In addition, Ralf always gains new energy from taking on every new employee. “That gives a new dynamic that allows our company to take the next step in its development.”
A fun anecdote is how the OCCR project was recruited: “During the holiday period, we had to do the site inspection. Two weeks after the summer holidays, the proposal had to be submitted,” says Ralf. “John rescheduled his holidays so that he could be present at the site visit. Mark returned earlier from his holiday to work on the design and I suggested in turn submitting the tender from my holiday address on Lake Garda. However, there was no internet coverage at the campsite! So I started driving along Lake Garda, with my phone in hand, searching for WIFI. Finally, I found a little restaurant near the lake where I could submit the tender from my laptop. And we ended up winning the tender too!”
What made the OCCR project extra special was the unique way in which it was approached: “We started to think outside the box by tailoring the tender with all the specialists from operations, design & development and sales departments. Here, we did not look at what was already there, does it match the tender? But we designed something on demand for the tender.”
Together with sales colleague Kristel van Gompel, Ralf visited a cell complex to give a sales pitch in a live environment. “Halfway through the pitch, everyone suddenly stood up and ran into the corridor,” Ralf says. Along with their contact, Ralf and Kristel were left perplexed. “An imprisoned person appeared to have smeared the walls of his cell with shit. It was a very uncomfortable situation. Flabbergasted, we walked out shortly afterwards. By the way, no more assignment came out…”
Ralf also recalls a three-hour drive there, three hours back to North Holland. “They had asked if we could come over, as they wanted new tables. From the conversation it emerged that they wanted four tables with fixed heights, on which one screen was to be placed. That is not at all what we do.” Somewhat disappointed, Ralf advised going to an office furniture giant to buy the new desks. “But our approach is always to help everyone sincerely. Even if a company or institution doesn’t turn out to be a match for CREON, we really believe in it as a company.”
“Pieter had already planted the roots of CREON. He established the atmosphere and culture that brought us where we are today. Well-considered, well-founded, strong and from content rather than commerce.” On 7 February 2020, Ralf Bogaerts, John Driessen and Mark Bastiaansen took over CREON from Pieter Louwers, who wanted to jump into the deep end once more with a totally new challenge.
The diversity of personalities makes the CREON team extra unique. There is synergy between introverts and extroverts, generalists and specialists. “The client’s abstract question is translated into a wow solution by our designers. I regularly think: “I would like to have that one myself!”
The desire to be in control is what makes CREON strong. “We don’t compromise on a 7. We are innovative: what we do today, we aim to do better tomorrow. We are leading and ambitious, but we also want to make something nice.” An 8 is also not enough in the eyes of Ralf. “We go down to the detail level to grow to a 9+.”