What’s the secret behind the success of this company, which didn’t see the light until late 2013? Two men, the current CEO John Rietveldt and CTO, Eddy Boucké, set up their own business in Curaçao and spent most of the early years travelling to negotiate licences all over the world for i4F’s unique 3L TripleLock droplLock technology. i4F now operates all over the world and the headquarters in Belgium are due to relocate in early 2023 from Hamont-Achel to premises in Turnhout which are now under construction and will be ten times bigger.
‘These bigger premises won’t be a luxury,’ CEO, John Rietveldt says with a laugh. ‘Indeed, within eighteen months, our employee base will have doubled in size. We now have 24 people, but that’s set to double in the near future. We’re growing not only here, but also elsewhere in the world including China and Vietnam. For instance, we’ve recently formed a company in the USA and we’re building a team there. We’re also looking to India and South Korea because we’re convinced you have to be close to your clients.’
Management capacities and corporate practices
With its annual BMC programme, Deloitte looks for the best managed private companies. The programme assesses the management capacities and practices of a company and acknowledges all the corporate performances and growth. i4F received a 2021/22 Best Managed Companies award as a tier one player which has displayed a number of best management capacities and practices. This includes strategy, culture and commitment, capacities and innovation, and finances and ESG in a competition which weighs up sector rivals against each other.
In addition, just like last year when it won this category, the company has been nominated for the 2021/22 Excellence Award for Strategy. This Award is assessed by a panel of prominent leaders from various sectors, but the winner won’t be announced until 21 June, 2022 during a ceremony in the Netherlands, where other BMC winners receive a prize.
‘At present, we’ve won one and we’re certain of the nomination in the other category. In the best possible case we’ll again walk off with two top prizes,’ says John Rietveldt. ‘To be hailed yet again as a “Best Managed Company” in a global awards competition is a great honour. After all, these are global awards given to just a select few companies all over the world. They’re companies which, in our case, are private, so not listed on the stock exchange, with a turnover above €50 million.’
‘For i4F these prizes are a serious reward for our motivated teams, as they show that they are at the forefront of all new and major forms of technology. At the same time, we’re also convinced that our global IP strategy and our corporate model are unique because they can be replicated in many other sectors and contribute to the greater good.’
At the time of going to press, Floor Forum didn’t yet know whether i4F would also win the Excellence Award for Strategy, but, in fact, a nomination is virtually the same as a win. John Rietveldt says: ‘In each field, five companies are nominated from the many candidates. Last year, we won the Strategy Excellence Award and the fact that we’re in contention again is already a huge sign of appreciation.’
The best strategy is the one which sells
What the i4F CEO is particularly pleased about is that these awards assess performance: ‘Before working for i4F, amongst other things, I had a long career in white goods and I learnt a vital lesson from the then CEO. He kept things very simple and said that the best strategy is simply the one which sells. And so, with these awards they consider firstly whether a company is growing well and then they look at how that growth is supported via the processes to improve your company.’
‘At i4F, we’ve extended the range of patents considerably in recent years to include diverse clusters, which are always rooted in an R&D structure. For instance, recently we’ve appointed someone as director of material science and, in turn, that means we’ll be recruiting more staff for the laboratory now under construction in Turhout. The construction work started in May of this year and we’re due to make it operational early in 2023. In Turnhout we’ll have buildings ten times bigger than those we have now, partly due to the construction of a big R&D department. This means we’ll be able to institutionalise innovation processes once again.’
Finally, John Rietveldt tells us about the most recent narrative to demand their attention, namely the comprehensive environmental narrative: ‘There, too, we’re fully committed. Sustainability goes far beyond a commitment to electric vehicles, for instance, and in the flooring industry, too, you have to show great commitment. You can do that by means of a good mix within a sustainable corporate policy, in our case initiatives and investments in the development of new technologies, but also in leading and conducting our daily operations.’
For more information you can visit their web site: www.i4f.com