If you haven’t already, please study my free Bootstrapping course. I publish this series to discuss the nuances of bootstrapped entrepreneurship.
Pierre and Fred Guelen have bootstrapped Planon, a very significant company from The Netherlands, using the bootstrapping with services principle. Read on and learn how.
Sramana Mitra: We’re going to start at the very beginning of your personal journeys. One of you please start by telling us where you’re from, where you were born, and in what kind of background, and then we’ll do the same thing with the other person.
Pierre Guelen: I’m the CEO of Planon group. Fred is my brother. We were born in The Netherlands in a small town near the German border. We were raised in an entrepreneurial family. My father owned a large building company. He was already the fourth generation in that building company.
Sramana Mitra: What did you do for education?
Pierre Guelen: I went to university to be a Building Engineer. It was my original plan to go and join my father’s building company, but in those days, computers came up and I was very much interested in that. So I started my own company when I was just out of school an engineering firm that did calculations with computers.
Sramana Mitra: Did you do college?
Pierre Guelen: Yes, I went to university.
Sramana Mitra: Did you do that in engineering?
Pierre Guelen: Yes, I’m a Building Engineer.
Sramana Mitra: What about Fred?
Fred Guelen: I have a little bit of a different background. I first fulfilled my mandatory military subscription in the Dutch army for two years. After that, I did my Master studies at Leiden in Law. After that, for 25 years, I practiced law in the M&A field. I have done M&A transactions all over the world for international companies. After having had the education and the training in one of the larger law firms in Netherlands, I started my own law firm with a partner. We built that law firm to an M&A boutique.
Sramana Mitra: Tell me more about what you did in the early parts of your career, and bring us up to the point at which you started this company together.
Pierre Guelen: I started the company immediately after I came out of school. Fred joined the company five years ago.
Fred Guelen: As an executive and before that, I was counselling in my law practice. I was acting as a non-executive director for Planon before joining.
Pierre Guelen: I built the company in the first 25 years. At the start, it was very slow. We had 20 building engineers working in the company. In the 90s, we had become very successful in the Netherlands. It was only around 2000 that we started to internationalise the company.
Sramana Mitra: This company that you started right out of school, is that the same company that we are doing the story on today?
Pierre Guelen: Yes.
Our conversation continues here.
Looking For Some Hands-On Advice?
For entrepreneurs who want to discuss their specific businesses with me, I’m very happy to assess your situation during my free online 1Mby1M Roundtables, held almost every week. You can also connect with me during our Rendezvous meetups, and check out my Bootstrapping Course, our YouTube channel, podcast interviews with VCs and Founders.