Striking the right balance between motherhood and entrepreneurship
Loes Stockx-Heessels (1980) is as far from the archetypal head of an engineering company as it’s possible to get. But appearances can be deceptive. Her fine features and friendly demeanour belie a steely resolve: this lady knows how to stand her ground. Of course she thinks it’s tough to own Helmond Precisie. The role is not without its challenges. But Loes has her feet planted firmly on the ground. She is pleased and proud to be able to maintain and grow her parents’ legacy, in what is clearly a thriving enterprise.
Loes’ parents founded Helmond Precisie in 1978, two years before her birth. Today, the Netherlands company is one of the largest specialists in the field of Centreless Grinding, with around 75% of its contracts destined for export. Loes says, ‘Our expertise is self-evident; our success is predicated on reliability and attractive price / quality ratios. Our customer relationships are strong and sustainable. This is because we unburden our customers; we work with them to find the best solutions. We are flexible in our planning and approach. And we focus on personal contact.’ Together with her younger sister, Loes literally grew up among the ‘machinery’ of the business. And her love for the industry, and special bond with the firm’s employees, are clear. Loes is at home in this company; she has always felt comfortable here. So no one was surprised when she officially began work in the Helmond factory, in 2007, having completed her business studies. Because she was not technically trained, Loes started at the beginning, gaining valuable work experience on the machines – acquiring and honing practical skills that she still puts to use today. She says, ‘In super busy periods, I still jump in there without thinking about it. I can’t just sit in the office. I also supported my mother on the admin side, and helped out in other departments, before I got a management position and became my father’s right hand.’
Loes has already built a reputation – internally and externally – as ‘one of the guys’
No surprise then that Loes has already built a reputation as ‘one of the guys’. The company’s 20 or so employ-ees are a close-knit team; and she depends on all her colleagues for their valuable feedback and input. Especially now.
With her mother becoming ill and her father devoting more time to her care, Loes – who herself had just given birth to twins, Niels and Lara, when she joined the business – was grateful for the support she received from all the staff, prior to taking over the running of the company in 2016. The role is not without its challenges. But Loes has her feet planted firmly on the ground. She is pleased and proud to be able to maintain and grow her parents’ legacy, in what is clearly a thriving enterprise. And she is no stranger to hard work – a characteristic she shares with her sister, who currently works in China for DSM (a major player in life science products, high-quality materials, plastics and chemistry).
Both women share a ‘predilection for production’ – a desire to make products with a tangible end result. And they are both progressive and enterprising – traits which ensure their success in largely male dominated industries. Loes says. ‘As a young woman, I did have to prove myself in this technical man’s world. But my father gave me plenty of opportunity to familiarise myself with the sector.’
Today of course Loes is both accepted and respected, both in the ‘family business’ and the wider industry. And her work-life balance is exactly where she wants it to be. She says, ‘Sometimes we still lack time, because we lead busy lives. But I am happy. The combination of motherhood and entrepreneurship creates a nice bal-ance. I used to think that I could never get away from the business. But I now have space for my family, and time to play golf with my husband Jeroen, or to do other fun things. I even took up hockey again. And there is usually an entertaining evening with friends in the diary.’
‘Life is good.’