Founded in Belgium in 1880, Bekaert has grown to become a world market and technology leader in steel wire transformation and coating technologies, with an annual turnover of €4.4 billion. When CEO Matthew Taylor took the top job, the results had been slipping, due largely to a considerable slowdown in the lucrative Chinese economic boom that had delivered great business for Bekaert. Matthew’s mandate was fairly straightforward: look at where the company needs to focus and improve its performance in order to create value for its customers as well as its stakeholders.
“That meant that we needed to be a more customer-oriented company,” Matthew says. “I come from a sales and marketing background, so I think that the Board of Directors thought that I was reasonably well-suited for that aspect. They also wanted to ensure that Bekaert wouldn’t remain overly-focused on its home market in Belgium and I think that’s one of the reasons why they looked for a non-Belgian to run the business for the first time; to detach it from the politics of its home territory. At the end of the day we are a very global company in terms of our market coverage and global presence, so we need to make sure our emphasis is on the international capability of the business.” The first thing that Matthew saw was a need for market insight and focus. “We actually started, not by thinking about where we wanted to grow, but by thinking about how strong we could be in different areas of the business.
“Growth for the sake of it is not an objective; growth as a contributor to an overall performance that will allow us to drive value creation is the agenda. We therefore needed to look at things beyond just growth—in particular the efficiency and use of the capital that we have in the business, the margins that we create in the business, and how well those 2 match each other.
“We now know where we make a difference, where we can play to our strengths, and where we are more likely to build stronger loyalty from the customer, a higher market share, and even better margins when we are efficient in delivering the value propositions we want to offer to the customer.”
In a kind of reverse engineering strategy, Matthew and his team first looked at the vision of who and where the company wanted to be. They then set specific goals around that, and finally developed key strategies to enable the group to get there.