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Niels Schouten

sr. Industrial Engineer / Director

Get to know us: Niels Schouten

This coming March, we will celebrate Niels his 10 year anniversary as part of the Fabrique Invent firm. Initially hired to clean up the workshop in 2013, he worked his way up and took over the company from former director Theo in 2019. In addition to all the tasks associated with business operations, such as administration, HR, management and finance, Niels is also a designer and works on creating products for our customers on a daily basis.

What does a day in the office look like for you at Fabrique Invent?
My position is very diverse. Sometimes I have deadlines for a specific client, which can easily take me a whole week. Other weeks I can get more involved in other people's projects and switch between them. Sometimes I have to do administrative tasks. When I take a look at my role, it is partly working for our customers, where I often do rough outlines of designs, but partly I am also occupied with my colleagues. I look over everyone's shoulder to see if there are any pitfalls that are not being noticed and I act as a sparring partner to discuss new ideas.

The only fixed routine that is part of my workday could be the fact that I am often the first one in the office in the morning. Then I start up, turn on the Christmas tree lights and the coffee machine. For this first hour of the day, when I'm all alone, I put on classical music and can have some focus time.

What are the biggest challenges in your work?
I think the biggest challenge is the wide scope of my position. I try to be as informed as possible about all current projects, but because there is a great diversity of assignments, it is sometimes difficult to keep one separate from the other. That is my one of my focus points. I know almost every project by heart and ultimately have to present it to the client. Creating and maintaining an overview of all projects is a major challenge for me.

It is also not easy to anticipate things that happen in the workplace. The covid outbreak, for example, where you have to take measures because something unexpected happens. It is my responsibility as an employer to respond quickly. You have to deal with these types of situations as an entrepreneur, but it does take energy.

In addition, it is a challenge for me to ensure that everyone in the office continues to enjoy their work. I invest in a team that I consider important and I want to retain this. For example, if I look at what people earn at the ministry, I cannot compete with that on a salary level. I have to go a different route. This entails the way of working, job satisfaction and freedom that I try to give the staff. I try to pay attention to that, sometimes it is difficult.

As a business owner, what is your work-life balance like?
At the beginning of my career, my work-life balance was very different than it is now, especially when I had just taken over the business. At the time, I also worked a full 8 hour-day on Saturdays and was there extra early in the morning during the week. I also sometimes took my laptop home with me in the evening. I don't do that anymore these days. We have plenty to do at Fabrique Invent, so I could continue non-stop. But then you lose yourself in the work and the quality does not improve.

My last holiday I was completely relaxed. I had complete confidence in Mike and the rest of the team to handle my duties while I was away. This went well and afterwards I had new energy to get started. It sometimes happens that I have to do something at the office on Saturday. During the past Christmas holidays I also set up a prototype in the workshop for a few days. But I also just enjoy doing that.

How did this switch come about? Partly it has to do with covid. There wasn't much to do besides work during that period, so I just kept going. Then at some point you think to yourself; is this it? I still work to live, I don't live to work. Some people think this is not a good attitude for an entrepreneur, but I disagree. You can have passion for your work and also take a healthy distance from it every now and then.

Who or what is an inspiration in your life?
In the past, when we still did a lot together with the other branch of Fabrique, we also had a shared corporate identity. The design of the business cards at the time consisted of the contact details on one side, with an image of your personal hero on the back. I chose to put Walt Disney on the back of my card. He created a visionary, ultimate world based on a few simple lines on paper. I have big appreciation for it. Disney has been popular for 100 years and almost everyone in the world knows it. Ultimately, of course, it is also everyone around me. Mike keeps me on my toes because he thinks about some things better than I do. If I look a little more broadly, everyone around me is on the list of people who inspire me.

How do you look back on the past 5 years?
Five years ago is exactly when I took over the company. In that respect I have had some realisations, I thought I could change more in some areas. We have created a very nice team, that has worked out. We can rely on our regular clients, but I would also have liked to expand the customer portfolio more. In that respect I had hoped to achieve more.

I am very happy that I was able to take over at the time. This has allowed us to transform Fabrique Invent into what it is today, and that is worth a lot to me. A lot has happened in 5 years; the passing away of René, resulting in the closure of Fabrique Public Design. That also had a major impact on Fabrique Invent. I like how we all dealt with this at the time. Five years ago Fabrique Public was on the other side of our office, now Code is located there. I think that we as Fabrique Invent have remained a fairly stable factor within all these major changes.

I am satisfied where we are as a company, including what we have done over the last 5 years. We have doubled the number of people and therefore also the amount of work. We have matured as a company. What I like is that every year we have a Christmas dinner with a nice group of people, these kinds of traditions have been created. That is also expanding thanks to everyone's enthusiasm.

What is the best concert you have ever attended?
Fun question! The best concert is actually a good concert, where you didn't expect it to be good. I've been to a lot of concerts in my life and have seen some really old hands like Bruce Springsteen, Neil Diamond, Coldplay and Hans Zimmer, all of which I really enjoyed. However, one concert that really made me go crazy was Zucchero. He is such an old rocker, I can appreciate that. I bought tickets at the time because I knew his music a little and it was very cheap. I thought; a nice evening for two. Then it turned out to be super cool. I was trying to go again last year, but then the festival where he performed was canceled due to a storm. Hopefully I'll have better luck next year!

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