A conversation with CEO Paul Ramakers on company strategy
03 March 2022 - Paul Ramakers has been at the helm of Exact for over a year now. What's the current status at Exact? What's the strategy for 2022 and what can we expect from the software supplier in coming years? We asked Paul these and other questions. To give you a hint: his story revolves around growth, innovation, talent management and responsible business practices. "At Exact, we want to make the difference"
Paul, you've been CEO since the end of 2020. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I started here fresh out of school. In other words, Exact was my first employer. Yet I haven't felt like I've been with the same company for almost 27 years. Exact is innovative, evolves with the market and adapts its strategy accordingly. I'm lucky to have been able to hold a wide range of positions. After the first few years, I started being assigned different tasks and roles internally so I could learn new things and develop further. I've been closely involved in many departments and have tried, experienced and learned new things in every position I've held. My most recent career move was to become CEO, which gives me a lot of energy!
What's the first word that comes to mind when you think of your first year as CEO?
Although everything related to Covid-19 has certainly been a challenge, I prefer the word growth. Exact is doing well and we've had a good year. We have great ambitions that we want to achieve for and together with our customers. And we can do that faster and better if we have the right products and expertise in-house. We are consciously shaping our growth through a combination of development and acquisitions. For example, the acquisitions of Unit4 Bedrijfssoftware, Grip and Officient over the past year have enabled us to enrich our range of services and gain even more knowledge, in turn making our group even better and stronger. I also have an ongoing ambition: to be a company where people enjoy working in a job they are proud of and where they can grow.
How do you ensure that employees enjoy working at Exact?
At Exact, we strive to be an organisation where people want to work, a place where they can be themselves, regardless of their background, and so on. We have a good mix of competence profiles, such as sales, technology and marketing, as well as cultural backgrounds. After all, diversity leads to creativity and differences make us stronger. What's also important to us is how our people feel about themselves. We are flexible and strive for a good work-life balance. Our managers also play an exemplary role here. Personally, I like to do CrossFit, go mountain biking or relax in other ways from time to time. This is my way of showing that you can – and should – take good care of yourself.
Is Exact a learning company?
Exact is an employer that encourages its employees to develop and grow. Of course, not everyone will become CEO, but many people progress from a sales position to an after-sales position, or from support to development. If you have a learning mindset, you can make it far at Exact.
Any other employee-related goals and actions?
Thanks in part to our growth, we have a substantial workforce. This is how we make the difference – not only for our customers, but also our local community. Every year, we give all our employees three working days to spend on volunteer work, which we call Giving Back Days. We also support our employees' fundraising initiatives for charities. Employees can submit their action for the donation to be matched by Exact.
Another focal area in terms of HR is hybrid working, which also contributes to a healthy work-life balance after the coronavirus pandemic. In the past, we offered colleagues the opportunity to work from home, but we now let our employees choose to a large extent. Each team considers for itself what the best home to office ratio is. After all, everyone has different needs.
Is it easy to acquire talent?
Finding talent has never been easy. It's obvious that everyone's fishing in the same pond. So, we approach it from different perspectives, but growth and commitment are always prioritised. For example, we offer a training class to recent graduates. We offer others a custom career path. And we succeed in acquiring the right people. But it's hard work.
What about your operational ambitions?
As a developer and supplier of business software, our mission is to give business professionals control over their business processes, give them peace of mind and help them manage their time more smartly. Time is becoming increasingly scarce and valuable. We offer efficiency and insight, so that business professionals can focus on their business operations. To ensure that we serve our customers in the best possible way, we always have an eye on innovation at Exact. In particular, we focus on accelerating innovations in the cloud. We also optimise existing products and introduce new products in order to continue to meet customer needs.
Can you tell us a little more about how you innovate?
Over 600 of our more than 1,850 Exact colleagues work continuously to create new products and improve existing ones with new features, product updates and more. We listen carefully to the market and feedback from users. The technology also offers more and more opportunities, which we are eager to use. Take everything related to data, for example. How can we best use all available data to make our customers' lives easier and reduce the number of process steps? This is an important topic for us.
Can you give a few examples of innovative projects?
To start with, we've been working hard on Globe+ for a few years now. Everything under our brand is being modernised, including our user interface, in order to offer a seamless experience. This project is now in its final phase and we'll be rolling it out further next year. Another important project is combining products from former Unit4 Bedrijfssoftware with Exact Online, which allows us to offer accountants a fully integrated suite. And moving forward, there's a third project: our recently launched HR solution in Exact Online. It offers lots of self-service features for business professionals to support their talent even better.
In what other ways does Exact want to make the difference?
Corporate responsibility is at the heart of our business operations – in the broadest sense of the word – from being a good employer to caring for society. We all need to take better care of our planet, so sustainability is high on Exact's strategic agenda. We set hard targets in terms of emissions, energy savings and waste, and we'll certainly be focusing on this, too. These targets involve building and data centre usage, smart travel and electrification of our vehicle fleet and more efficient programming, so that we put less pressure on our data centres. We also work with our suppliers and partners to ensure a responsible supply chain.
In short, we are willing and able to assume the necessary responsibility in the short and long term towards our customers, partners, employees and society. Together we can make the difference.