In our first interview, we talk to Christian Onselaere, arabel’s new CEO.
We recently caught up with Christian Onselaere, the new CEO of Belgian based arabel, a leader in customized high-quality electro-mechanics and integrated marina solutions.
We wanted to understand more about his new mission, the long-term strategy and how he counts on realizing his ambition to multiply the company’s size and revenues in the next 5 years.
Can you share a bit more about your background?
With pleasure! I am the former CEO of airport infrastructure market leader ADB SAFEGATE and before that, I held several managerial positions in the telecom division of the Siemens group of companies in Belgium, Taiwan, Germany, India, France, and Thailand.
I have always been an entrepreneur at heart and proud to say that throughout my career I have been able to create a solid growth trajectory for the companies I have been part of.
This brings us to the logical next question. Why arabel?
I took a two-year sabbatical from the professional world. While I enjoyed the break, I also felt that I had been absent for too long from the business. As a CEO, what I always appreciated most was the contact with employees, the discussions with customers, partners, suppliers, and shareholders. The role of the CEO is to find a balance between the interests of all stakeholders, while pushing for growth. I started to miss it all. I also felt I was too young to retire. So, creating a real impact and getting back to the business action were my main drivers to look for a “new” career path. Via one of the players in the M&A market I was then introduced to arabel.
From the start I really felt good about this opportunity as it ticked all the right boxes. Great people, a healthy balance sheet and so many opportunities to grow the business.
So, what is your opinion after your first 100 days?
I have been pleasantly surprised. The company is solid, the products are of great quality and the team is excellent – starting from the previous owners who are still in the company to all other team members – a team that is 100% dedicated to our customers and to quality, a team that has an incredible “can do” attitude. The overall potential for growth looks very good.
Yes, we are ambitious. This will require important investments, but the foundations are solid and that is the best basis to create a successful future.
I would also like to state the importance of the collaboration with the founders, Yves and Luke. They have been very important in the transition to new ownership but also to keep the arabel team focused. We have been closely collaborating from Day 1 with an open mindset and the commitment has been excellent with an openness for change and innovation. Their contribution and the sharing of their knowledge is extremely important for the company.
What were the first major changes you implemented so far?
First, there are things we don’t want to change: the DNA of this company. I mentioned the focus on customer, quality, and service. That will always remain a driving force of arabel.
In the past months we have been working on rebranding the arabel brand, launching our new website, updating all product collaterals, renovating our offices, and expanding our workforce with the hiring of our new sales manager and our commercial services engineer, reviewing our portfolio and so much more.
How does the future look like for arabel?
I see a strong growth path ahead of us. I have set some solid targets with a tripling of our revenues by 2028. 2023 has been a transition year. 2024 will see a lot of new investments: the further renovation of our facilities, new machinery, the expansion of staff and a clear focus on continued quality and innovation.
For i-Marina we are growing from being a product supplier towards becoming a full solution provider. We want to be at the forefront of the electrification of marinas which means the introduction of new products and services.
With all the ambitions also comes the need for more people: we expect to grow our workforce by 150% in the coming years. We will grow our current product portfolio – both from a product as well as a services perspective – and support this through new acquisitions. We also want to expand regionally and become a true European player moving beyond our current markets Belgium, The Netherlands and France.
And we continue to optimize our processes to guarantee the high-quality label of our products.
In 2025 we will firmly move towards a sustainable energy transition in our facilities in Belgium with the implementation of solar panels and the further electrification of our facilities.
We are ambitious, but we also give ourselves the means to realize these ambitions.