Client and quality first
More than 150 employees, 10 offices in Belgium and Luxembourg, a portfolio of services ranging from tax advice and social secretariat to the protection of intellectual property: our reputation and our know-how surpassed the borders of our country a long time ago. The founder and CEO Joseph Faymonville looks back over the history, the values and the challenges of thg.
thg: 1983-2018. 35 years of history!
J. Faymonville: it’s true. I still remember the exact date of the creation of Faymonville & Partners. It was on 6 October 1983. When I think back, honestly, it’s difficult for me to imagine that it is 35 years ago. It probably doesn’t seem that long, because so many things have happened since ‘83.
thg: Any start-up of an activity is supposed to be difficult. Was this the case with thg?
J. F.: Yes and no. I had envisioned offering medium-sized companies the same quality of service as the Big Four were offering the large companies, namely a complete high-quality consultancy going beyond what traditional accounting and tax companies offer to their clients. However, my reality on a daily basis was somewhat different. Indeed, I was working for a large consultancy office in Brussels and I was only capable of dealing with my clients during the weekend.
I quickly saw an increase of the number of my clients. The number grew so quickly that I had to hire my first employees. One of the first was Kurt Leinen. He came straight from the tax office and brought with him his complete professional experience. I quickly decided to abandon my job in Brussels and I don’t regret it at all. We experienced a real leap forward when we acquired the fiduciary Probst in St. Vith. The fact that we could, as new arrivals on the market, take over a business that had been established for a long time, generated many discussions.
thg: What were the next milestones?
J. F.: The decision to create a subsidiary in the North of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg was an important step. We were the first ones to dare to do it. We soon found a suitable manager in Eric Schroder. Today, Luxembourg hosts our largest office (about 35 employees). During all these years we have been able to assist many companies in the creation of a subsidiary in Luxembourg. It was not only an important stage for us, but for the whole region. Crossing the border has allowed the East of Belgium to be developed considerably.
thg: How did things develop in Belgium?
J. F.: My idea was to have an office in the big university cities of Wallonia. We set this in motion progressively. Today we are present in Brussels, Namur, Liège and Louvain La Neuve. At the same time, we expanded our presence in the east of the country. Eupen joined the group at the end of the 90s and grew rapidly, notably thanks to the acquisition of the Schroder office several years ago. With a presence in Verviers and Malmedy, we cover this part of Belgium efficiently.
thg: thg has around ten offices. Why is it important to have a local presence? Logistically it would certainly be easier to maintain only one or two large offices.
J. F.: No doubt, but I consider it crucial that we stay close to our clients. The mutual trust, the relational proximity, the availability are all essential in my view. We know our clients and our clients know us. We have established a long-term relationship with a good number of them. This is invaluable in this era, where everything is becoming more and more complex and where our scope for action is becoming narrower.
thg: These days, can the market be content simply with accounting and tax consultants?
J. F.: Absolutely not. That is why we started to enrich our portfolio early on. Today we cover the entire spectrum of consultancy for businesses, starting with accounting and classic tax consulting and including commercial law, balance sheet consolidation, social secretariat, intellectual property and data protection. Let’s not forget obtaining national or European aid, or again estate planning. For this purpose, we have created teams that work as support to our local offices, including high-level employees who advise the client whatever the issue. We want our clients to be able to focus on their core business, to have a head start on the events and the competition.
thg: You often use the term “trust”. This seems to be very important to you.
J. F.: Trust is not just important, it is the foundation of our business relationships. As a fiduciary consultancy, it is critical to establish a long-term relationship and to establish complete trust between our clients and ourselves. Our clients open up their books to us, we discover the inner workings of their business! Without this total trust, any cooperation would be meaningless. We must be able to say in all honesty to our clients what they must do to make their company successful in the long term. They expect us to show them how to ensure their growth and sometimes to recommend that separation from this or that activity is necessary. These are important decisions that any company must make. The entrepreneur must be able to count on our analysis and our recommendations, without any reservations.
thg: Let’s discuss the future. Everyone is talking about digitalisation. How are you getting through this?
J. F.: Very well! Classic accounting has gone through a real transformation, that’s a fact. Already today, we offer our clients the possibility of registering their documents and transmitting their data to us electronically. Digitalisation allows us to analyse the numbers more thoroughly and to identify opportunities more rapidly. What remains essential, is the accuracy of the numbers and to this end, it is always important for a specialist to check them. Only if the baseline data is correct, can the conclusions also be correct.