InterviewsWomen in Print

Empowering Colleagues is an Important Component of Sound Leadership

ME Printer speaks to Esmeralda Peleman, the Co-Chairwoman at PELEMAN Group, about the overall print industry and what attracted her to be part of it

Tell us about your leadership style and philosophy.
I firmly believe that to build a successful business, one must lead by example. Being passionate about our job is crucial, however, being compassionate to our colleagues is just as important in order to understand how we can best utilise their contribution to the company’s substantial growth.

And therefore I consider empowering my colleagues an eminent component of sound leadership. True leaders do not create followers. True leaders unleash the leader in others. A leader translates visions into reality, however, will never ask others to do something that they are not willing to do themselves.

In other words, a leader not only knows the way and shows the way, but also goes the way. I hold myself accountable to each one of these principles every single day to ensure that I work with my people and not above them. For me, leadership is not about making promises, but about making a difference. And this is exactly the core value behind PELEMAN’s Because It Matters brand promise.

The “Because it Matters” tagline encompasses the essence of our mission to provide our customers and partners with solutions that take their brand, products, services and even themselves, from awareness to preference. At PELEMAN, we truly believe that the way we present ourselves and our work matters.

What made you choose Printing and Graphics Industry as a career opportunity?
The business was originally started by my grandparents back in 1939 as Peleman-Saerens in the small Belgian town of Puurs. Following a devastating flood, my father Guido Peleman took the helm in 1979 to literally rebuild the company. I had initially studied law and planned to pursue a career in that field, however, my father convinced me to join the company.

He was right. I fell in love with the industry straight away. He, along with my mother who has been also actively involved in the leadership of the company, making sure that I gained a thorough understanding of all aspects of the work. I can honestly say that I have started from the bottom and I am grateful for that. This has allowed me to develop a deep knowledge of all departments before climbing the corporate ladder to become a CEO and later on the co-chairwoman alongside my father.

Two decades after my first official working day at PELEMAN, I still do not regret my choice. I am particularly humbled to be celebrating 20 years with the company on the 40th anniversary year of the “new” Peleman Industries. 

How has your unique background prepared you for success in the industry?
I literally grew up in our factory. Our house was located in close proximity to the company’s premises, and as young children, we were intrigued by all the machines and the daily work carried out in the factory. We saw the factory as a fascinating playground. Little did I know that a few years later, this playground would turn into my life-long passion.

I have basically spent my entire life learning about the latest market trends and innovations in the industry. Having both parents being actively involved in the day-to-day operations of Peleman Industries has given me the opportunity to experience the seismic changes of the industry first-hand.

Having held various positions at the company has allowed me to develop a deep understanding and appreciation for our valued colleagues’ and I truly consider this an invaluable part of my journey here at Peleman Industries where our success is built on the contribution and passion of our colleagues.

What was your most interesting job?
Having spent my entire career at PELEMAN, I consider it a privilege to have been able to challenge myself in different roles. In every position I have held, I set it as a personal goal to gain as much knowledge and experience as possible in order to prepare myself for the next chapter in my career.

Working in an industry which has gone true such fundamental changes over the past years requires a steadfast commitment to continuous learning and self-development in order to build a future-proof business.

What advice would you give to women looking to break into the field of print and related industry?
Over my 20-year career in the industry, I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with some of the most inspiring and hardest working women. As a global organisation, we consider it a key catalyst to our substantial growth to be working with talented people from diverse cultures and backgrounds, all of whom are united by the same core values and many of whom are women and mothers.

I do not think that being a woman should discourage any ladies who are looking to build a career in this industry. Being a woman allows us to approach challenges from a different perspective and to use our individual skills and capabilities to create opportunities for individual and organisational growth. Yes, the printing industry is still considered a “man’s world”, however, more and more women are proving that we can succeed in the business.

What is the greatest transformation in the printing that you’ve witnessed in your career?
The past years have been all about digitalisation and there is no denying that these profound changes have prompted all of us to re-assess our role and value proposition. Having said that, at PELEMAN, we strongly believe that challenges are opportunities in disguise.

Therefore, we do not consider digitalisation as a threat, rather an opportunity for substantial growth. As a company heavily relying on market trends and customer behaviour, it has always been paramount to us to keep up with the ever-changing habits of our customers.

The shifting paradigms of the digital era have profoundly transformed our industry, propelling us to look beyond the traditional needs of organisations as they increasingly rely on digital tools to connect, communicate and conduct business. These changes have prompted us to look for ways to innovate and optimise our product and service lineup.

By offering complete branding solutions, that encompass personalisation, a cutting-edge lay-flat technology and a variety of displays, we have managed to successfully compete in a highly computerised world and to sustain PELEMAN’s position as a trusted partner of organisations all over the world, be it the Middle East, Europe, the USA or other parts of the world.

The past decades’ technical evolution has not hindered our industry but triggered us to develop solutions that were unimaginable before. Thanks to these revolutionary new technologies, we are now able to offer truly unique solutions to customers. Our business is gradually shifting from mass production to the on-demand solution.

In today’s digital world, where everything is available with a click of a button, important messages tend to get lost in a stack of bytes and pixels. And therefore, connecting through something tangible is increasingly seen as an adequate way to enhance the levels of trust and respect between people and organisations.

With today’s customers becoming more and more accustomed to getting what they want and when they want it, those who are determined to stay relevant and competitive in this market are quickly shaping their strategies and product portfolio to appeal to their customers. Therefore, we see digitalisation as a vigorous driving force that heralds the next phase of PELEMAN’s innate evolution.

One of the main pillars of this development is our passion to combine our four-decade expertise in printed presentations and photos with today’s digital enhancements to create a cohesive PELEMAN brand experience. We are immensely excited to further expand our portfolio over the next months with one-of-a-kind products, that I strongly believe are well-suited to our Middle Eastern customers’ needs and preferences.

What are your thoughts on the next transformation in the print and graphics industry?
As mentioned before, I truly believe that despite our lives being more and more dependent on digital technology, paper remains and will remain a crucial tool in connecting and communicating with each other. Printed documents convey a deeper sense of credibility and thus will never be fully replaced by digital files.

The transformation that is taking place is an increased emphasis on adding even more value to printed documents through tailored solutions. Organisations are continuously looking for ways to distinguish themselves from their peers by engaging with their clients on a more personal level. Today, this goes well beyond a letter or email with a name on top. This is about engaging multiple senses to deliver a complete brand experience.

This is why we are devoted to elevating the customer experience by offering solutions that (quite literally) speak to the audience. For that genuine WOW factor, we bring brands and messages alive via 3D-like print on our trusted covers. We take great pride in being one of the few companies in our category that are able to deliver complete solutions to organisations of all categories and sizes, be it a Fortune 500 company or a local start-up.

Given that an average office worker receives up to 121 emails per day, professionally printed presentations, especially when delivered in a more customised way, make people feel more valued and give them a better impression of the company. Printed photos are also making a comeback with people now attaching more emotions to tangible experiences. Therefore, there is a tremendous opportunity for those in the broader printing industry to successfully circumvent these digital blind spots and reinvent themselves.

Are you involved in any sort of volunteer work? Can you give us some details?
I strongly believe that being a responsible company goes beyond the practical steps of recycling and green policies and extends to our broader community. I have been involved in the rotary’s initiatives here in Belgium for quite some time and likewise, I also devote much of my free time to help the regional Chamber of Commerce in the Flemish region as a member of the board of directors.

Safeguarding our environment is another issue close to my heart. Our goal is to achieve or even exceed the CO2 emission reduction targets set by the European Union, by 2020, 10 years prior to the official target date. This, of course, requires commitment and actions.

In 2011, two windmills were installed at Peleman Industries’ headquarters in Belgium. They each produce 2.3 MW, equivalent to the annual consumption of 3,000 families. Reaffirming our commitment to green initiatives, just over a year ago, we erected a 2MW / 2MWh industrial battery. Hailed as the largest of its kind in Belgium, the battery stores energy generated by the nearby wind turbines, with its total capacity amounting to the daily electricity consumption of 200 households. Continuously pursuing ways to reduce our ecological footprint is strongly rooted in our company values and is manifested in every aspect of our operations.

What’s next for you in terms of your career in the printing industry?
The year 2019 marks the 40th anniversary of PELEMAN and as co-chairwoman, my goal is to ensure that the next four decades will be just as successful as the past 40 years. I can genuinely say that what PELEMAN brings to the market is unique. Building on decades of first-hand experience working closely with customers such as Apple, has allowed us to gradually shift from product selling to solution offering.

We, at PELEMAN, are devoted to bridging gaps in the market by offering complete solutions that take businesses and organisations from awareness to preference. Our goal is to continue raising the standards in printed presentation, photo and lay-flat paper solutions and we are determined to leave an even bigger mark on the global printing industry. Even after 20 years in the industry, this excites and motivates me every day; pushing me and our team to think bigger and bolder. Because in the end, print still matters.

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