From Football to Furniture

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Following his departure from football, Dekeyser founded the outdoor furniture company Dedon in 1990. The firm prides itself on making the highest-quality outdoor furniture and, thanks to the materials used, Dedon’s products are not only fashionable, but also very durable, being resistant to extreme temperatures, salt-water, chlorine, even spilled wine. Dedon now employs around 3,000 people in 80 countries across five continents, with showrooms in Barcelona, Paris, Milan and Antwerp. Their furniture can also be found in some of the finest hotels across the globe. Together checks in with the talented chairman to talk about his business, life and the future.

You have three children, aged 21, 18 and 12. How do you balance your family with your professional life?
Dekeyser: That has been a big challenge. Sometimes, things in your life go so fast, you really have to slow down and enjoy life. I’ve found this to be especially true. Having a family and balancing work does not always have to be as stressful as it sounds.

Where did the inspiration come from to start a furniture company?

After football, I looked at becoming an entrepreneur as a way to feel free again. I didn’t want to wait around for people to tell me what to do. I wanted to do something myself. To begin with, it was a business plan in which we said: “Let’s do nice things for family and friends, in a nice environment and let’s create nice products,” and that was our plan for the next five years. We had some struggles along the way, but we always tried to have fun. At Dedon, we don’t worry about who is more important, we just have fun and see where we can take our ideas.

Did you have mentors or people that you looked up to?
I would have loved to have had a mentor, but I never had one. There are certain people or things that I draw inspiration from, but not one specific person. I am inspired by a great dance, for example. My inspiration comes from daily things more than it comes from other people. Was there ever a time you thought about giving up and going into a more traditional profession?

Oh yeah, every day, in the beginning. It’s one thing to have an idea, but it’s hard to know where to go from there. I had no clue how to start. But one thing I always said was: “Let’s prove the critics wrong.” I liked the challenge of it. Eventually, it all worked out.

What is Dedon all about?
Professionally, it’s all about performance. You always have to bring your best performance. In the end, you have to trust
your feelings and surround yourself with others who feel the same way. It’s all about friendship and energy. It sounds easy, but it is what is missing in this world.

And what do you think is the key to your success?
The definition of success is up to the individual. Different things suit different people. Young people today need to ask themselves: “What is success?” They all seem to think it is about making quick money, having a great wife, four kids and a nice car, but it’s not just that. It’s about being committed. Success is driven by values – being honest, being together, staying true to yourself. In our company, we may disagree on things, but we always find ways to work together. It makes things easier. We base our company on the way we want to live, it’s not just something to be done once and then be done with. It’s something you have to do every day, it requires daily effort.  At Dedon, we always try to challenge ourselves and that’s what keeps us alive.