Marco Hellemans

Moderator Speaker
“In this global world, we constantly get inspired by other cultures”
“Cross-cultural contacts are a source of creativity and wealth”

Is it because Marco Hellemans (1951) is a true Brusselian, a cosmopolitan capital city, that he has always been attracted by other cultures? Probably. But his journey to meet other cultures was also part of his karma.

By creating Dynamite he invented a new job: business energizer. Being a business energizer implies energizing your customers with the use of marketing and sales techniques. Marco masters these techniques thanks to his past work experiences and his lectures at university.

Marco Hellemans is also a humorous, dynamic and enthusiastic speaker as IBM, Belfius, Vinci, Athlon Car Lease, etc. may have noticed.

Successful challenge

After graduating from high school, in 1971, psychology is of much interest to Marco. However, an interview at a PMS centre pushes him to opt for interpretation, at the ISTI. He improves his knowledge of languages but soon realizes that this job isn’t for him. In the middle of his first year, he decided to change course. He chose to gain experience n business, before starting other studies in the fall. In less than 15 days, he was hired at Bosch as an assistant marketing manager. “I saw a link between marketing (which was just emerging in Europe at the time) and psychology (my main interest): understanding consumers to better meet their demand and communicate with them more effectively.

Marco doesn’t only leave the ISTI; he also leaves the family nest and must then start to earn a living. Combining a full-time job with studies is no easy task… His manager offers him a solution: work full-time without attending classes and prepare for and sit annual examinations by taking unpaid holydays. From 1972 to 1976, he combines his job at Bosch and a BA in Economics at the ULB, where he earns the highest distinction.

Consultancy

His teachers, including Bernard Van Ommeslaghe who offers Marco a job at Sobemap a consultancy firm he owns, notice the quality of his academic work. Marco Hellemans then joins the marketing department of Sobemap where, as the only economist in a multidisciplinary team, he is responsible for strategic missions and market research for customers such as Philips, Black & Decker, banks and the Brazilian government.

His knowledge of languages allows him to coordinate international market research. At that time, his missions already took him across different continents and got him in contact with many cultures. In 1978, he joins the marketing department where he conducts studies for multinational companies, the European Commission, the Belgian government, etc. A year later, Sobemap proposes Marco to work in tandem with consultants from McKinsey on corporate turnarounds. There, he discovers the secret methods of the famous American consultancy firm.

Textile and food

In 1980, he furthers his education with a Master in Management at the Solvay Business School. The same year, he becomes Marketing Director for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Blue Bell. At the time, Blue Bell gathers multinational firms leader in their sector: Wrangler (No.2 in the world for jeans), Red Kap (work clothes), Jantzen (leisure textiles). His new responsibilities come along constant travelling, an excellent spot for observing cultural differences and communication problems they may create. Consequently, cross-cultural communication becomes his main area of focus.

Five years later, when Marco leaves Blue Bell for Danone, he isn’t surprised by the huge differences in management methods between French and American firms. At Danone, he manages a range of brands, negotiates with major retailers and launches several innovative products. But an idea has been growing in his mind for several years: become his own boss.

Business energizer

In 1987, Marco Hellemans resigns from Danone to fully devote to the launch of a new product he designed and produced in China: the Rock Ring. It is a ring light for concerts. In the first month, sales explode. Though, disagreements with his two American partners push him to end the project.

Now that Marco took the entrepreneur pathway, it seems impossible for him to go back and work for multinational firms. He then creates Dynamite and invents a new job: business energizer. Being a business energizer implies energizing your customers with the use of marketing and sales techniques. Indeed, Marco masters these techniques thanks to his past work experiences and his lectures at university. As a fan of consistency, he encourages his customers to invest where his analysis provide the best return on investment. Thus, a client who was considering an expensive advertising campaign performed better by investing in the training of his sellers. Another of his customer abandoned the development of a product that was unlikely to break in due to a highly competitive market, to boost the sales of an already existing product that was slumbering.

Writing and sharing

Since the early 1980s, Marco Hellemans is also a teacher: sales engineers and MBA from different universities, including ICHEC. He teaches marketing, communication and sales techniques. In 1993, the Leuven Institute for Ireland in Europe offers to create a new course in cross-cultural communication. Since then, he has never ceased to improve the formation and is even writing a book about it at the moment: Glommunication. Marco Hellemans defines his book as a “communication guide, in complete opposition with standard academic literature where the reader is often lost. This book provides an innovative vision of cross-cultural communication and presents new ways to build bridges between cultures, in a simple way and immediately available.”

Accompanist

Marco Hellemans forms people working in international environments, or who have the intention to do so. He already taught his techniques to more than 200 European officials, employees, managers and expatriates arriving in Europe or leaving Europe to other continents. “When I was in Blue Bell, I saw many American newcomers. They usually took between three to five years to begin understanding the ABC of cultural differences. By ignorance, they committed important mistakes that could prove to be expensive to the company. I propose to reduce that risk and facilitate the integration of expatriates in just a few days long formation.” He is also an expert in export strategy recognised by the official Wallon Export Agency.

The Glommunication

International, Globalisation, Diversity, Globalisation, HR, Corporate Culture, Marketing, Sales, Customer Service, Communication, Public Relations

Cross-cultural contacts are a permanent source of creativity and wealth. There are important differences between them and a normal behaviour in one’s culture can be considered totally unacceptable in another’s culture. What is Marco Helleman’s passion? Make you aware of how culture affects behaviour (mostly unconscious influence), make you discover how to synchronize yourself to other cultures, help you avoid the pitfalls and stereotypes of cultural differences and share with you the experience of 40 years of field experience.

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Languages of the keynote
English, French