How do you successfully bring two strong creative brands together while maintaining their individual identities?
Vanessa Jacob, CEO of Wenneker.be and Volstok, is an entrepreneur at heart. In the past year she has successfully brought two creative companies together. Here she gives some insight into her recent experience. “It all about the click!” she says.
Starting a business from scratch is an intensive job. With her video production house Wenneker.be (part of PAKT, of which she is co-owner) in great shape, Vanessa started looking for a creative company that could complement Wenneker.be, either with expertise, or by operating in a specific market. She ended up at the best animation studio in Belgium: Volstok. “We just clicked!”
“That click is the most important factor”, says Vanessa. “Even before there was any talk of merging Volstok and Wenneker.be, both management teams had a great relationship. We met at entrepreneurial clubs and creative events. It just felt like a good match. But then of course you have to seriously explore together whether a merger is a wise move.” To that end, the companies drew up a 4 step plan. “The first step was to compare ambitions and interrogate the following: Could we strengthen each other? How do our relative expertise complement each other? Are our views on customer service similar, and do we motivate our people in the same way?”
“The second step was to determine whether there is trust. I felt that keenly with Volstok, and vice versa. The third step was thorough due diligence. Together with PAKT we investigated the risks; legal, fiscal and commercial. The results were very favorable”, says Vanessa, “and all the lights were green to put a plan into action. Both Wenneker Belgium and Volstok are two strong brands. We wanted to keep those brands.”
When something changes in a company dynamic, staff become restless, no matter what. For example, employees wonder what role they might take on in the new structure. Vanessa, together with Volstok’s management, involved the twenty employees in the process from the very beginning. “Communication is hugely important,” she says. “You have to listen carefully to the employees’ questions and concerns. And be completely transparent.”
Together, the teams set goals and looked at the values and cultures within both companies. “We discussed what employees find important at work and in their private lives. We looked at how both companies deal with working hours, holiday and events besides work, and what we can stand for together. Everyone really enjoyed being able to express themselves. Volstok and Wenneker.be quickly arrived at a range of shared values and the integration went very smoothly.” Vanessa thinks it’s fortunate that all the employees are creative. “All our colleagues are eager to make something beautiful. They respect each other and are interested in one other. That inspires. It has led to a wonderful atmosphere in the office; a feeling of home.”
Wenneker.be and Volstok position themselves as two brands, but they have formed one team in one location since September 2021. HR, finance and marketing costs are shared, providing room to invest in other things. Vanessa has no ambition to become a big giant. She does want Wenneker.be and Volstok to be best in class when it comes to making strong visual creations. Vanessa says, “’We want to provoke emotions and create impact. And we can do that with our amazing team of producers, creatives, editors, animators, illustrators and CGI experts. Together we are brilliantly placed to answer today’s increasingly complex production challenges.” And that does not go unnoticed by customers. “We are increasingly being asked to combine live action with animation, so we can immediately join forces.’
Written by Vanessa Jacob. Vanessa is CEO of Wenneker.be, Volstok & CRUSH, Part of PAKT. A European ecosystem of content production companies with one vision: Creating quality content at scale!