New balance:

 

we talk work with Serge Hannecart

Serge Hannecart does not do things by halves. When 30 years ago, he decided to go into real estate because he could not find the apartment he envisioned, he started work on a building that would contain five flats, of which one would be his.  They sold in an instant and he decided, not only to sell his own unit, but to continue building a successful real estate business, too. His company, Life, now employs about a 100 people in various countries, and creates apartments, student housing, offices, industrial sites, and more – and is starting on its first hotels.

 Photography: Stefan Vanfleteren

Photography: Stefan Vanfleteren

With Fosbury & Sons, Hannecart is able to combine his passion for real estate with something that goes further than fulfilling a practical need. Spurred on by Stijn Geeraets and later Maarten Van Gool, it’s also the fulfillment of a dream. He provided the space, they brought the dream to completion.

We spoke to the entrepreneurial Antwerpian find out more about his professional path and preferences.

FoS: How did you end up in the real estate business?

By coincidence. I started my working life in insurance – I invented an insurance product that became hugely successful. But I got bored – insurance is a business in which you can never please everybody. There’s always someone who gets the bad end of the stick. I didn’t really enjoy it and it wasn’t creative enough for me. I got out and built those first apartments with the money I made in insurance. It became bigger, and it became what it is now.

FoS: Seems like whichever business you go into, you make it work. Does it take a certain outlook?

Up until now, it’s worked out, yes. (laughs) The things that you do well, with passion, and with an eye for the long-term, can work. And making the right choices.

FoS: What attracted you to the Fosbury & Sons concept?

For me, it was the challenge that drew me in the most. The architectural challenge of it. How can you create something that is much better than what’s on offer today? The idea of a kind of business centre that is well-executed had been in the back of my mind for about 15 years. But there were always other things that got in the way, and I never got to it. Probably because I never met the right people to partner with. When I met Stijn, it all made sense. After one year he proposed the concept and after less than a year, with Maarten added into the mix, we opened this Antwerp location.

FoS: What makes this collaboration so gratifying?

The success of it. The fact that so many people are walking in each day. The fact that you can give new life to a building like this, which was lifeless and grim. It affected the neighborhood.  The entire neighborhood is now re-activated: there’s the brewery, the bike shop, the new deli downstairs. We’re elevating an entire neighborhood, and I find that fascinating.

FoS: What do you value most about your working environment?

I’ve always wanted a homely feeling in my offices. A luxurious living room feel. I don’t want to work in a corporate environment. It might be nice in the beginning of your career, to get out of your comfort zone, but once you’ve achieved something, you crave something different. As we will work 40 years of our lives, we should make it comfortable.

FoS: What does a typical working day look like for you?

I’m at the office daily, but I don’t have a fixed spot. I travel a lot on a yearly basis, but when I am here, I probably have between 10 and 14 appointments a day. And I have about 10 coffees a day – I’m still waiting for a decent alternative drink that’s not full of sugar!

FoS: Do you have any tips for young people starting out in your business?

So many. Learn from your mistakes. Look for collaborations that improve your career – don’t try to do everything by yourself.