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30 Year Interview with Christiaan and Maurice Roetgering

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Reminiscing over the past and looking towards the future with Christiaan and Maurice

Sitting with Christiaan and Maurice Roetgering, brothers and founders of Coulisse at the headquarters in Enter, you immediately get a sense of their exuberance and commitment to the company. As they relay stories of what it was like thirty years ago and how the company has developed over the last three decades; you see that this family-run business has always kept its core values and vision... and always focuses on the future.

Trust is key

It all started in 1992 in an apartment in the local village of Enter in the East of the Netherlands. As a true entrepreneur, Christiaan began a trading company with just a computer in the corner of the living room. With the help of brother Maurice joining the company and the support of the whole family, Coulisse began properly trading in the first few years with just ten people in employment. Christiaan remembers, “At the beginning it was quite intimate, we used to all have lunch together around the kitchen table back in those days, which was freshly made by my wife. We still lunch together today at dock 36, but now on a larger scale. I also remember that we used to be involved in every single deal. Now we rely on our strong team of managers and employees. It’s all about finding the right people – experts in their fields whether it’s marketing, digitization, engineering, legal or quality control. When we hit our annual targets, we know we are in the right hands.”

Joining the big league

One of the biggest moments in Christiaan and Maurice’s career was relocating the business to Vonderweg 48 in Enter, known as the headquarters. To celebrate, Christiaan remembers “We held a big party right at the beginning to celebrate this big step. We were so proud of the transition from trading articles at home to finally having a real office and starting to develop our own fabrics and components.” He further reveals, “Our philosophy at Coulisse has always been the same: work hard, play hard.” Both brothers agree, “We love to work hard and share the successes. We really want to enjoy these moments with our team.” Maurice reminisces, “Talking of parties – our Christmas parties, the parties at the R&T fair and the trips abroad with our employees are memorable for everyone working with us.”

Right decisions at the right time

What is Coulisse’s secret to success? “It’s a number of factors really,” explains Christiaan. “Every major decision we have made over the years, has been made with real thought. We always evaluate the information at the time and go to our limit. It’s always a controlled decision.” Maurice adds, “Yes, whether it was being the first in Eastern Europe after the wall coming down or making our first one-million-dollar deal in the Far East, we like to take well-educated risks. And a lot is also intuition and a gut-feeling.” He continues, “And of course, we have our partners and suppliers to thank for joining us on this journey. Without these long-standing partnerships, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

Memorable moments

Many of these long-term partnerships have grown into friendships over the years. This is because Christiaan and Maurice always want to keep a personal bond with the people they work with – whether its clients or employees. This feeling of being one big Coulisse family has been and still is very evident in the company. This makes it especially sad when colleagues pass away. Both brothers think back, “Definitely one of our saddest moments is saying goodbye to our much-loved colleagues,” discloses Christiaan. Maurice adds, “Definitely. This and also the fire that took place in 2003. These times have really taught us resilience.”

Fortunately, the glass is always half full for the Roetgering brothers and they have many great moments that make them proud. Christiaan recounts, “From the first time we went to the R&T fair in 2002 to opening our first office in Miami ten years ago. Not forgetting our team in Asia keeping everything running in Covid times to our brand-new office in Sydney. We are just so proud of everyone.” Maurice confesses, “Yes, I remember we were quite nervous about expanding to the Americas. It is challenging as a European company to be successful in the United States and we cannot be more thrilled that ten years later, we can say ‘we did it’ thanks to Jop and his team with a double-digit yearly growth and a stable network. Hard work really does pay off.”

“We aspire to be the Tesla of our industry”

Smart technology and robotics

Technology wise, things have changed tremendously over the past 30 years. Christiaan grins, “It’s funny to think that in 1992 I had my first mobile phone, a fax at home and we used to drive to every customer. Now we are transforming the window covering industry with Motionblinds smart technology. This is the most advanced smart home solution available on the market and also ready for the new standard Matter. This is what the industry has been waiting for. It's the only way to make a smart home really smart.” This and the new robotic assembling machinery that we are currently developing is taking Coulisse to the next level. Maurice explains, “Our new robotics is going to make the production of pleated blinds 80% more efficient and save on CO2. This is going to be a game-changer not just for us but for other assembling companies. At Coulisse, we are always looking to the future and love to share our knowledge and findings. This will be the next advanced technology that we will share with the world.”

Coulisse is renowned for its in-house engineering and R&D department. This is where all the smart motors, advanced systems and robotic concepts start to come to fruition. Christiaan proudly discloses, “Bas was our very first engineer at Coulisse and he was joined soon after by his friend Ruben. Now we have a team of 24 – 18 engineers and 6 quality experts - working on the latest concepts where beauty meets intelligence.”

What’s up their sleeve?

What are the next big plans for Coulisse? Christiaan and Maurice have a few more things up their sleeve. Maurice reveals, “We are always busy with new ventures. For instance, we are restoring the Reggedal nature reserve near our headquarters. This area has a special place in our heart as this is where we grew up and used to build tree houses. We want it to restore it for future generations to enjoy.” He adds, “but it’s not just the Reggedal, we are also busy working with the government to help the farmers in the region that are currently in a challenging position.”

New state-of-the-art Coulisse campus

When it comes to investment, the Roetgering brothers are never shy. In fact, they cannot wait to realize their dream of a new Coulisse Campus, which will start to be built this year on a new location in Enter. Christiaan enthuses, “This will be the go-to place for window coverings experts around the world. The idea is a new experience center, production facilities and different offices all on one location of 70,000 square meters. The first building on the campus will be a 13,000 square meter warehouse, which is 18 meters high. This should be complete next year.” He adds, “This warehouse will have the option for an automated part. Then we will begin phase two to build an automated warehouse of 7,000 square meters, where we will use RFID (radio-frequency identification).” Maurice continues, “And what is even more special is that we have plans to produce hydrogen with solar energy at this new location to reduce our ecological footprint.”

“Honest, social and fair. That’s what is important to us”

Investing in people

These investments go further than money. What is the most important of all for Christiaan and Maurice is investment in people. Christiaan enthuses, “We strive to the no.1 employer in the Netherlands. This goes beyond offering physical benefits of a sustainable lunch and a perfect workspace. We ultimately want people to feel comfortable at Coulisse. That they feel they can really say what they think. If there are any problems, we want to be there to help solve it. We really want our employees to feel part of our Coulisse family. Really enjoy working here. And we only ask for our team to do one thing in return: be honest, social and fair. That’s what is important to us.”

Retirement on the horizon? The answer is a resounding no. Christiaan concludes, “We're going to keep doing what we do. Our children are young and there is plenty of time to see how things develop in the future. But for now, we are happy doing what we love and we wouldn’t change it for the world.”