Brothers in Business: an interview with my brother Yvan Vindevogel

In the last edition of Luxury Leads, a Belgian magazine about the finer things in life, I got together with my brother Yvan for an interview. As some might know, I started my career as a shampoo salesman for my brother's company, which eventually became Omega Pharma. From there, I pursued my dream and applied my sales skills and insights into style and tailoring. Rewritten from my perspective, here is an interesting excerpt from that interview:

“We grew up in a family atmosphere. With a lot of sports, and possessed by horses. At the age of seven, we started riding and went jumping every weekend. Our father was proud and if we won it was a party - which we often did and it often was. That's where our winner's instinct comes from, I think," laughs Yvan Vindevogel, my brother. "Make it a good one," he quotes our father.

Our father gave us a lot of things - most importantly love. But whatever opportunity landed in our lap, we had to get everything out of it that we could and work harder than the next guy. For him, he would've always found it worthwhile for us to pursue a career as a jockey, which was thwarted by a major accident at the age of 17.

Actually - and most might not know this - but it was my dream to become a veterinarian, specialized in jumping horses. Instead, I became a flying tailor. I studied optics and started working for Omega Pharma, which Yvan had set up together with his fellow pharmacist Frank Degeyter. “Before, I had only started making shampoos,” my brother Yvan adds. “The shampoo business was later integrated into Omega Pharma and Marc Coucke joined as a shareholder. Pharmacists bought it up and put their own name on it, and compared to branded shampoos they had five times as much margin. That's one of the successes, but that wasn't enough."


I still remember that in those first weeks, my brother Yvan took to the road in a rusted, overloaded Renault R18. He too timid for the sales world - certainly then. I myself am also a timid person by nature, but the passion that I get from hunting a lead makes that all disappear. However, I never get anywhere alone; I have to be introduced by someone, as every gentleman does. But just like our father gave us opportunities and taught us to utilize them as well as possible, it would only take me five minutes and I'm no longer need the other person. "Many actors are also timid in regular situations. But once they are on the stage, they just become extroverts. A kind of passionate counter-reaction. I am also like that in my company," adds my brother, and I agree.

We are both commercially and technically minded. I can only market a product if I know from A to Z. If I know how it works, I want to be able to answer every question. Technology, passion, commercialism: an understanding of that combination is rare. I never went to pharmacists as a seller, rather as technical support for the product. And I assure you: nicely dressed than anyone else. I realized that the right clothing makes you sell more. Preparation is everything. And that starts with how you get dressed in the morning.

"Many of our competitors had ordinary representatives who had nothing to say about their product," says my brother. “The only thing that mattered was the sales pitch: twelve plus two free. I really trained my sales people: the pharmacists had to know that our product was much better. That way they could trust it and praise it to their customers."


However, there was a hitch in the cable. I worked on a commission and earned a lot of money. When the committee was to be adjusted, I left. Earlier I used Omega Pharma's warehouses to organize stock sales, and I wanted to do more.

"Then I said: go for what you really want," reminisces Yvan. "As a student, he already bought Armani and Versace costumes in Italy, which he sold to fellow students." Our mother had two boutiques in Kortrijk. My love for beautiful things finds its roots here. I also like to work alone. I can organize myself very well. But as soon as one person joins, I lose focus. Now I have a team, from Mexico to Miami over London, where my son Robin runs the business. But for the top end, such as the order for the royals in Morocco, I never send someone else. In that sense, my brother Yvan is much more talented in delegating his staff. And that is my biggest flaw. It is stronger than myself.

"I have to," he reminds me. “1200 people work at Vemedia-Cooper. At Vision Healthcare 280, maybe 500 at the end of this year. We are now taking over four companies simultaneously, after eight years. Naturally, you cannot do all of this yourself. Moreover, I am very impatient. I want everything to happen immediately. Because of that, I get ahead, but there are also dangers in it. To protect myself against myself, I appoint a COO - a Chief Operating Officer."

Although my brother is only eleven months older, Yvan's role as an older brother has always remained intact. We support each other. The Copperhead team is also wearing my suits. I listen to him more than he listens to me, because I look up to him. Yvan built an empire with 1,500 euros. The American Dream in West Flanders. He gives me advice, but does not force it upon me. He trusts my commercial instinct - and that I will always end up on my feet.

Read the full article here (dutch only).



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