02 September 2021

The infinite game – the Simac way

To read or not to read, that is the question. I spend a lot of my spare time reading books, preferably management books. And whenever I come across a book that I really like, I buy several copies to give to my management team. Recently, I shared Simon Sinek’s latest book with them, The Infinite Game. Not just because it’s a great book. The book also describes the vision and strategy of our own company, Simac. Although Sinek does not mention Simac specifically, there is an interesting parallel with our company.

The books I share are not always by well-known contemporary authors. I have already surprised my colleagues with old Roman wisdom from Marcus Aurelius. Or books written by start-up founders like Jason Fries and David Heinemeier Hanssen (founders of Basecamp). The books need to be inspirational. Or challenging. Or containing practical insights.

What defines great companies?

What struck me most about The Infinite Game is the parallel with Simac. As many business books do, it ventures to find what separates good companies from great ones. And it looks at the particular traits of good leaders. The conclusion: great leaders do not measure their performance by the latest quarterly figures or by the growth in market cap of the company. Just like great politicians look beyond the results of the next election, great CEOs judge themselves by at what their heritage is for future generations.  They are not focused on the profit a product makes, but on the value a product brings to the user.

This closely echoes the word that Simac uses to describe how it works with its customers and partners: Teamnology. Simac employees work with the customers to create technological answers to business challenges. The Teamnology philosophy provides Simac with longevity. As you may know, McKinsey calculated that the life expectancy of an S&P 500 company shrunk from 90 years in 1935 to under 15 years in 2014. By 2035, the lifespan of a company is supposed to shrink to just 5 years. In contrast, Simac is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

A never-ending marathon

Simac is indeed playing an infinite game.

Simac does not run towards a finish line. Quite the opposite, in fact: we are running a never-ending marathon. Just like Sinek’s book, this mindset turns us into a bestseller.

At Simac, we have our own set of Sinek’s, the Van Schagen family. The company was founded fifty years ago by Mac Van Schagen, who passed the baton to his son Eric twenty years later. And soon, Eric will hand over to the next generation. This degree of stewardship is rare in companies.

Eric Van Schagen has built the company  on six main pillars, as highlighted in our latest annual report: a financially strong basis, diversification of activities, a long-term contract with customers, focus on employees and corporate culture, room for innovation and treating the environment responsibly. These six pillars closely resemble the five practices to lead in the infinite game that Sinek describes, especially Just Cause, Trusting Teams and Existential Flexibility. Simac touts a family culture, in which we want to give our colleagues a sense of belonging, a feeling that provides more value than a monthly salary. We create a safe work environment, both for our colleagues and our customers.

Sinek hails transparency as an important trait: we have to be honest towards ourselves and others about the choices we make. Our colleagues, customers and partners know that we are in it for the long haul, not just for short-term gains. Simac keeps building towards an infinite horizon. And we keep running our never-ending marathon.

Patrick Bontinckx
Patrick Bontinckx

Patrick Bontinckx is the CEO of Simac ICT Belgium. Patrick joined Simac over 20 years ago and has been running the company ever since. Before Simac, he worked in a variety of sales and management functions at Digital Equipment.

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Simac runs a never-ending marathon with its customers.