Father is born
A windsurfing self-made entrepreneur/engineer -inspired by new things- is born.
He’s the son (2nd youngest of 5) of a UGent Law professor taking initiative in 1974 for lawyers’ live-long/permanent learning in Benelux law. This is still very hot today as the Gandaius Post University Cycle Willy Delva.
I can’t recollect my grandfather from my fathers’ side. He died when I was 2. I only know him from the pictures and stories of his students. They seem to remember him well because he talked about real-life cases in his classes. His specialty was Family Law and he’s also known to get the principle of « the good housefather » in Belgian Law.
My grandmother was very caring and sponsored AZ Sint Lucas with my great grand mothers’ fortune from the war (she has a street named after her in Blankenberge, her home town North Sea village). I remember having family get togethers in the hospitals chapel. She died when I was around 23.
Mother is born
A sailing nuclear physics prodigy -inspired to teach adolescents- is born.
She’s the daughter (eldest of 5) of a Navy pilot, inspired by the USA, becoming a teacher and programmer after his career.
Besides going to the USA for flying lessons, and being really young at heart, I don’t know so much abouth my grandfather from my mothers’ side.
I know he learned programming better then I did and sailed and skied until age 90 (2020) until my grandmother was unable to travel. She passed away 16/12/2022. R.I.P. oma.
He didn’t want to talk about the army because it reminded him of the Congo war, where he was a helicopter pilot. He still remembers the bullets flying past his ears, best friends getting killed.
He still lives today.
I have also known my great grandparents until I was 19. He was a blacksmith in the courthouse of their blue collar house in Assebroek (Bruges). I can vividly remember his story about his uncle and father climbing the boardwalk of steamship Normandie with 50kg of coal.
Mom and dad meet
Mom a sailor, dad a windsurfer, meet at Bloso (Sport Vlaanderen) in Ostend teaching kids the arts on the water and in the wind.
Mom’s parents had an Arpège Dufour, a notable racer-cruiser at the time. After each of his two first sails on the North Sea, dad swore he’d never sail again. Seasickness can be more than a pain in the @&&.
June 7th 1979
Son of a windsurfing self-made entrepreneur/engineer and a sailing nuclear physics prodigy.
Just a couple of weeks old, in the crib on the beach.
First time on the North Sea
1yr old, look at that smile 😀
My first boat
With my younger brother in Nieuwpoort…
1st major breakthrough
Giving my first lecture in middle school, named: ‘‘I’m going to be windsurfing champion! ‘’.
The whole class was enthousiastic, including me. However, mom and dad were clear: “we’re not going to do this”.
Mom and dad tought me to walk at 8 months, rollerskate at age 3, … and had a different opinion: “Aim as high as you can, in academics! There will always be an opportunity in sports later.”
A disappointment, but I either win or I learn. From then on, I searched and tried everything that crossed my path.
Sidenote: Robby Naish proved 13yr olds can win world championships from adults. Keeping up with adults myself in windsurfing at the age of 8, my ambitions seemed like a realistic goal.
Age 9 in an Optimist at Bloso Nieuwpoort. Sailed them 4yrs and 1yr 4M (single trapeze, no spinnaker).
The 1st family sailboat, another breakthrough
Almost 20yrs after my dad’s first dramatic sails, my parents bought a Van de Stad 40 Norman. A compromise between mom’s quest for performance and dad’s needs to have comfort.
Our first trip was Nieuwpoort to Benodet (Brittany, South-East of Raz-de-Sein) with an experienced pilot. We encountered 40knt winds blowing of the mainland to the Channel Islands and anchored just South of Cap The La Hague. At least one boat was lost that night, several injured. A Navy battleship came alongside in the middle of the night to check on us. It inspired a string of new ports being built on that coastline a couple of years later.
Not a major breakthrough initially, but it would come.
USA and my first student
Being 18, one year living with a host family (2 kids aged 10&12) studying AP Calculus, AP English, AP US History and self studying AutoCAD (in which I won an award). Went on holidays to Vermont & New Hampshire skiing, to the Florida Keys (Marathon) and West Palm Beach snorkeling. Regularly visiting Mem’s (host-grandmother) in Grotton Conneticut, home to the first submarine naval (building) base of the US.
Tought Fernando (a fellow exchange student) sailing a Laser at his host-parents house at the lake. My first student.
Sailing Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, Mystic and Newport (America’s Cup town) with my family left a lasting impression as well.
TU Delft – a coincidence?
Aim as high in academics as possible. The adagio at home. In Belgium this is paramount as well.
Due to my broad interests (see 1st Major Breakthrough), everything interested me and I didn’t know what to study. It was an article in the newspaper inspiring my mom to go and have a look with me and my dad.
A new building for Aerospace alone and a big hall with airplane and helicopter (parts). Cool, but is this what should define my future? « Maybe you can’t get enlisted » was a genius trick of my dad to go to admissions for a check. The nice guy looks at my grades, then sees I went to the USA and says it’s ok. My dad jumps up and asks « Where should I pay? »
I could have jumped up as well to say no, but I’m always open to new experiences. It would take a lot for me to say no. Either way, this was the start of my professional career.
Later on, I learned my mom’s (first?) lecture was about Apollo 11 landing on the moon… It was only in my thirties when I learned Aerospace was a golden ticket to open doors. Still up to me to perform, but a competitive advantage to start the narrative.
2nd Major Breakthrough
After the divorce of my parents (2000), my father bougth a sailboat to sail it solo on the North Sea for many years.
30 years earlier, he swore he would never set a foot on a sailboat again. 🙂
Magic does happen.
Volvo: HR driven operations
After my thesis internship, I’m honored to receive a permanent position at Volvo Cars Ghent.
In my 2nd month on the job, I unknowingly fumble big time, making the head of purchasing Sweden sending me a mail with 2 words:
My boss (at least 5 levels down) calls him to agree and end the phone call asking him to apologize to me. I didn’t know what I was hearing. 2 min’s later that’s exactly what happened. I will remember this forever. Everybody makes mistakes, it’s how we handle them that matters.
I got more examples like this. If you really want to know, give me a call/drop me a mail. 😉
I got a dream career at Volvo and will be forever thankfull to all the colleagues and leaders who got me where I am today.
My first sailboat. As always: ambitious, this is a planing skiff, which doesn’t need a lot of wind, has 1 trapeze to go hanging out the boat as counter weight for the large canvas. The assymetric makes the boat fly downwind. For the few 49er or 18ft skiff sailors out there, it’s nothing like your thing, still jealous.
Don’t know about sailing: this is windsurfing with 2 people. When you leave the boat for 5 seconds alone in the marina, it will flip upside down. 0 stability, more like continuously dancing, but wicked fast.
Work / Life <> divorce
Working like crazy + sleeping bad cost me my marriage. Although I’m very happy with my new wife and wouldn’t want to go back, it’s a good lesson to be more conscious. She’s also convinced that relationships from age 18 don’t last, but that’s a whole other discussion. My American host parents prove her wrong, that’s for sure.
I got an opportunity to lead production, logistics, engineering and maintenance in a 200 FTE SME in hands-on Kuurne!
In my final interview at 5pm, my phone kept ringing on silent. Normally I would never pick up the phone, but it felt alarming. The number was blocked, I picked up and someone was yelling. It sounded like he was wasted and wanted me to join. I was shocked.
The hiring director looked at me stunned and said with a smile literally: « You have some crazy friends! ». Up until today, I still don’t know who did this, but I’m pretty sure this was the nudge that got me the job. So, thanks!
Did amazing things at Novy. From building a real team of supervisors to LEAN flows, ERP implementation and a culture of continuous improvement. Thanks to everyone there!
After the ERP implementation led by my director, I get fired. Looks to me he’s in need of his old job, but I will never know.
13 (funny now I see the number) years of record savings, top teams, … A real blow, but this offers time for reflection.
IRC1 First 40 => 2018 Belgian champion
“Michel Lefebvre is a living legend” my grand father tells me. Everybody in the Belgian sailing scene does know him. He was a friend of the late Jacques Rogge as well. Just says a lot.
Winning the 2018 Belgian championship, I was just one of the 9 crew members. And it wasn’t Michel’s first victory either… Yes, the TEAM definitely deserves credit, it didn’t come easy. He does yell, but at the dock it’s all chips and drinks. And the merit he hass, just makes us respect him on the water. Imagine having his expertise and taking novices like us on board to try winning regattas for a living… Just to say, we all understand Michel steered and coached us to victory.
For the non-sailors out there:
Regatta sailing on a 40ft sailboat with 10 crew… you don’t have time to speak to each and everyone to tell them what to do in a manoeuvre. In a matter of 10 to 15sec, everyone is doing several tasks, each and everyone synchronised with at least 1 other crew member. This under high stress if you’re catching up, in unknown conditions -dancing on their feet when their are big waves- and time-pressure (think 2000′ F1 pit-stop).
My new wife had always dreamed of a daughter. Becoming a mother at age 35 made her even more wanting…
Then fate struck. A one in a billion deviation in the brain. Why? We’ll never know. They say misfortune never comes alone.
What’s for sure, this day will forever mark what could’ve been. Only memories of preparing the room, the baby shower, ther birthcard, no memories of her.
Rest In Peace
I start freelance in what I do best: crisis management (learned at Volvo and suppliers) and building teams for change. It gets me paid, well. I see a lot of different companies. Start-ups, big corporates, SME’s in a lot of different sectors.
Since I’m freelance, I also see an opportunity to start distributing and selling electric step scooters. Learning to build a brand B2C and B2B.
2019 – today
J80 One Design Racing
This is Timeline description, you can change me anytime click here
In several assignments, I got my 20yr old dream -to become a CEO- on a platter. All I did was sabotage it, unknowingly, unwillingly, … Deep down, something was screaming: “NO!”.
My dad anounces to finally, really stop working. I always thought he would work until he died. Apparently he’s not. He’s going to start sailing a new boat with his new wife. Going South…
I start seeing my baby pictures on the surfboard again. After 30yrs about my first lecture. And nothing but music about the sea, sailing, from surfers, … Just unbelievable. It’s so loud, I just can’t look away anymore.
This is it!
It’s breakthrough. My passion is the wind and the sea. I should be sailing. With everything I know and I have done, surely I can build a career on this. I’m no Olympic sailor, but I sure as hell know how to sail and lead a team. My missed career at age 8 is now my biggest asset: building high performing teams for change.
Building trust today
What are you afraid of? What does no-one know about you?
Ever considered trying with a helping hand? Would you be willing to let us in on your secret, knowing it will be kept in confidence?
We’s love to help you(r TEAM) out!