The Path to Leadership and Success By Elien Pieters

After earning the prestigious ‘Womed Award’ for female entrepreneurship and innovation in 2019, my immediate reaction was: “This award is due to the extraordinary commitments made by the entire Gediflora team.” In these challenging times, my hope is that my leadership guides Gediflora confidently into the future.

When did you start running the company?
I followed in my father’s footsteps in 2013. In 2010, my father who was running the company at that time had a serious automobile accident and, because it took quite a time for him to recover from his injuries, it was pretty clear that Gediflora would be needing somebody new to head the company. So, it didn’t take me long to realize that it was time to take on my responsibility and take over running our family business.

How do you manage to get all your employees to work as one team?
By working closely with our employees and by sharing responsibilities with them. I dislike top-down management systems. I believe in a more horizontally structured organization where employees get involved in decision making. In this way, you create responsible and self-managing teams. Regular consultation with our teams is a priority for me; not in the context of controlling them, but to see how we can support them even more in achieving our targets.

Quite frankly, managing an organization is something I’ve had to learn. I’m a born entrepreneur, but I’m also open to new ideas. So, I read lots of books on management and leadership. One thing I’ve already learned: everything starts with the people you hire.

What’s the most important thing your parents taught you?
Above all, they taught me to believe in myself. To have the courage to make your dreams come true is something they’ve always encouraged. They taught me at an early age that it’s more important to dare to do something than to be afraid of failing. Therefore, our company’s motto is not by chance: “Dream. Discover. Dare. Do and Go on.” I’ve always known both my parents to work with a lot of enthusiasm. For them, working wasn’t something they had to do, but something they were only too happy to do.

Recently you received the Womed Award for Female Entrepreneurship. How does that make you feel?
Obviously that recognition gives a fantastic feeling. I see it as a milestone in what I, together with the entire team, have achieved. The fact that we are where we are today is the result of the hard work of all our employees. For me, the award is first and foremost a feather in the cap of every Gediflora employee.

How does it feel as a woman to be at the helm of a multinational company?
Well, I don’t immediately distinguish between women and men in that respect. Whether you’re a man or a woman, it makes no difference. I think it’s mainly a matter of showing self-confidence and knowing what you’re talking about. Of course, the latter requires commitment as a company. If you want to be at the top, you not only have to keep up with what is happening worldwide, but also invest continuously in optimizing and innovating your product. Our R&D department, which consists of three highly qualified bio-engineers, plays a crucial role in this respect.

Who inspires you?
I read quite a few autobiographies. As a result, I find people like Richard Branson or Elon Musk quite inspiring. But also Jennifer Lopez, Oprah Winfrey, Lady Gaga … all belong to that list of inspiring people. Their stories all prove how essential it is to dare to go for your dreams. But the most inspiring person for me remains my mother. Her enthusiasm and joy for life have had a great impact on me. She taught me an important lesson: “Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Practice makes perfect!” She believed in my abilities. For my self-confidence that was well worth its weight in gold.

How do you manage to maintain a healthy work-life balance?
I’m very fortunate to have a husband who supports me. Together we plan what needs to be done in the household. That allows me time to fully focus on my job. However, I must admit that there’s still work to be done in terms of my work-life balance. I want to improve my delegation skills so that I can enjoy my leisure time more. That’s why I started doing yoga and work with a coach who practices with me at home. I daresay I’m on the right track.

What would you say to women who are about to start up a business, but are not sure if they want to take the step?
Any choice is a good choice, as long as you are prepared to give your total commitment. Ask yourself whether starting and running a business is really what you want and if you are prepared to go all out for it. Above all, listen to your gut feeling. Be honest with yourself. This will help you to make the right choices. Don’t forget that life is all about making the right choices that match with who you really are. Stay honest with yourself, that’s the key to success.

Elien Pieters

Elien Pieters is owner/director of Gediflora and a member of GPN's 40 Under 40 Class of 2020. She can be reached at