Gent, Belgium — Meet Lode Theunynck - a short Interview with our new Head of Customer Experience: “In general people know me as ‘The Runner’”.


Gunnar Kläschen
Head of Value Proposition

“The Runner”... on a streak to reach the peak!


What is your name and job title? ...And your unofficial job title? Meet Lode Theunynck - Head of Customer Experience. Unofficial name: “I’m new at Stark, so I can't know yet, but in general people know me as ‘The Runner’”.

In which department or division do you work? Explore

What project are you working on right now? Building up sales structure and co-defining strategy.

Besides the role stated in your job title, what do you actually get to do day-to-day? I connect to people all day, building relationships. I coach, motivate, fix things, inevitably keep an eye on the numbers and continuously think about how we can improve the value of the team to the customer.

What didn't you get a chance to include in your résumé? Any hidden talents we should know about? No hidden talents, all is public...

In which city are you based? Gent, Belgium.

What gets you out of bed in the morning? First and foremost running, that is the first thing I do. Running allows me to determine my priorities for the day and I am often chewing on what that little angle, or that special touch, is to convince the customer of our uinque solutions, or how I can make one of the team members grow.

What's the best part of your day? What’s most challenging about it? The run… and achieving a major breakthrough in whatever we are working on. The challenge is that neither a good run nor the breakthrough is coincidental. Each is the result of many micro steps, listening and learning to/from all points of view, multiple failures and above all persistence until the sought for result is on the table.

What inspired you to follow this career path? At Stark there are so many things to do. Together with a team of interesting people I am in the unique position to create something and to work complex deals. It’s about building and enhancing relationships. This is an environment that allows growth of character of all individuals involved.

What do you do for fun? What do you do to get out of your comfort zone? Running and ultra races.

Can you tell us about a time when you almost gave up, how you felt about that, and what you did instead of giving up? In 2018 I finally qualified for the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc: 170 km and 10 000 m of positive elevation gain. It is a tour around the Mont Blanc, with start and finish in Chamonix crossing France, Italy and Switzerland. You have 46.5 hours to finish it. I had trained very hard for it. We received our daughter in May 2018 which added another layer of complexity because the race was in August. Start of the race was at 18h30 and about 30-40 km into the race when entering high-mountains the weather got extremely bad, like - 10 degrees C, with heavy rain. Twice I sat down on a rock thinking why on earth would I continue. Twice I got up, simply because you had no other choice in the middle of the mountains, but foremost because in the months leading up to the race, I had built such a strong commitment to finish not matter how bad it got.

What was the best career advice you've ever gotten? In my early thirties after finishing a conference call, the COO who had participated called me. He said he had noticed on many occasions I was talking too much and it was both annoying and by doing so I failed to get the most out of calls. Game changer number 1. Second part of my thirties I had a sales manager who repeated over and over again that I was acting too tactically and that I should think things through, look at it more strategically and have patience. Game changer 2.

If you could spend an hour or a lunchtime with someone in an industry to pick their brains, who would you choose and why? Elon Musk, to understand his opinion on the future of energy efficient mining.

Do you have any advice you’d like to share with a newcomer to this industry? Learn, fail, and if not sure, ask.

What do you like most about working at Stark? What makes you feel supported? From what I have seen so far, the quality of people seems amazing. Geoffrey has a very open way of looking at combining work and life that provides me with the security to embark on this undoubtedly demanding journey.

What surprised you about working at Stark? We seem to be looking at things from a very different angle and not immediately from a tactical side.

What would your closest colleagues say if I asked them to name the one characteristic that they totally dig about you, and the one that drives them insane?' Team builder.

Have you ever been given a Flop Award a Sputnik Award or an Iron Man Award? If so, what had you done to earn it? No award yet at Stark. Both teams from my previous companies gave me a unique present, not just something they bought and put in an envelope. They presented me with those because I had listened, respected, made decisions, and consistently explained the why of these decisions, whether they liked it or not.

Do you have a hack in the field you can share? Turn a deal upside down, are we missing something?

What are your travel essentials? My running shoes, a good book, nuts and dried fruits and my own pillow...

How would you describe your leadership style, and why is this the leadership style you live out day to day? People first. Listen, connect deeply with people, clearly explain the rationale behind decisions, solve issues creatively, stay calm. People need a secure base and that only happens when you connect deeply.

What was the greatest customer service you have ever experienced, in any field? At my local Chinese restaurant. Something went wrong with my order. They apologised, remained very friendly all the time, corrected the mistake. I did not have to pay and when all was in the bag the lady tied the bag. She pulled the two loops together and presented it so I only had to put my hand in the loop. She apologised again and said it would be a delight to see me back soon…

What is your service philosophy? Do you have a mantra you live by? Step by step with total commitment.

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