Ria De Temmerman built her own PMS, Planet Winner, from scratch, managing the business with her husband Dirk for over 25 years.
This time, we cover the beginnings of her relationship with her husband and what it’s like to work with him every day, how she first heard about Mews, and what she spends all of her evenings and holidays doing.
Your husband, Dirk, worked with you as the Planet Winner CEO – but how did that begin?
When I worked for Holiday Inn, I always worked very hard. I was sometimes there at four in the morning and Dirk was also there often. I still remember when he came into my office for a smoke: I said, "Oh," and I looked into his eyes and I said, "Wow, you have nice blue eyes."
I shouldn't tell you this, but I was still married. I had my daughter, she was almost two years old. He saw her and he said, "You made such a nice kid," and I thought, "Oh my god, I want to make kids with you." So I did.
I think we fell in love because we worked very well together. We were like, when you saw Dirk, you saw me. Even before we were together, we really worked well because he was an installer and I was a programmer. I think that's why we still work together because we're very complementary. I'm developing in my corner here and he is doing all the rest.
We have a lot of respect for each other. I know what he thinks before he thinks it, and it's the same for him with me
We have a lot of respect for each other. I know what he thinks before he thinks it, and it's the same for him with me. We just look at each other and we know what we want.
He is a very clever, clever guy. If he hadn’t been there, I would never have succeeded, I'm sure of that. I think he feels the same about me as well that he will never have done it with another programmer because he knows how I think. We’re a match made in heaven.
Come on, what’s it really like working with your husband every day?
We’re used to being in the same workspace. Sometimes we fight, but it’s always about the children or about something that happens at home. It's never about work. We have discussions of course, and even if we go home, we're still thinking about work. When it's your own company, you have to make sure that the company is surviving. We always talk about work, even now it's not our company anymore, but it still feels like it is. We're still treating this company as our own company.
We always know what we have to talk about. There is never a moment of silence between us. I mean, there are literal moments of silence of course, but it’s never that case that we suddenly don't know what to talk about anymore. That never happens. I love that man so much, I really do.
What’s something people might not expect about you?
One night in 2016 I was very drunk, and when you're drunk you do silly things. I was talking to someone and he said to me, "You’ve had such an incredible life, why aren’t you writing a book?" I said, "Hmm, writing a book, why not?"
Then I put it on Facebook. I said that I'm going to start writing a book and it will be ready next year. The next morning I woke up and I completely forgot that I’d done that, but I checked my Facebook and it was exploding. Everyone was saying they can’t wait to read my book, and I was like, “Huh?”.
One night in 2016 I was very drunk...
But if I say something, especially when I say it in the open, I have to do it. So I’ve been writing a book. I’ve actually done two already, and there will probably be five at least. They’re historical novels that begin with two nuns being murdered in 2015 (not the same nuns who told me to go into programing) and then go back to the start of 1933, with a Jewish family in Antwerp.
They really cover everything: there are parts in England, Belgium, New York, Ghana... We did installations in Ghana, so I love that country; I have family living in Ghana as well now. I have a full time job, I have my company, so I'm doing this in the evenings and when I'm on holidays. I'm enjoying myself because I have lots of imagination. There's loads of sex in it as well!
The families are fiction, but of course I'm in there as well. I was born in the second book, because my family is in the book, but they're not the main characters. It's really like my life is in there, but it's not real. Sometimes it's weird because I have sex scenes in there and then I have my mother and my father having sex in my book…
Moving on… When did you first hear about Mews? How did the acquisition happen?
The first time I heard about Mews was in 2015. It was the moment when the cloud based systems really started. Dirk asked me if I’d seen this Czech PMS that’s doing really great and we thought about distributing it. We really looked at Mews, but I think there was already a distributor at that time, and so we didn’t think about it after that.
We were approached by a lot of players, some big ones as well. We got offers for acquisitions, but it was never a good match. It was always something that bothered us.
Then in 2019, we were looking for solutions because we knew that the Winner system was going to stop at a certain point. We were approached by a lot of players, some big ones as well. We got offers for acquisitions, but it was never a good match. It was always something that bothered us.
In July we got a phone call from Mews to ask if we were still interested in an acquisition. We were like, "Mews? You're kidding, man." Because in Belgium Mews really has a good name. For us, Mews was the Ferrari.
The acquisition went really fast. We were convinced very quickly that this is it, we have to do this because this gives our customers a future after Winner because they will have another product that will last for decades.
With Planet Winner we wanted to be number one in the world, but we didn’t succeed. So we said let's do that with Mews. As long as we are here, we are going to make sure that we give everything we have to make this a success.
You must have been nervous for Planet Winner to become part of another company.
I thought I was going to cry because you're sitting there with lawyers and you're putting your signature... I thought I was going to cry but I didn't because I really had the feeling at that moment that I had to do this. I had to do it for Planet Winner, I had to do this for our customers, I had to do this for us. I had to do this for my people who work for me, so that we all have a future afterwards.
What are you most proud of?
Dirk and I started with no money. No money from our parents, nothing. Really, zero, zero, zero. Except for the redundancy fee from Holiday Inn, but I had to live off that as well. From zero, we managed to make Planet Winner an international company with a product that is installed in lots of hotels and where people are very happy with the product – and it's a very good product.
I did this on my own as a programmer, I really did everything. I developed everything except for what’s in the cloud. I'm really proud that I did this. I'm also proud of my book, my children, and my dog Manuel. I'm proud of the fact that I did this together with Dirk.
I’m proud of the fact that I never changed. I'm still that crazy woman. I think people love me for that.
But also I’m proud of the fact that I never changed. I'm still that crazy woman. I think people love me for that. I always wanted to be a mother for my staff as well, and I think I am a mother for them in some ways. I hope so.
Where do you see the future taking you?
I really hope that I can stay with Mews for a few years, but whenever I leave I will become a full time writer. I know that. Dirk is already translating the first book in English – I'll make sure it happens fast so that you can read it!
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