Karen Boers: A Leader with Solutions

Starting out with an inherent desire to help people and solve their problems, Karen Boers is one inspiring leader and entrepreneur who has paved her way towards success through sheer passion and dedication.

Karen jumped into the sea of entrepreneurship as she found solutions to be not available in the market as of yet and she couldn’t stand by and let other entrepreneurs suffer from a lack of information and support. She wanted to connect them with relevant resources and mentors, who were already out there in the sea. But, in between all these, she failed to realize her own transformation into an entrepreneur. Karen only got a sense of the same when she ran out of money, as she forgot to inquire the willingness of people to pay for the solutions she had provided.

Ever since then, she has been balancing between providing solutions and making a living for herself and her team. Speaking of which, Karen mentions “The societal purpose it what drives me, but I’ve learned to combine that with a healthy economical perspective.”

Changing the way entrepreneurship is perceived

Karen along with her team of professionals have changed the way how Belgium and its policy makers perceive entrepreneurship. She has ensured the same through the implementation of many of the solutions proposed in the Belgium Startup Manifesto, but also through campaigns like Failing Forward, gathering dozens of testimonials from successful entrepreneurs and other role models about the mistakes that they have made in their lives, and chipping away at the taboo that is associated with failure in Belgium and in Europe, in general.

She claims “Stories like that have become common in the general media now, allowing entrepreneurs to feel a little less lonely during their struggles and anybody else to be less inclined to point fingers when the going gets tough.”

The Belgium startup DNA comprises of a clear B2B focus, with a number of industries of historical strength: healthcare, media & entertainment, business solutions, and creative-based industries. “Our multi-cultural and multi-lingual perspective on life is a big bonus in a global market as their solutions are built to scale.”

A leader with impact

When asked about her impression of being a women leader or an entrepreneur, Karen retaliated saying that she never considered her gender to be an aspect or a role-player in her entrepreneurial journey. “I just try to do the very best I can as a leader and an entrepreneur. I’m very impact-driven, so I will always consider how I can best spend my energy and resources to help those around me to thrive. In entrepreneurship, that translates into customer-focus and an obsession for efficiency & effectiveness.”

For Karen, a true leader inspires by reaching beyond the easily achievable, nurtures to grow and outperform, understands that failure is an inherent part of learning, and cares about others’ well-being more than their own, while safeguarding boundaries. “I hope all my children and employees dare to dream, trust to try, and care for one another while doing so!”

The intertwined life

Karen is the Co-founder and MD of Startups.be, the President of European Startup Network, the Co-founder and CEO of BeCode.org and the Co-founder and Board Member of BeCentral, just to name a few! Yet after boasting such an extensive professional portfolio, Karen balances between both her private and personal life with absolute precision.

She believes her work and private life to be intertwined. Giving a brief overview of her daily life, Karen mentions “Often I start working early, to pick up the kids from school and spend time with them to get back at it after dinner. I’m friends with many of my co-founders and team members – almost all have met our kids. My partner and I have a blended family with 5 kids between 10 and 14 years old, but we also share a business and can discuss any professional challenge we encounter. Time management is more about how I can spend every single minute as useful as possible, from handling e-mails while I’m waiting for the kids to come out of music school up to arranging phone conferences at 7am with people I know are equally stuck in traffic at that time.”

A look into the journey

After helming a degree in German Philology, Karen began her career with View Interim, now called Synergie Interim. She went from being an interim consultant to becoming the office manager and HR consultant. 2005 saw her making the transition towards iMinds and she became the Marketing & Communications Manager in the following year.

Fast forward seven years, Karen became fully self-employed as she joined hands with Dirk Peusens. Her role of specializing in team dynamics and organizational development prompted her to be actively involved with Startups.be. She along with her cohorts have developed this NGO into a one of a kind platform, which enables tech beginners to meet and interact with coaches, investors, and industry experts who can propel their business into success.

Keeping the ship on course

Being an avid sports lover and a former soccer player, Karen understood how a team can and should be more than the sum of their individual capacities. She is always on the lookout for partners and co-workers that have complementary skills to her and those that she can rely upon without looking over their shoulders.

Speaking about her functioning style and approach as a leader, Karen asserts “I provide a lot of room to operate – which has backfired a few times already too – but allows me to focus on the areas where I can add most value. As long as everyone keeps focus on the joint goals and how each of them can contribute to getting there, things will figure themselves out. I did have to learn to trust my instincts when things go wrong and dare to take snap-shot decisions and not looking for too many second opinions. Leadership is about keeping the ship on course, not about being everybody’s best friend.”

A true entrepreneur at heart, Karen waits for more interesting challenges in the future, one which will lie beyond the next curve in the road. She hopes to see her kids grow up and develop their full potential as “I lost my own mom at a very young age, and I’m trying to enjoy every day with them and take decisions I would not regret if tomorrow would be my last,” concludes Karen.

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