Who is Joost Uwents? An interview with the CEO of WDP
Joost Uwents has helped build WDP for more than 20 years. He became co-CEO in 2010 together with Tony De Pauw and today leads a some 100-strong team in the Benelux and Romania. But his story started out simply in the Kerkstraat in Lokeren.
Rhythm of the bell
You come from an entrepreneurial family. How was that as a child?
At our house, our lives centred around the doorbell because we lived above my parents’ interior design shop. They worked really hard to make it a success. When the doorbell rang, my brother and I had to occupy ourselves for a while. Because every customer was important. That's the most important lesson I got from my parents back then. In fact, Sublim Interieur is still there today on the Kerkstraat, managed with passion by my brother who still works with that same philosophy and love for Interiors.
How did you end up at WDP?
Actually, I had never imagined working in real estate. I was convinced as a child to become the 3rd generation of furniture dealers. But eventually, I set off to college and was then had the opportunity to become an account manager at General Bank. And that’s where I met the De Pauw family in 1995.
Logistics brings life
You’ve now worked at WDP for more than 20 years. What motivates you?
It may just seem like we’re just building and renting out warehouses, but I see the bigger picture. The cheddar for your sandwich, the meds you pick up at the chemist, the parcel you order in the evening that is delivered to your door the very next day… Most people don’t give it much thought, if at all, but logistics brings life. It’s the core of every company!
Warehouses with brains
How exactly does WDP make a difference?
We don’t speak of ‘tenants’ but rather customers. People with logistics issues… that we help resolve. That’s why we don’t just build empty boxes but ‘warehouses with brains’ where automation reduces stress and mistakes. For a warehouse worker, it can make a difference between walking 17 kilometres every single day or just walking to the coffee machine every now and then.
What is your proudest moment as CEO?
Without a doubt, that was in 2017 when we were named ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’. It was a huge moment for our team because it confirmed that we are not just a property fund. We’re a company that makes a difference to people in many ways. It might be workers in warehouses, drivers handling the transport or consumers at the tail end of the logistics chain. But I’m also really proud of our achievements for Barry Callebaut and stow Robotics because those buildings are in Lokeren and create prosperity for Lokeren and all its residents.
A heart for Lokeren
You were nominated for the ‘Most Deserving Lokeren resident of the Year’. How does that make you feel?
It feels fantastic because my heart is in Lokeren. My parents moved here when I was six months old. I went to school at Sint-Lodewijk until I was eighteen. On weekends, I like to take long walks along the Durme with my wife and my dog…
Has Lokeren changed much?
Lokeren is changing dramatically, yes. You can see this in the growth in the industrial park , with all its attractive growing local companies, as well as nice big newcomers, such as Barry Callebaut and stow Robotics who very consciously chose Lokeren. And you feel that the people just walking down the streets are full of life. They want progress and that’s really happening. As the CEO of WDP, it’s an honour to fire up that engine.