Katrien Vermeire, manager of John & Jane
For Katrien Vermeire, manager of event company John & Jane, 2020 and 2021 were challenging years. During the pandemic, her business was virtually silent for 2 years. Now that everything is running at full speed again, the economic crisis is knocking at the door, putting people on the brakes again. Sports helps her to be mentally and physically strong and to keep thinking aheadeven when the going gets tough. “I am glad that, in the midst of the corona crisis, I made the choice to receive physical guidance. I notice that it makes me a lot stronger as an entrepreneur. And that also applies to my employees.”
John & Jane is an audiovisual company specialized in high-quality installations and technical productions in the field of sound, light, video and decor. The focus is on corporate events, high-end private parties, festivals & fairs, from design to finishing. As a partner for event agencies, fairs, festival organizations, catering companies and private individuals, John & Jane aims for the ultimate customer experience with a team of highly trained technicians.
In love with light, sound… and Katrien
As a child, Nico Lameire (47) had a great passion for lamps, boxes and video. He was constantly working on it in his room, determined to make it his profession one day. Since his parents were not keen on all that light and noise in the house, Nico moved to the garage and Deltarent saw the light of day. Soon he rented a warehouse where he could do his thing undisturbed, followed by a move to a larger warehouse. Gradually, equally passionate employees were added, which led to the establishment of John & Jane in 2016.
“Nico Lameire started a company from his great passion. But you can’t get there with passion alone… He got to know me and fell in love with me as much as with that light and sound that he loved so much”, laughs Katrien Vermeire (39). Together with her husband and their business partner Lieven Tacq, John & Jane grew into a solid audiovisual production company in 25 years with 30 enthusiastic ‘John & Jane believers’, because that’s what the employees are called.
A big family
“I always say: I am just a simple girl from the sea, from Ostend”, Vermeire introduces herself. “I am a social worker by training. I only did this for 6 months, it wasn’t for me. After that I taught for more than 5 years at the VTI in Ostend. I loved doing that. I had a nice relationship with my students, all of them talented young people.”
“Because I felt that education limited my ambitions, I started studying taxation and accounting. The goal was to continue my parents’ accounting firm. But then I met Nico Lameire, and he asked me to join his company I didn’t hesitate for a second,” says Vermeire, who forms a complementary duo with her partner in crime. “We complement each other’s passions. I do: general management, strategy, organization, planning and finance. While Nico focuses on his specialty: audiovisual material, and passing on his knowledge, together with Lieven, to our employees.”
The name ‘John & Jane’ comes from John Doe in Jane Doethe names used for people who have no identity. “Our people are always very busy before, during and after an event. They are usually recognizable because they wear clothing with our name and logo on it. Yet they are often not seen by those present. That’s what our name refers to. By giving them a place in the name of the company, we immediately show that they are our greatest asset. Without them we are nothing,” explains Vermeire, who is clearly very proud of her close-knit and talented team.
“We are like a big family. We go through fire for each other. That is why we try to share small moments together as much as possible, such as having lunch together. That’s so important. Our believers are also given the opportunity to follow training courses, so that they continue to develop themselves. As a company, we can also raise the bar and work together towards the ultimate customer experience.”
Like the entire audiovisual sector, the John & Jane family was hit hard by the corona crisis. “You can’t imagine what something like that does to you until you’re in it yourself. It came totally unexpected and we went in really fast survival modus. We immediately chose to keep communicating and started looking for ways to bridge the crisis”, says Vermeire about this difficult period, in which her company lost many employees and therefore also a lot of valuable know-how.
Finding suitable employees is a challenge; they must not only have the right technical skills, but also good soft skills
The sector is now running at full speed again, but it remains difficult to fill all vacancies. “Finding suitable employees is a challenge; they must not only have the right technical skills, but also good soft skills. In addition, during corona, many were forced to work in a different sector with more regular hours, no evening and weekend work. We no longer see many of those people in the events sector, however unfortunate that may be.”
Break the silence
Nevertheless, Katrien thinks the corona period is a particularly instructive period. “It sounds strange, but I wish every company such a crisis. It allowed us to think ahead. If you are constantly busy and everything is running smoothly, you don’t think about: ‘what now?’ Corona allowed us to work on our vision, USPs and goals. I have never worked as hard as I did back then, both for John & Jane and for the industry with Sound of Silence.” Katrien set up this campaign together with 7 other event companies and received a lot of media attention.”
Corona allowed us to work on our vision, USPs and goals. I’ve never worked as hard as I did back then
“We wanted to unite our sector and give it a voice, to break the silence,” says Vermeire. “Our question was twofold: to be heard and to gain perspective. Belgium belongs to the absolute world top in organizing events. Our sector remained in lockdown, while other things such as taking a full plane were possible. That frustrated us immensely, hence our call on social media to place an orange cross over your profile picture with the text ‘sound of silence’, not coincidentally also the cry for help ‘SOS’. I was honored to be able to speak for this initiative. I am convinced that we have put our sector more on the map, although there is still work to be done.”
Belgium belongs to the absolute world top in organizing events
Corona left scars, there’s no other way. “I learned a lot then, but that period also hurt and it will take a while before it is completely healed,” says Vermeire. “Someone recently asked me what they could wish me as an entrepreneur. I replied: a lot of work, of course. Then I realized that I would rather have a few years without a crisis.”
“Our sector has been open again since March 2022, but many companies are on the brakes due to the economic crisis that is now underway. They save on marketing and we feel that in the event sector. So it remains challenging, but for me the glass is always half full. I believe 100 percent in experience marketing and that is where we make our mark with John & Jane: creating unique experiences for and with people.”
Katrien has been guided from the early days of corona. “Such a crisis weighs mentally and I thought guidance was important. I am very open about it, because I think that something like this should also be open to discussion for company managers.” Vermeire also decided to get physical guidance. “During a debate at Artevelde University College, where I was a speaker, I ran into someone from PEAK Coaching. I didn’t pay much attention to exercise at that time.”
“Shortly afterwards I met Seppe, the owner of PEAK Coaching and I immediately felt a click,” recalls Vermeire, who started working out with PEAK in March 2021. give out. But I thought: come on, I’ll just do it. I’m glad I made that choice. It makes me feel good to be busy with my body.”
We would like to know what Vermeire finds so valuable about PEAK Coaching. “Undoubtedly the fact that the trainers, all of them people with a lot of knowledge and experience, come to your home. They are literally on my doorstep, so I can no longer make an excuse not to exercise,” she laughs. “I train 3 times a week with PEAK at 6:30 in the morning. For me that is the ideal time, before my husband and children are awake. I don’t have a 9-to-5 job, so in the evenings there is often no time to exercise and at the weekend I want to be there for my family.”
On her 40th birthday in December 2023 – “I’m really looking forward to that!” – Vermeire would like to run 40 kilometers. Her coaches help her achieve that goal. “We always do the interval training, which is extremely important to make progress, together.”
It is much more than just physical coaching, it also helps me mentally. Two for the price of one!
“In addition to the personal training sessions, an endurance expert from PEAK Coaching draws up a personalized running schedule and the necessary measurements are taken together to prepare me. Because if I have to do it alone, then I know I won’t. I have a good relationship with the trianers. Besides sports, we also chat a lot. It is much more than just physical coaching, it also helps me mentally. Two for the price of one!” it sounds with a wink.
Pleasure to watch
“When I exercise in the morning, I feel like a completely different person than on days when I don’t exercise. I have more peace, I can think more clearly, I just feel better,” says Vermeire, who also feels stronger as an entrepreneur by exercising. “Entrepreneurship is a top sport, especially in these times. I am a very positive person, but in our industry you have to stand your ground mentally and physically. By being guided by experienced trainers, I know that I can exercise three times a week anyway and that it is done in a healthy way with the necessary challenges.”
“The people at PEAK Coaching let me suffer and I find suffering pleasant, it keeps me sharp in all areas. I also like that I have to listen to them during the workouts, because otherwise it is always others who have to listen to me. The roles are reversed,” she laughs.
Vermeire is hopeful and ambitious for the future. “I am convinced that we will continue to grow with John & Jane. We don’t want to be the biggest, but we want to be the best. I believe in the enormous potential of our sector and of our company. We create memories for people, isn’t that the best thing there is? When I’m at one of our events, I sometimes start to cry from happiness. There’s no business like showbusiness: for me there is no doubt about this.”