The reorganization of the family business had drained my energy and I was ready for a new challenge. In 1998, after visiting South-Africa, I decided to quit my job as managing director of Smals B.V. and started searching for somebody to replace me. I never felt that the family business was actually my own business. Even after the major changes in 1997, I kept finding it complicated to deal with the typical corporate culture at Smals B.V. Besides, after the reorganization and with the new management team, my tasks as managing director had diminished and I missed a challenge. When my controller said to me: "Laurens, we have great respect for the way you changed this company for the better, but you've become an icon for the way we used to be," I knew he was right and that was it! I started looking for a successor.

Family businesses are all about emotions and it's no different for Smals B.V. I decided to sell a part of my shares to a young polytech graduate who already worked for our business and I made him managing director. I wasn't ready to let the company go all at once. By the end of 2000, I left the family business in the hands of an outsider, but not after I had installed a board of commissioners to supervise the business operation. I was urgently advised to also become one of the commissioners on the board.