WOW! With more than 150 colleagues at the start every year! If you participated in the Strong Viking Water Edition in Wijchen over the past few years, you’ve probably met the blue-shirts army called Planon! Not only participating in the event is the goal, but a whole preparation cycle ensures that the group of 120 participants appears fit at the start every year! How can a company be so active in the field of sports & vitality, and what are the advantages of a vital company? We spoke to the great Strong Viking driving force of Planon: Manon Loeffen!

Most people might think of an international software provider as a boring office building with lots of laptops and IT nerds. This certainly is not the case with Planon. At Planon we compete with the best in the world when it comes to IWMS software. We're also growing so fast that this year we're going to open our new building, which will be connected to the existing building by an energy-neutral greenhouse and, not unimportantly, we'll also get our own gym. In addition, we will also go on a skiing holiday together at the expense of the business, we love a party every now and then and this year we will crawl through the mud on the Berendonck in Nijmegen for the 4th time together.


The Strong Viking Water Edition has become a true Planon tradition in which everyone participates, including management and director. Nobody is feeling too good to work him or herself in sweat during training and get dirty in the mud. In fact, our director is the one who registers himself as the first participant every year and is at the top of the list of participants. He still insists that this is not voluntary and that I force him to, but let’s say the truth lies somewhere in the middle. And don't underestimate him. He may call himself an "old" man with the age of 61, but at the start he’s the first to get over the Walhalla wall, crawls through the mud with enthusiasm and if you don't pay attention he'll run past you between the obstacles.


To prepare ourselves, we start about three months before the run with joint training sessions. These are not ‘feel free to visit’ runs that we agree on from time to time, but it is serious business. Every afternoon after working hours there are two slots of an hour for which you can register, and it is mandatory to attend a minimum number of training sessions before the event. After all, we want to keep the chance of injuries as small as possible and everyone should be able to participate as well. In these trainings we work towards the Strong Viking, in groups of 15-20 colleagues under the guidance of hired trainers. And about three weeks before the run we have a joint training with everyone who has registered, this is the rehearsal of the real deal.


The best thing about this is that we are working together for three months and for once it's not about software or customers. Colleagues who normally never speak to each other get to know each other and have a lot of fun together. Nothing is obligated, everything is allowed and everyone can participate at their own level. During our first edition, a colleague who hadn't competed in sports for five years asked if I thought he would be able to join, because he thought it would be fun. When I asked him why he doubted himself I immediately received his registration. There was no real answer to that question. He was not the only one without a lot of sporting experience and those colleagues are now the fitter employees of the office who still come to the gym every week. There is even one colleague who got so excited that he is now fit enough to run a 100km trail run with me!


How did it became such a great success? We competed for the first time in 2017. I remember sending the mail asking who wanted to join this challenge. At that time, I thought it would be great if we could gather a group of 20 colleagues who were crazy enough to participate. But nothing could be further from the truth. My mailbox exploded that week and within a week I received 65 registrations. After the many training sessions that year we were all at the Berendonck, about to enter the start wave. Although no one will ever admit this, secretly it was all quite thrilling. There was some hope that the gigantic wall would fall over at the start. But unfortunately, they don't do that at Strong Viking. The run is a thing you need to do together as a team and that starts by helping each other to conquer the first obstacle. It's either go over the wall or go home.

In the following years our so-called Planon Challenge was even announced in the New Year's presentation, supported by our own aftermovie, which we still make every year. The goals for 2018 and 2019 no longer consisted out of numbers alone, but a target was also set for the number of participants in the Planon Challenge. Fanatical as we are, we didn't start with 65, but with 120 colleagues (that's 45% of the employees in the Netherlands!) and by now you can't get around all those blue Planon shirts anymore. Every year we all talk about it in the corridors and personal goals are set. Which obstacles we are going to conqueror, which distances we are going to run and which faster group we want to be able to join this year. Our foreign offices have also been infected with the obstacle run virus and they have also participated with large numbers of colleagues in runs in their countries. Last year half of all employees worldwide participated in our Planon challenge.


I can't wait until we start the preparations again for this year. During the preparations for our first Planon challenge, I received a daily update from my manager about his muscle pain. A few days after the first training session he still couldn't put on his jacket himself and he certainly wasn't the only one. But giving up is not in our Planon dictionary. So, we laugh about it together and the following week we just do another training. Three weeks prior to the run we also drink a beer together after the joint training sessions, because that is also part of our teambuilding and the Strong Viking experience. After all, we have our own bar in the company restaurant!


Manon Loeffen


About Planon

Planon is an international software provider headquartered in Nijmegen that markets software for facility and real estate management. Planon supports more than 2,500 customers worldwide in 40 countries and has its own offices in the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Germany, France, Sweden, Great Britain, India, Austria, Singapore, Hong Kong and the United States. Planon was founded in 1982 and has over 750 employees worldwide.