Recently the NRCC organized through a series of webinars its annual Exploring Doing Business in NL. At the topic HR-Recruitment, Gerard Koolen (partner at Lugera) shared some interesting knowledge about what Romanian companies face in the Netherlands.
NRCC: Romania and the Netherlands are similar in size of the population. Yet in Romania, there are 3,000 HR/Recruitment operators versus 23,000 in the Netherlands! Why such a big difference?
Gerard Koolen: I think the main reason is that Dutch companies have a different understanding of the advantages of outsourcing non-core activities. Romanian companies tend to focus on the cost of service and deciding on the best price. Dutch companies do the same, but they take also into consideration the possible return on investment. Looking only at the cost of service without exploring into detail the possible savings and extra revenue does not give you an intelligent and informed point of view. It is not for nothing that most Dutch companies (more than 90%) outsource their salary administration and most of the employment of their staff. By outsourcing as much as possible, they do not waste any second on non-core activities such as payroll and recruitment. As a result, the output of a Dutch employee is 4 times higher than the output of a Romanian employee.
NRCC: Can you shed some light on what is typical Dutch (client) behavior?
GK: A Dutch client will keep on challenging its suppliers. They love to be loyal when you are a great partner for them. They must feel that you go the extra mile and will test you all the time. And no matter how much they like you, if you are not competitive, they will leave. Dutch clients like it straightforward, to the point, fast and they need exact answers to their questions. Most clients know exactly what they want, and they do not need a supplier who tries to outsmart them. They did their homework.
NRCC: The Dutch tend to be perceived (and not only by Romanians) as rather rude, straightforward, or should I say critical? Knowing that Lugera operates in several countries, what is your take on this?
GK: In the eyes of many Romanians the Dutch are rude, but in their own eyes they like to think they are straightforward, honest, and efficient. They do not appreciate much small talk, talk about hobbies etc. Stay away from that. Talk business, be fast, be to the point. The Dutch are very critical to whatever you will tell them. Be prepared they will not believe anything you tell them, and they will challenge you to the maximum, which you might find very aggressive and insulting.
NRCC: The Dutch like to negotiate and negotiate, regardless an agreement is in place. Does this mean the Dutch are always looking to break a deal or to improve it?
GK: The Dutch are always looking to improve the deal they have with you. Which is also in the supplier’s interest. The more you can improve, the more they like you. You cannot relax after you have signed a deal. Then actually, with a Dutch client, the real work starts.
NRCC: The Dutch are very organized. How does that compare to the Romanians?
GK: Basically, in business, the Dutch have a long history of over 500 years sailing their ships, months on end, to the far ends of the world. Trading with the local people so far away requires specific planning, trust, and a good set of rules to establish a productive collaboration. Make no mistake: 70% of all feta Cheese sold in Greece comes from Dutch producers, and 50% of all French Cheese is produced by Dutch cheesemakers. 10% of all shoes traded in the world go through Dutch companies. So yes, the Dutch are organized, which helps them. The advantage of the way Romanians are organized is the improvisation skill, the reactivity on changing conditions. That is something less dominant with Dutch people. As a metaphor, you can say that Romanians are excellent sprinters and Dutch are excellent marathon runners. Business success anyhow needs consistency and persistency and building a successful business is more a marathon than a sprint.