Bjorn Wagemakers of Intercompany Solutions tells us about company formation in the Netherlands.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Bjorn Wagemakers: Luckily, we are still working and remain in good health despite the current situation. I have not yet witnessed a decline in demand for our services despite the uncertain times. The demand for our services in The Netherlands seems to be still strong. The Dutch economy generally is doing well due to government support despite the lockdown. We do hear many reports of (small shops / small businesses) in the country being affected by the lockdowns—restaurants, bars, and small retailers mostly. Unfortunately, I think that is the case nearly everywhere where they are forced to close down.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Intercompany Solutions.
Bjorn Wagemakers: I have studied accounting and taxation in The Netherlands. During my studies and shortly after, I have worked as a tax and accounting specialist. For over 6 years, before I started to open my own business in the same branch. My father is actually an accountant as well, so the ‘knack for numbers’ actually runs in the family.
With my own business, I have assisted a lot of foreign businessmen with their taxation and regulation questions in the Netherlands. It is a very diverse and interesting group to work with. So I decided to focus almost solely on foreign entrepreneurs and their needs. That is what I am specialized in currently; my clients come from over 50 countries worldwide. But they all have 1 thing in common; they decided to open a business or do business in The Netherlands.
How does Intercompany Solutions innovate?
Bjorn Wagemakers: We make usage of software innovations in the accounting space to reduce time spent with data entry, paperwork, and crunching numbers. So we can focus more on advisory & service to our clients. But not all innovations are technical! We also try to constantly (innovate) and expand our team in a diverse manner, so we can also assist clients in Portuguese, Spanish, Russian, German, French, Cantonese, and Dutch, of course, despite only in English.
An advantage for our clients is that due to Covid, we now have possibilities with our notaries to identify a client during a video call. So our clients in, for example, India, can now open a company in The Netherlands fully remotely. No travel is needed, and it saves a lot on legalization and apostilles cost.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Bjorn Wagemakers: Actually, we had a temporary dip around March 2020, where we witnessed basically all asset classes take a dive. So I do think investor confidence and uncertainty of the first Covid wave and lockdowns caused a temporary shock worldwide. Because our clients come from all over the world, from Australia, Africa, Europe, Middle East, North America, and many East Asian countries. We did see that this affected our requests for new services declined sharply for several weeks. I think investors and entrepreneurs were finding their’ bearings.
After March, we actually decided to increase our sales team and increase our sales and marketing efforts. And we have seen steady growth since.
One of the main catalysts for our growth in the last years has been the Brexit; we have many companies and entrepreneurs opening a business in The Netherlands since as early as 2016, with Brexit concerns. Since the Brexit became definitive, we have actually seen a different type of audience (those with Webshops and consumers in the European mainland) who are now affected by the new customs handling between the UK and Europe.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Bjorn Wagemakers: We have learned to never cut down on sales; in fact, in hard times, it might be smarter to double-down and increase your sales team. Of course, you have to consider this case by case. But our philosophy was, if it becomes harder to do business (because of external factors), you increase your commercial efforts. I believe in our case; downsizing would have been a big mistake. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have doubled our sales team.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Bjorn Wagemakers: We currently have to rely more on Zoom, Teams, email, and phone than usual. But considering not all of our clients were travelling previously to The Netherlands for our services… Not that much has changed. In that regard, we had only minor adjustments in our work processes.
What did prove a challenge is with our personnel working from home, you do miss the team spirit and social interactions. It also makes certain communications more distant and less interpersonal. We do see both advantages and disadvantages there.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Bjorn Wagemakers: The Netherlands has very extensive government grants; they cover nearly the full wages of businesses that lost significant turnover due to the lockdowns and forced shutdowns. So far, we have spent a significant amount of our GDP and country debt.
Your final thoughts?
Bjorn Wagemakers: If you are involved in a good stable business or involved with innovation or primary services. Then I believe and hope you have good chances to overcome economic downturns. I wish the best of luck to entrepreneurs worldwide in these times, and I hope for a swift recovery for those most affected. I do wish governments worldwide will support and look closely to the current struggles of (certain industries) and small business owners especially.
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