Author: Caroline Vlietstra

Efficient Hotel Partner: carefree outsourcing

In the digital age the world is at our feet. Yet we all know how long it can take the find the perfect hotel. And once we’ve managed to get…

In the digital age the world is at our feet. Yet we all know how long it can take the find the perfect hotel. And once we’ve managed to get that ‘dream spot’ we soon find out it’s either fully booked or – even worse – it’s nowhere near as perfect as the pictures on the website suggested. Together with her team, owner Marianne Kuiper of Efficient Hotel Partner provides a good old-fashioned travel service.

In Amstelveen’s Oude Dorp area we meet Marianne and her 5-strong team in the stylish office that has been the home of Efficient Hotel Partner (EHP) for 21 years now. “Yeah, we’ve finally grown up”, Marianne laughs. “Many people celebrate being 20 or 25 years in a certain business, but we liked the idea of celebrating the age of maturity for EHP.”

First things first: what does Efficient Hotel Partner do exactly? “We arrange suitable accommodation for our clients”, she explains. “Whenever companies are looking for a venue to hold a training course, meeting, brainstorm session or a congress – with or without overnight stay – we help them find the location that’s perfect for their needs. Every one of us here is specialized in a certain field so we really complement each other.”

Carefree outsourcing

“Jacco Verschoor, the only man in our team, is a travel industry veteran and Jennifer Lam, who has worked for large hotel chains in Australia, is our expert in complex bookings. Mieke van Middelkoop is the creative mind and Mirna van Driel is our source of information and financial expert. As for me, I worked for the Bilderberg Group for 15 years. Together we operate in a fast, effective and, as our name suggests, efficient manner. Above all, we really love our jobs and our clients can feel that. Our reward? A happy client. And a happy client is someone who will definitely use our service again.”

In this day and age everything can be arranged from our comfy chair using online platforms such as Booking.com and Trivago. So why should companies contact Efficient Hotel Partner? “When a secretary is asked to book a nice venue for a brainstorm session – with or without overnight stay – for a group of 20 to 200 people, she’ll start looking on Google. She probably has a few ideas and her colleagues will chime in as well. She’ll start emailing to see if the venue is available at the requested date, then she’ll ask for a few prices and presents the plan to her boss. Maybe the programme needs to contain a fun outing, like a guided bicycle ride, a boat tour, or sheep-shearing. Again she’ll start looking around, asking for prices. It’s a hell of a task and very time-consuming.”

Your Personal Assistant

What does EHP have to offer, other than what people can find out themselves? “Good old-fashioned service, personal contact. A voice listening to you at the other end of the line, someone asking you what you need and acting upon this information. We’ve noticed that people really want this. After a period of economic crisis and online bookings, there’s a growing demand for personal service. No phone menu, no ‘do it yourself’. You could say we are a kind of personal assistant to our clients.”

“From the very first day we’ve managed to build a solid reputation; we know the Netherlands inside out and we’ve visited virtually all hotels and meeting venues. We’ve built a great client base and we’re very proud of that. Our secret? We love our clients and that feeling is mutual. That’s our trademark and the reason why large companies like Nationale-Nederlanden and Henkel, but also DJ Martin Garrix, like to do business with us. ”

Sharp and creative

So many companies, so many employees, so many requirements. How do you manage to meet all their different needs? “People experience fragmentation; they have to deal with myriads of suppliers and suffer from choice overload. We structure the booking process, making it easier for them. And we ask our clients lots of questions: What is your budget? What do you prefer: city, countryside, or the coast? Should the accommodation be easily accessible by public transport; is parking space required? Are there any foreign guests that need to be picked up from Schiphol Airport? Once we know the ins and outs of their request we start our search and soon after we send them proposals for a few venues. Plus we do all the invoicing so the client only has to deal with one supplier: us.” 

The interview for this magazine was conducted in a beautifully decorated room, the Music Meeting Lounge, at a separate location but under the same roof as EHP. This is Marianne’s youngest brainchild. “I really missed having guests around me so I came up with the idea of having our own meeting venue. A location in Amstelveen’s Oude Dorp, at walking distance from De Poel and the Amsterdamse Bos, where hospitality is written in capital letters.” 

This year the Music Meeting Lounge was hailed as the best small-scale meeting venue in the province of Noord-Holland. A very nice award to receive. “Not bad, given that our Meeting Lounge only opened 18 months ago!”

Efficient Hotel Partner
Badlaan 1 bis
Amstelveen

T 020 345 2322
W www.efficienthotelpartner.nl

 

Picture: Marianne Kuiper wears a red coat

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VU Amsterdam delivers top finance professionals

When 41-year old Aimée Geerts was a student, the area around VU Amsterdam was a fairly quiet and remote part of Amsterdam. These days, that very same university is the…

When 41-year old Aimée Geerts was a student, the area around VU Amsterdam was a fairly quiet and remote part of Amsterdam. These days, that very same university is the academic epicentre of the thriving Zuidas business district and there is a lot of interaction between Zuidas companies and VU Amsterdam.

“One could say I have seen Zuidas grow from my office at Commerzbank” says Aimée, who has been working at Zuidas since 2006 and is Assistant to the Country CEO at the German Commerzbank. Initially, her office was located in the Atrium but three years ago her company moved to the Viñoly Tower, the building with the conspicuous staircase on the outside.

“After I completed my degree in International Business Administration at Maastricht University, I started working for Commerzbank. From the very first day I really felt at home there but I was missing a bit of focus as my degree was a fairly general one. That’s why I went looking for a course that was in line with my job but would delve a little deeper.”

Perfect place

“I was looking around for the right postdoctoral degree and then I found the Executive Master in Finance & Control (EMFC) at VU Amsterdam. This was the perfect place for me. During the introductory interview, the commitment and enthusiasm of one of the teachers really inspired me.”

“The Commerzbank fully supported my choice. Not surprisingly as the Executive Master in Finance & Control (Registercontroller in Dutch) at VU Amsterdam was the first programme of its kind in the Netherlands and VU delivers all the top professionals in the Dutch financial world. Moreover, VU Amsterdam is a leading  institute when it comes to the development of this area of financial expertise.”

The fact that Aimée was working next to VU Amsterdam and the university’s leading role in finance and control, were the decisive factors in choosing this degree. From 2011 to 2013, Aimée spent every Friday studying and attending classes at VU Amsterdam. 

Enriching experience

“Back then, we were right in the middle of the financial crisis but my course was full. It was such an enriching experience. Getting feedback from others on your everyday work was so useful. You’re studying together with other people; every one of us was working in a different field so we could really learn from each other.”

“We were working on business cases in groups of four students. My group contained people from the aviation, banking, healthcare and insurance industries. Right from the kick-off weekend we were studying together. Every one of us had his or her own expertise and that gave me a lot of insight. And obviously the teachers challenged us big time.” 

Variety of subjects

With the Executive Master in Finance & Control, Aimée has added another degree to her impressive resume. “That’s nice but what counts is what this degree has brought me. The variety of subjects, finance, reporting, strategy, corporate and tax law, has enabled me to cooperate more efficiently with the various departments within the bank. I’m really happy with my choice for this degree course.”

With her job and university close by, Aimée feels at home at Zuidas. She lives in Naarden with her husband and two children, but from her office she has seen the steady growth of ‘The Big Apple of Amsterdam’. In the old days, there was only De Blauwe Engel to go for drinks and a bite to eat, but these days people are spoilt for choice. “I consider Naarden Amsterdam’s backyard. I take my kids to school with my cargo bike and it only takes me 30 minutes by train to get to my Zuidas office. This way I still feel like an ‘Amsterdammer’.”

Alumni Association

In Aimée’s field of work, regular training is a necessity. That’s why VU Amsterdam organizes activities for members of the alumni association throughout the year. There are usually two teachers present during these alumni evenings. “It’s very informative. You meet up with your former fellow-students and it’s also nice to see the teachers again. For example, I’m still in touch with Bert Steens, who has been a professor at VU Amsterdam since the year 2000. If there’s anything I need help with, I can always ask Bert for advice.”

Bert Steens adds: “We have a wonderful and active alumni community and we’re very proud of that. We regularly meet former students such as Aimée. I think that is due to the good relationship we’ve built during the course, as well as to our location at Zuidas, where many alumni are working in finance positions. There are a lot of things going on, a lot of traffic and accessibility is excellent, both with public transport and by car or bicycle. VU Amsterdam could not have chosen a better location. Students working at Zuidas can pop in during their lunch break to discuss something.”

Executive Education

Senior finance specialists also find their way to VU Amsterdam for training courses and master classes. “Apart from doing a Master in Finance and Control, professionals can keep abreast of developments in their field by participating in our Executive Education programme, for example following a course in Business Analytics.”

Early 2020, VU Amsterdam will start a new degree programme in cooperation with other universities abroad: an International Executive MBA in Finance & Control.  

“This course is meant for experienced business professionals who are aiming for a financial role at senior management or board level, like a position as finance director or CFO. This is an executive MBA programme with a strong focus on general management and finance & control, tackling all the challenges that the combination of those two disciplines entails.”

 

 

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
School of Business and Economics
W www.sbe.vu.nl/nl/

 

 

 

 

photo Aimée Geerts by Katja Mali

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Zuidas versus The City

Obviously, one cannot compare the Zuidas with its bigger financial brother in London as the British capital has ten times as many inhabitants. But still, the Zuidas is slowly but…

Obviously, one cannot compare the Zuidas with its bigger financial brother in London as the British capital has ten times as many inhabitants. But still, the Zuidas is slowly but surely getting a more international image and – due to the impending Brexit – more and more companies are opening offices in Amsterdam. Reason enough to ask three experts about the opportunities in both cities and the differences and similarities between Amsterdam and London.

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Personal shopping at De Bijenkorf

A carefully chosen outfit will make you feel better about yourself. Perhaps you need new clothes for a special occasion, an exciting career step or a new phase in your…

A carefully chosen outfit will make you feel better about yourself. Perhaps you need new clothes for a special occasion, an exciting career step or a new phase in your life. De Bijenkorf Amsterdam welcomes you in their Personal Shopping Lounge where experienced personal shoppers give you expert advice on a great look or an entirely new wardrobe.

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A passion for real estate

Fifteen years ago, Ramón Mossel started his own real estate agency in the Rivierenbuurt in Amsterdam-Zuid. Every day, he and his team at Ramón Mossel Makelaardij show their passion for…

Fifteen years ago, Ramón Mossel started his own real estate agency in the Rivierenbuurt in Amsterdam-Zuid. Every day, he and his team at Ramón Mossel Makelaardij show their passion for real estate, bringing supply and demand together.

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Style masters

The wardrobe of the Zuidas professional: how to stand out Having a dialogue with your wardrobe from time to time may lead to new challenges. You’ll probably notice that choice…

The wardrobe of the Zuidas professional: how to stand out

Having a dialogue with your wardrobe from time to time may lead to new challenges. You’ll probably notice that choice is limited to blue and dark grey suits, white and navy shirts and black shoes. But how to stand out in the competitive Zuidas environment where style and class are almost as important as professional skills? The answer: elegant details, the right colour combinations and casual Friday.

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Total4Living: A touch of glamour

In April, interior design store Total4Living, located at Gelderlandplein, moved three doors to the left. Their new store is twice as big and boasts ten ambiance rooms where customers can…

In April, interior design store Total4Living, located at Gelderlandplein, moved three doors to the left. Their new store is twice as big and boasts ten ambiance rooms where customers can have a look around, get a cup of coffee and find inspiration for their home.

We enter Total4Living through the beautiful façade made of black steel and glass. All four interior designers, Ilona, Britte, Kevin and Hiske, are busy showing customers around. And they don’t hesitate to let them touch the beautiful curtains, furniture and new wallpapers. Opulent fabrics like velvet are currently en vogue and the new wallpapers have wonderful textures.

Total4Living

“Ever since we moved, we’ve had a lot more people walking into our store,” Ilona says later on when it is a bit quieter. “We’re now at ground level so it’s easy for them to come in and have a look. Compared to the old store we’ve now got double the floor space and twice as many brands on display.”

Ambiance rooms at Total4Living

“Everyone likes our ten fully-furnished ambiance rooms. Everything in those rooms is for sale:  the floors, tables, chairs, TV cabinets, rugs, carpets, curtains, blinds and shutters. All the rooms have been styled with trendy accessories. Also for sale, of course.”

‘In our store you’ll find everything you need to decorate and furnish your home’

“One thing stayed the same, however, and that is the service we offer: a complete interior design including lighting plan and 3D drawings, but also colour and styling advice, and everything you need to decorate and furnish your home. The steel window frames at the entrance and in the styling rooms are one of our trademarks. They’ve been a trend for many years; you’ll find these in houses built in the 1930s but also in hypermodern homes. Another trademark is our bespoke furniture: we can make all kinds of cabinets and closets to measure.”

 

Realistic dimensions

Total4Living“The ten ambiance rooms each have their own style that can be matched,” says Britte who’s joined us. “The rooms are 13 by 16 foot, just like in a normal house, so customers can imagine what it would look like in their home. The dimensions are realistic. We like it when people are just walking around, feeling at ease and trying a chair or sofa in one of these rooms. We welcome everyone who comes into our store, offer them a cup of coffee and then let them have a look. When someone picks up a piece, that doesn’t necessarily mean they actually want it so we let them relax and enjoy their coffee! In the meantime, we continue working at our large table in the kitchen and they’ll call us when they need help or more information.”

 

“In the old store, we more or less showed one overall picture; in this new one, you’ll see many different styles. The brands we sell are mainly Dutch, Scandinavian and Italian. One could say we’ve moved to the luxurious side or even gone a bit glamorous. However, that doesn’t mean we’ve become more expensive. Our strength is still creating a stylish image that’s very affordable and we try to achieve that by mixing expensive items with cheaper ones.”

 

Wallpaper is a big trend

Ilona: “The glamour aspect is reflected in the fine fabrics like velvet and rich materials for wall decoration, such as leather and textile. Going a bit over the top is allowed. We sell wallpaper designed by Dutch Wall Textile, made of velvet, suede and silk – exclusive fabrics that add a very special touch. People are a lot more daring these days: before, customers would only allow us to decorate one panel with an eye-catching piece of wallpaper, whereas now we’re doing entire walls. Wallpaper is another big trend at the moment.”

‘And with the Xavier apartment complex being under construction, some customers have involved us from scratch’

“After all the taupe and grey of the last couple of years, colours are back again! We use a lot of pink, aubergine and blue tones. Putting a few pillows with vibrant prints on a grey sofa gives it a new lease of life. Every month we get at least 50 different pillows delivered, so we’ve always got plenty of choice. We also notice that people are aware of the importance of light; buying not one lamp but a group of them has become a bit of a trend as well lately. The right lighting is crucial for a nice atmosphere in your home and a lamp can even double as a piece of art.”

 

The Zuidas as a ‘mini-Manhattan’

Total4LivingBritte: “Because our store at Gelderlandplein is just a stone’s throw away from the Zuidas, we’ve already had the opportunity to work on some great projects in complexes like the 900 Mahler, the Miles Building, Summertime and Intermezzo. And with the Xavier apartment complex being under construction, a few customers have involved us from scratch and that works extremely well. We sit down with them and make a floor plan and a customized lighting plan which they can then send to their builder in order to ensure that all the pipes and cables will be neatly concealed from view.”

“The Zuidas is becoming a mini-Manhattan, it’s really coming alive. When I cycle through this area in the morning, all the breakfast places are full. And it isn’t finished yet. Go and have a look at the scale model of the Zuidas in the WTC Building: you’ll see that another few thousand apartments are going to be built. So you’ll understand that our fingers are itching!”

 

Total4Living

Winkelcentrum Gelderlandplein
Willem van Weldammelaan 11
Amsterdam
http://www.total4living.nl

M 06 – 49 06 38 49

P free parking for 90 minutes right in front of the store (with parking disk)
E amsterdam@total4living.nl

 

Opening hours

Mon: 12:00 – 19:00 hours

Tue – Fri: 09:30 – 19:00 hours

Sat: 09.30 – 18:00 hours

Sun: 12:00 – 17:00 hours

 

 

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Portera, fast and quick

Due to their complex business operations, companies often find it difficult to respond to changes in the market. Baris Kavakli, consultant and managing director at Portera, developed an action plan,…

Due to their complex business operations, companies often find it difficult to respond to
changes in the market. Baris Kavakli, consultant and managing director at Portera,
developed an action plan, allowing these companies to make important strides within
one to four weeks. “We orchestrate technology, strategy and data to be able to help our
clients to leapfrog their competition.”

Baris Kavakli often sees the same issue when talking to companies: they want to change
but lack the skills and simply don’t know where to start. “We often see companies
embracing the language of innovation. Phrases like ‘agile development’, ‘pivoting’ and
‘failing fast’ come thick and fast. Yet whilst these are key elements of innovation culture,
few companies truly live by them.”

‘We orchestrate technology, strategy and data to be able to help our clients to leapfrog
their competition’

 

Baris Kavakla

Baris Kavakla

“The stark reality is that many companies still have a hierarchical top-down structure,
are slow to make decisions and rather than truly failing fast, they claim success at almost
any cost. They like the idea of innovation, but it isn’t a core value.”
Corporate culture
So what is going wrong? “It certainly isn’t their ambition, their energy or their ability.
The people in these companies are typically highly successful, highly intelligent and
driven. It is not a capability issue. It is a corporate culture issue.”
“What happens is a brainstorm session is organized, ideas are thrown into the mix and
comes out a PowerPoint presentation. They start to ask for ideas, call another workshop
or get further feedback from their colleagues. Somebody adds feedback, somebody adds
another question, somebody puts other thoughts in there, somebody puts another slide
and then it starts to become big. As the slide deck grows bigger, the scope of the project
is growing bigger as well. This, before the decision maker has seen anything.”

 

 

Green light

“Before you know it, it’s a € 1 million project which has no proven business case behind
it, little true data driven insight and at the same time, the hidden cost that is spent on
preparing this slide deck is tens of thousands of euros. Weeks have gone past, thousands
sunk in internal costs and a huge scope with a € 1 million investment PowerPoint
presentation. On rare occasions these proposals get the green light, it’s therefore no
wonder that everyone on the project team is hell-bent on making it a success. Failure isnot an option. That is certainly what we see when we first get involved with many
companies.”
Massimo Mercuri, Digital CoE Director, AkzoNobel, agrees. “What would have taken me
weeks with my current technology partner, at a cost of over 100k euros, Portera did in 2
weeks for for a few thousand euros.”
Portera, a management and technology consultancy that delivers commercial advantage
to its clients, uses a unique approach, Baris says. “At Portera, we insist on doing things
differently. We want to get to the point of success, or failure, as fast as possible.
Sometimes that happens in a couple of days and sometimes a month or two. We call it:
Portera Hop, Portera Jump and Portera Leap. Portera Hop is a one-day workshop where
our consultants and technologists work with different people within the organisation to
validate an idea and identify a strategic direction.”

Proof of concept

“The Portera Jump takes two weeks. We start from the business issue, and then we
deliver a proof of concept. Instead of a presentation to your boss, you take the proof
concept to your boss, showing him the problem and the solution. The company can then
use this deliverable as a proof of concept to move further in their investments. And if it
doesn’t work, they can throw it away.”
The third approach is Portera Leap which is quite an extensive process and takes four to
six weeks. “From the business issue, we come to a Minimum Viable Product, MVP. The
MVP is a streamlined product which our clients can use. It can be an internal or external
product that they can use to test and understand if it’s working.”
Baris gives a concrete example of a business issue. “Let’s say that it’s a business issue
about consumer loyalty, they want to retain their consumers or cross sell products. We
analyse their data to understand what is currently happening within their market, we
look not only at their own data but also at data from the competition to understand the
market dynamics.”

Viñoly-gebouw, Claude Debussylaan 42 op de Zuidas.

Viñoly-building, Claude Debussylaan 42 op de Zuidas.

Fail fast

“Our MVP will deliver a new or improved strategy that people can test, trial and demo
directly with their colleagues or customers. In this way, the team members very quickly
get feedback and insight into whether the innovation is likely to be viable, or not. All this
happens before any significant investment is deployed or time incurred. And from here,
it’s possible to be agile, pivot or truly fail fast.”

‘At Portera, we insist on doing things differently. We want to get to the point of success,
or failure, as fast as possible’

Portera’s approach is not limited to certain industries but at the moment they’re mainly
active in FMCG, healthcare and telecommunications. “These are three industries we are
really involved in and we are known in as well. But we have some clients in banking and
automotive, too.”If there’s anything that characterizes Portera, it is agility, according to Baris. “You need
to be flexible. You need to have different expertise and you need to make fast progress.
Progress isn’t a linear journey. And it’s not about running as fast as you can. Actually, it’s
about being agile as you proceed. The key thing is to have the right team in place to

enable fast and purposeful progress, so that decision making can happen earlier in the
innovation cycle, like in lean start-ups. It’s not about changing the overall company
culture, it’s about enabling innovation within the organisation’s culture.

Same language

“We choose our strategists and consultants in Portera amongst M-shaped professionals.
I-shaped professionals are experts in one field, T-shaped professionals are experts in
one field but they have a general knowledge in a domain. M-shaped people have wider
knowledge in both business and technology areas. They speak the same language as the
business owners but have broad and deep knowledge in multiple technological areas.”
Ending the conversation, Baris says that all the team within Portera loves to be
challenged in various business areas – “without challenges, there is never progress”.

 

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Risky Business: ‘We feel we’re achieving something special’

Ed Hartendorp is site superintendent at construction company Waal and since 2016, he and 90 colleagues have been working on the Xavier apartment complex that’s starting to take shape at…

Ed Hartendorp is site superintendent at construction company Waal and since 2016, he and
90 colleagues have been working on the Xavier apartment complex that’s starting to take
shape at Gustav Mahlerlaan. We join Ed for a day on his workplace and today that’s the 21st
floor. Up there, around 80 yards above ground level, we enjoy an impressive view of the
entire Zuidas.

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The Power of Relaxation

A mere 15-minute drive from all the concrete, glass and steel at the Zuidas lies a quiet haven at the Vinkeveense Plassen called ‘Zwier’, an inspiring 10-acre place where city-dwellers…

A mere 15-minute drive from all the concrete, glass and steel at the Zuidas lies a quiet haven at the Vinkeveense Plassen called ‘Zwier’, an inspiring 10-acre place where city-dwellers with a hectic life can unwind and recharge their batteries.

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