From innovation to creativity and infrastructure to entrepreneurship, the Netherlands has it all and that’s not just an opinion. In fact, Forbes ranks the Netherlands in the top five countries where it’s best to do business. Obviously, we’re flattered but to further illuminate the reasons why we wanted to speak to someone who lives this experience every day. That’s why we decided to speak to Petra Wullings. Not only is she the Trade Policy Advisor at the Embassy of Finland in the Netherlands but she also has extensive experience in supporting Finnish companies that want to expand their operations here.
“The ease of doing business in the Netherlands allows entrepreneurship to flourish”
“There are a couple of factors to consider here,” says Petra, “but the positives are undeniable. The market here is three times bigger than in Finland, there are highly educated employees available and Amsterdam is one of the world’s most international cities. That means the opportunities are boundless. Also, you can get a lot of support for these activities. There are some free-market entry services from the government that are worth exploring regardless of whether you’re setting up a firm, finding a partner or buying a firm. There are also many organizations who can offer assistance in this area.”
“The Netherlands is a thriving ecosystem”
“When you think about it, the Netherlands is the perfect example of a country working as an ecosystem, with different regions complementing the talents of their neighbours.” Explains Petra. “If you take Eindhoven as an example, it’s the Dutch technology and heavy machinery capital, with a huge ecosystem. There are universities, research centres and local government working together. On top of this, it is quite normal for competitors to have partnerships. By contrast, Amsterdam is the hub for software, start-ups, and creative technologies. Groningen is the capital for energy technologies and Wageningen an area for agri- and food technology as well as R&D. Because the Netherlands works in this way it is easily accessible. When you come here with a niche product, you can quickly connect with the right people and the decision-makers.”
“On a cultural level, we connect”
“The Dutch people are culturally close to the Nordics and perceive themselves as like-minded, which makes cooperation easier. You can manage the first contact and negotiations in English,” Petra explains. “Within Europe, the Dutch are renowned for their language skills, particularly in English, so it’s possible to get negotiations going quickly. What’s more, Dutch people will quickly provide feedback on your product. Their openness in sharing their opinion can be good input when analysing whether your product is working in this specific market.”
“Direct feedback helps things move faster”
“In the Netherlands, it is possible to get a “go” or “no go” quite fast. To get the same answer in the German market might take up to two years. That is a waste of time, money, and opportunities. And, that’s what makes the Netherlands the place to be, especially for tech.”
“Healthy competition is a great way to test your market fitness”
“You must have already good international competitiveness when entering the Dutch market. In that sense it’s a good market to test the readiness for international markets: if you can manage in NL, you can manage in Germany, France and the UK as well.”
Things to consider when entering the Netherlands
- Be Prepared:
The strength of the competition in the Netherlands means it is crucial to understand your competitors, know where you are going and focus on your customers’ needs. By doing this, you’ll be able to tailor your messaging to fit your ideal customer. Also, when you’re in a new marketplace, never be afraid to get local help. Embassies are a good place to start as they can help with the initial steps and refer you to their networks.
- Be aware of the cultural nuances and communication style.
When setting up a business in the Netherlands, it’s really important to take the culture into consideration. Not everyone trades in the same way and it would make sense to have a local partner who can act as a sort of cultural ambassador or local guide. They will be able to transfer and translate the Dutch way of doing business into your company so that you have the greatest chance of success.
The Netherlands offers great opportunities and is known for its innovative environment, supportive tax policy, and highly educated workforce, making it one of Europe’s hottest tech hubs. It is no surprise that the Netherlands has been ranked in the top 5 of the global innovation Index in 2020 and has also made it to the list of the world’s best markets for tech companies by Velocity global.
What is currently exported from Finland to the Netherlands?
“Finland is exporting technology solutions for healthcare, energy, mobility, and smart cities. 5G and mobile are good examples of areas of Finnish strength in technology, but also energy and health tech are growing. Furthermore, Finnish tech companies have a good reputation in the Netherlands. Finnish companies are seen as good partners and reliable providers. In that sense, there is a good match between the Netherlands and Finland when it comes to doing business together.”
To which countries Finnish companies are expanding usually?
“Usually, Finnish companies are initially expanding to other Nordic countries, or they are looking for bigger markets such as Germany or France. Quite often it is forgotten that Germany is a big country with different regions, which makes it a challenging market to tackle. In such a big country with big areal differences, it is necessary to have good German language skills, customer service, and materials from the very beginning. Making progress in such a huge country takes a lot of resources before you’re getting results. On the contrary, in the UK you can operate in English, but the competition is high since many big American companies usually start their expansion from the UK when they’re moving across the Atlantic. Hence, in addition to European competition, you have to face the American competition there.”
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If you’d like to get a business advantage when entering the Dutch market, leave us a message. We’re local to the Netherlands, have the expert market knowledge and can assist in all commercial activities. We’d be keen to schedule a call.