In our increasingly globalized world, upheaval, disruption, and change, have become part and parcel of the modern business environment. Strategies for growth and even survival are, therefore, crucial for navigating a safe path to the future for every organization.
Amsterdam – a perfect match
The Melbourne, Australia-based strategic design firm, Huddle, specializes in human-centered design and organizational transformation. It has grown from around 15 staff eight years ago, to around 50 today. When the company wanted to set a foot in the European market it alighted on Amsterdam as the perfect spiritual home for its new European venture and, today, Huddle has a team of 12 working from the Amsterdam office.
The company’s holistic and human-centered approach reflects its stated purpose, which is ‘to do meaningful work and positively affect humanity’. Counting major Australian corporates like Telstra and Westpac among its customers, Huddle’s European growth plan was accelerated, though not initiated, by working with ING Bank in the Netherlands.
“About two years ago we started working on digital transformation projects with ING Bank’s head office in the Netherlands, who are probably leading the charge in Europe in terms of the way they approach banking in the future,” states Managing Director, Paul Fairhead. When looking around for the most appropriate location for its European venture, Huddle felt that Amsterdam was a closer match in terms of mentality and culture.
Amsterdam vs London
“We wanted to be on the European continent, rather than base ourselves in London like most Australian companies,” Fairhead notes. “Amsterdam was the city that stood out, being more bilingual than your usual sense, and with a great awareness of Australia, coupled with the great relationship between our countries.”
For many companies choosing to locate in the Netherlands, it is precisely such factors that form the basis for their decision; an open and international outlook, strategic location in Europe, well-educated, multilingual and flexible workforce, and high level of labor productivity. According to the EF English Proficiency Index 2016 the Netherlands ranks first out of 63 countries.
“Working in Amsterdam, we like being here; it’s a cultural fit and we have been able to attract a lot of really good talent because of the people who gravitate here,” Fairhead explains. “It’s also a very developed country in terms of thinking about the future – just look at Dutch policies around energy, or their approach to rehabilitation over incarceration.”
Making the move to Amsterdam, from the other side of the world, was quite an undertaking, and Fairhead notes that the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA) greatly eased the process of setting-up in the country. “We had a few problems initially, but a lot of that was because we didn’t know agencies like the NFIA existed,” he says. “Once we became aware of them, the help they gave us has been phenomenal in terms of guiding us through the legal and corporate system in the Netherlands, and introducing us to great contacts.” Fairhead is of the firm opinion that other Australian companies looking to locate in Europe should definitely have the Netherlands firmly in their sights.