Of course, NOM focuses primarily on strengthening and expanding the northern Dutch economy. But if you want to get international companies excited about establishing themselves in our region, the best place to start is with Holland-branding. Especially when it comes to water technology. Project Manager Reinder de Jong of the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) team explains why.
International acquisition of water technology companies
The major international water technology exhibitions are sought-after ponds for the FDI team to fish for interesting acquisitions for the Northern Netherlands. That is why the IFAT in Munich, the International Water Week in Singapore and the WEFTEC in New Orleans were on the program in recent months, respectively.
Just back from the water quality event WEFTEC - a gathering of some 1,000 water (technology) companies and more than 20,000 water professionals - De Jong emphasizes the importance of Holland-branding. 'At trade fairs like that, you have to think bigger than your own region, because that's precisely when you stand a chance as a business location.'
He cites a practical example: 'We deliberately participate with Water Alliance in the Holland pavilion and during WEFTEC there was a slogan on the back wall about expansion in the European market. That turned out to be a hit! It drew spontaneous attention from overseas companies looking for targeted entrances to our continent.
At least four interesting leads have emerged from these talks. For us it now comes down to leading these parties to the Northern Netherlands. With the European Hub for Water Technology, our region obviously has a strong asset in hand, so once they are interested in Holland, then Northern Netherlands is the second step.'
About the leads, De Jong cannot reveal anything yet. They are confidential discussions, and sometimes we even sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). Potential acquisition candidates do not want to play into the hands of the competition. Understandable, which is why we always work carefully.
Building a network is all about trusting relationships and that's what makes the personal contact at these fairs so valuable. By the way, by deliberately choosing hotels close to the trade show location, great connections are also made informally. For example, at the breakfast buffet I met a CEO of a water cluster who had already sent me an e-mail when he got home after the WEFTEC, because he would like to introduce a company to the Dutch market. It can be that easy sometimes.'
In addition to Holland-branding - and then funneling it to the northern Netherlands - pre-selection is also part of the FDI way of working. 'When we visit trade fairs, we spend a few days in the middle of the force center of potential acquisitions, but we want to spend our precious time primarily on really promising contacts,' the project manager emphasizes.
'This is a serious challenge at large trade shows; this year's IFAT alone attracted some 100,000 visitors with over 3,000 exhibitors!
That's why we do desk research in advance and deploy smart software to select the best potentials. With that shortlist in hand, we can work purposefully during the trade show visit, and sometimes we manage to schedule appointments with the right people in advance.'
AT FAIRS LIKE THAT, YOU HAVE TO THINK BIGGER THAN YOUR OWN REGION, BECAUSE THAT'S WHEN YOU STAND A CHANCE AS A BUSINESS LOCATION.
The starting point for the smart selection in advance is that potential acquisitions meet the NOM criteria. De Jong: "It is important that companies already have a certain size and operate successfully in their home market, because these are parties that are seriously looking at growth across the border.
With companies from outside our continent, we also pay attention to the fact that they have already made a small start in doing business within Europe. We know that the desire to establish themselves here takes serious shape as soon as they have their first business. And then, of course, we as the Northern Netherlands want to be at the forefront.'
Production is promising
When De Jong does his homework, he also watches for other indicators of promising acquisitions. 'Think capital injections, the arrival of a new CFO or a situation like the Brexit,' the project manager lists.
'And we also pay attention to content. For example, service companies often drop out because they are perfectly capable of organizing their work remotely.
In the water technology sector, we stand a better chance with production companies, especially in combination with maintenance. After all, they like to be closer to the customers. In short, advance analysis helps us reduce a list of thousands of companies to a qualified shortlist. We then do our best to enter into talks with these potentials at the strategy level and establish a line of communication with the Northern Netherlands.'