After visiting the Arnhem – Nijmegen – Wageningen area for many years and speaking to entrepreneurs and organisations from the area, it was time for the international consultants of Sage Partners to open their own branch office here. Sage Partners Europe, from where the consultants are deepening their activities in Europe, has been established in Nijmegen. On 24 and 25 November, entrepreneurs and organisation can speak with the international consultants during (re)Ignite Growth. It will have to be online – because of COVID measures – but will allow participating businesses the same kind of opportunity as during an in-person meeting, Sage Partners’ Marc Fox and Hugo van der Zee explain.
“We help businesses to add more value”, says Marc Fox at the outset of his explanation. He is a joint founder and one of the partners in Sage Partners, a consultancy firm that is originally from the United States, but has at this stage also developed strong roots in Europe, with a lot of activities in the Arnhem – Nijmegen – Wageningen area. The recently established Sage Partners Europe B.V. is actually located in Nijmegen. “We distinguish ourselves by focusing strongly on the mindset of businesses. What is their thinking like? What is their perspective on things? Together with company management, we look at strategic priorities. That’s especially important in this singular time.”
He illustrates what he means with a metaphor. “If a business is experiencing loss of sales, it will usually try to sell its bread in the next village. And then in next. And the next… Instead, the people that make up that business could also go looking for a distributor that delivers bread to all those villages. That is an insight we can help them with.”
There are many secret top businesses in this area.
Fox also observes that many companies – including a huge number in the Arnhem – Nijmegen – Wageningen area – are far too modest. “There are great things happening, but the companies are usually not actively telling their story to a larger audience. There are many secret top businesses in this area.” Hugo van der Zee, another partner at Sage Partners, agrees wholeheartedly. “We’ve spoken to about sixty companies in the area, and that is something we constantly witness.” There is no need for that modesty, Fox believes. “We are often asked why we focus on this part of the Netherlands in particular, instead of on Amsterdam, for instance. It’s a conscious choice, as there are so many interesting things going on here.”
In the past, Sage Partners helped out businesses such as Von Gahlen from Zevenaar, a family business with 47 years of experience in nuclear medicine. Von Gahlen produces laboratories that can manufacture medical isotopes. Fox: “They already had a rich history, a powerful company culture and were exceptionally good at what they do. We helped them establish the right priorities for the future, which allowed them to grow as a business.”
Jaap Duiker – who owns and manages Von Gahlen together with his brother Alex – agrees. “A few years ago, we met the Sage Partners through The Economic Board. After we delivered a pitch, we started our process together. We exchanged views with a number of partners about how we could take the next step as an organisation. Part of the process was an away day with the entire team, a day I still look back on frequently. We focused on teambuilding and agreed on required actions. There was a strong focus on the culture change that was needed, and on how everyone could play their part. We learned how to celebrate our successes for instance. That day was when we set our new course, a course we all sailed together.”
Sometimes you need another person who looks at everything differently.
Duiker really values external advice. “Sometimes you need another person who looks at everything differently. The Sage Partners bring a wealth of experience and are actively involved in what they do. Their impact was significant. When we’re discussing the business plans, we often fall back on what we spoke about with them.” That Von Gahlen made a move in the right direction is clear from the fact that they are in the running for the prestigious Koning Willem I award, which will be awarded on 25 November.
Sage Partners focuses partly on start-ups but would like to reach more established businesses through events like (re)Ignite Growth. Originally, this event would go all the way around world and hit Nijmegen on 24 and 25 November. Now it will of course take place online. “Because of the format we’re working with, that’s not really a problem”, says Fox. “We invite businesses for a free conversation with us that will last approximately two hours. Through this virtual medium, they can still share their story with us, and we can support them.’
Businesses always get some new knowledge and inspiration from such a conversation.
Van der Zee explains how the process works. “Four Sage Partners will attend the first meeting, and we always go with partners whose expertise matches well with the activities of the business. The meeting starts with a pitch, presentation, or discussion, for instance. Moreover, we ask each business to prepare a specific question for us. Businesses always get some new knowledge and inspiration from such a conversation. We give them plenty of space to tell their story, but also give our insights and relay experiences with companies from all over the world. Usually there will be a follow-up meeting after that first one, in which we discuss the business activities in greater detail. We find that a collaboration with a business that lasts somewhere between six to eighteen months is ideal.”
The COVID crisis obviously has a significant impact on current discussions. Van der Zee: “This time requires companies to research alternative scenarios. Scenario planning therefore plays an important role during our current meetings.”
If businesses are interested in speaking with the Sage Partners on 24 or 25 November – or possibly another day – they can contact The Economic Board’s Richard Dobbelman and ask about the possibilities. Companies of all sizes and sectors are welcome. The Sage Partners are more than happy to meet with interesting businesses.