Jan Willem van Bokhoven – Holland House

Some time ago we had the opportunity to interview Jan Willem van Bokhoven, who has been active in the Dutch-Latin American business for over 15 years. He is director of the Holland House in Colombia; an organization that functions as a public-private intermediate to promote trade and investment, and provide advice to Dutch and Colombian businesses. Jan Willem explains in this interview how HollandHouse can help entrepreneurs and why the Colombian market is booming!

How can HollandHouse help Dutch companies in Colombia?

Holland House supports Dutch companies with their market entry and expansion in Colombia, through diverse services and formulas, such as; market research, sector studies, trade missions, trade fairs and permanent commercial supporting. The number of successful Dutch companies within the Colombian market has been quadrupled in the past 5 years.

Why is now the time for companies to enter the Colombian market?

There are numerous reasons why companies should seek for an international expansion to Colombia. Just to name a few:

  • The Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between EU-Colombia and the openness of Colombia for international trade.
  • Colombia is one of the bigger upcoming economies in the world; belonging to the top-30 economies, a strong growing middle class, 50 million inhabitants and a stable economic growth.
  • Strategic Geographical location and Pacific Alliance which makes the country a perfect  base for Dutch companies who want to cover the region.

What makes Colombia attractive for Dutch companies?

The sectors in which Colombian organizations need knowledge, skills and technology form a powerful combination with what the Netherlands business world has to offer: Agro, horticulture, life sciences & health, transport & logistics and water.

Which developments have you seen over the past years regarding entrepreneurship?

Colombia has structurally improved its business climate in the past years. Opposed to other countries within Latin America, it scores higher than any other country on the scales of “ease of doing business” and “investor protections”. This is clearly stated in the indexes of the WorldBank. These improvements are basis for a positive outlook for coming years. 

Which steps do you advice companies to follow while doing  business in Colombia?

  • Start with thoroughly researching the product-market combination in Colombia. With this, preparation is key!
  • Explore the market. For instance through a focused visit to Colombia to get in touch with the right trading partners
  • Make the follow-up as personal as possible; a telephone conversation as follow-up is way more effective than an e-mail.
  • Be sure to regularly plan follow-up visits; stay in touch and keep your contacts warm.

What do you see as the main differences between doing business in the Netherlands and Colombia?

For starters, Colombia is more hierarchical than the Netherlands. Status plays a bigger part in business here. Besides, it is important to first build a personal relationship with one person. Talking business and involving the company comes second. Last but not least, in Colombian culture haste makes waste. Patience is a virtue.

Thank you Jan-Willem! Curious about your opportunities in the Colombian market?

As Jan Willem mentioned, thorough preparation and market research is key for a successful entrance in the Colombian market. We, as International Research Project, can provide you with such customized research at cost price, followed by a strategic advice on your market entry. Through our research we can support you in making informed, locally verified, data-driven decisions. Get in touch now for a free research proposal!