At the IRP, we’re working hard to find the best way to do business in China, but doing business with foreign cultures requires a different mindset than back home. Many businessmen and women will acknowledge the importance of the personal touch to a business relationship. Establishing personal connections with your (future) partners is very important in order to build trustworthy and meaningful relationships.

This is something we are currently experiencing as the IRP as well. Meetings and negotiations with potential clients only seem to succeed when two people genuinely get along.

The divergence of personal and professional aspects of a business relationship is universal, yet the extent to which it occurs is quite culturally dependent. And since we are an International Research Project, one of our main pillars is conducting a cultural analysis of the country we are going to do research in.

What exactly is guanxi?

This year’s IRP destination is China. And in the country of the Red Dragon, building trust with your partners all revolves around one thing: guanxi. In Asia, knowing your counterpart on a deep, personal level is a vital part of doing business. Guanxi, meaning relationship in the Chinese language, goes beyond networking and business relationships.

Scientifically speaking, “Guanxixue — the “art of guanxi” — revolves around the exchange of gifts, favors, and banquets; the cultivation of personal relationships and networks of mutual dependence; and the creation of obligation and indebtedness. What informs these practices and their native descriptions is the primacy and binding power of personal relationships and their importance in meeting the needs and desires of everyday life” (Yang, 1994).

It is a deep human relationship that is cultivated, earned and is non-transferable. Hence, for your business to truly flourish in China, you have to adapt to that business lifestyle. What does this mean for you exactly? Two aspects of guanxi are particularly important to understand:

1. It is all about returning favors

This means that you have to deepen this relationship by building guanxi, in other words: by returning favors. If a ‘friend’ does you a favor, you are obligated to return that favor. The deeper the guanxi, the bigger favors they will do for you, often without even asking. If you meet this favor in return or exceed it, you build face with that person. This means that they take conscious note of your reliability in returning favors.

As a result, your reputation improves. The deeper the relationship, the greater the favors and the greater time you will be allowed to repay it. People who fail to repay favors are considered stingy and rude. This way of relationship building obviously takes more time than the western style of doing business.

2. Guanxi is relative

Although guanxi is an important business ingredient, the extent to which this applies depends on who you are talking to. For some Chinese people, being associated with foreigners is extremely important in order for them to gain face. Other, more conservative Chinese, will think the opposite. They scoff at the people walking around with foreigners, showing them such undeserved hospitality.

Also, the type of industry and nature of the business is important to consider. Heavily regulated industries or those that are strategic to China’s national interest, like banking, health care or security, are more subject to non-market forces. Good guanxi with authorities or state-owned companies may be critical to successfully doing business. On the other hand, a small consumer technology firm in Shanghai or Shenzhen, for example, run by a 25-year old educated in Europe, cares much more about the bottom line than guanxi.

Don’t overdo it

As with most things in life, balance is key. This also applies when it comes to guanxi. It may provide you with a way into meaningful business relations. It might generate goodwill to help close a deal, and it can provide you with important insights. However, focus too much on the reciprocity of your business relations and you might end up with nothing at all. Guanxi is a strong cultural phenomenon that can help you and your business grow, but it should not be the only leg to stand on.

This article was written by Consultant Laurens Noodelijk of the MAA – International Research Project.

On Friday the 8th of March, we had the opportunity to celebrate International Women’s Day. Three of our consultants were invited to Feminer 2019, a dinner organized by top business women in The Netherlands. This year, the theme was #balanceforbetter. This evening, we considered the position of women in society. In today’s world, women are still under-represented in several professional branches. This was illustrated by several facts; at this very moment, there are only three women who can call themselves CEO at a listed company in the Netherlands, just 11.6% of the board members at the biggest firms in our country are female, and 16.2% of supervisory board members are female. Since five years, firms are encouraged to put more women in top jobs. This is a good start, however, we can conclude that we are still not where we would like to be. A lot of Dutch business branches are still quite conservative. Is it really necessary to introduce quotas to get more women in top positions?

A country that really stands out with regard to this topic is China. There are several ground-breaking women who populate this story. To exemplify this, it is useful to mention that China dominates the ranks of the world’s most successful women. There is arisen share of self-made women. China accounts for 63% of the world’s most successful female entrepreneurs, representing 20% growth compared with five years earlier. Here, 51% of positions in senior management are covered by Chinese women. This can be explained by the Age of Ambition. In the Age of Ambition, the ethos is that to get rich is glorious. This ambitious instinct is gender neutral. A tool to measure the level of gloriousness is the financial success of both their companies and themselves.

This is a great example of the changing position of women in society. Still, it seems to be urgent to promote more women to leadership positions. Earlier research had stressed the fact that a more diverse environment can lead to more innovative ideas and fosters productivity. This means creating an inclusive workplace that values individual differences. Inclusivity and diversity can be seen as the fundament of the inclusive workspace. It is crucial to give diverse voices a platform, both men and women.

The International Research Project (IRP) is aware of these imbalances and acknowledges the importance of a diverse team. We believe that diversity must be an absolute priority because a diverse team is essential for providing prospects with well-balanced (research) findings. Consequently, the IRP consists of a team of junior consultants with a multidisciplinary background. Besides that, we can proudly say that 61% of the junior consultant of the 2018/2019 project are female. Our female junior consultants had the chance to attend Feminer 2019 to learn from and talk to several hardworking women who hold a leadership position in several professional branches. The purpose of the Feminer Foundation is to contribute to a future in which the chances and opportunities regarding your career path are equal for women and men. This initiative demonstrates the rising importance of an inclusive workplace. We are very curious about what the future holds.

Een serie interviews, bestaande uit 5 consultants die ieder een ander perspectief hebben op wat het IRP is. Elk met een ander verhaal, leuke quotes en tips voor aankomende sollicitanten. Ja, het is een longread. Maar wel een hele leuke!

Onze tweede interviewee is Jordi. Jordi was afgelopen jaar student consultant bij het IRP. Een salestijger die voor niemand bang is, vol met tips over hoe je een jaar als student consultant tot een succes maakt.


Kun je iets vertellen over je achtergrond?

Ik heb bedrijfskunde gestudeerd, richting Strategy, kom uit Hengelo en heb al 7 jaar gestudeerd. Jep. Ik ben begonnen op het HBO, heb een studie op de Erasmus universiteit geprobeerd, maar dat was niks voor mij. Toen heb ik besloten om naar Amsterdam te gaan.

 Hoe ben je bij het IRP gekomen?

 Grappig genoeg via mijn broer. Mijn broer werd eerst gevraagd voor het IRP, maar dat ging vervolgens niet door. Toen ben ik er maar voor gegaan. Ik wilde stage lopen en wat naast mijn studie doen. Ik had nog niet veel praktische ervaring op mijn CV staan, dus het IRP combineren met mijn studie was ideaal.

 Waarom ben je bij het IRP gegaan?

 In eerste instantie dacht ik dat ik het puur en alleen zou doen voor het bouwen van mijn CV. Daarnaast wilde ik ook nog gaan reizen, dus dit was de ideale combinatie. Maar nu het klaar is kan ik zeggen dat ik ook nog consultancy skills en commissie ervaring heb opgedaan. Dat was erg waardevol.

 Kan je ons vertellen over jouw rol binnen het IRP?

 Ik ben nog steeds in de veronderstelling dat ik ben aangenomen vanwege mijn sales ervaring. Dat had ik al, en voor het IRP was dat ideaal, aangezien een groot deel van het jaar acquisitie gedaan moest worden. Dat was dus in eerste instantie de rol van student consultant in het algemeen: bedrijven bellen om het IRP te verkopen. Daarna kwam het consultancy gedeelte.

De sales ervaring heeft het voor mij heel erg makkelijk gemaakt om directe vragen te stellen en comfortabel te zijn om te bellen. Maar iedereen kan dat leren. Eigenlijk is het ook heel simpel: je pakt de telefoon op met als doel om bedrijven kennis te laten maken met het IRP, een gesprek te hebben met managers en het project te verkopen. Daar leer je zelf dan ook weer veel van.

 Ik vond het leuk, de acquisitie periode. Je belt altijd samen met een groepje, dus dat is gezellig. Er werd veel gelachen tijdens de belshifts. En, ik heb veel geleerd over sectoren waarvan ik niet eens wist dat ze bestonden. Ik weet nu wat leuke bedrijven zijn om voor te werken, en in wat voor sectoren ik graag zou willen werken later. Wat dat betreft heb ik best een mooi netwerk van bedrijven overgehouden aan het IRP. Dat had ik niet verwacht van tevoren, maar was zeker een leuke bijkomstigheid!

 Wat heb je allemaal geleerd door deel te nemen aan het IRP?

 Het inkoppertje: ik heb echt leren samenwerken. Ik ben erachter gekomen dat ik best een beetje intimiderend kon overkomen. Dat wist ik niet van mezelf. Gelukkig kreeg ik daar goede feedback over van alle anderen. Ik heb ook geleerd om intensief met anderen samen te werken. Dat was bijvoorbeeld op reis: je bent vaak met elkaar een dag op stap. Je zit de hele dag op elkaars lip. Je slaapt in dezelfde kamer en doet eigenlijk alles samen. Je MOET op goede voet liggen, want je bent non-stop met elkaar aan het werk.

Je denkt vaak dat je redelijk kunt reflecteren op jezelf en dat je levelt met anderen, maar soms blijk je dat helemaal niet te kunnen. Het IRP heeft ervoor gezorgd dat ik veel meer rekening hou met andere mensen. Op die manier functioneert het team beter.

 Wat heb je geleerd van de andere student consultants?

 Ik heb geleerd dat iedereen weer een andere aanpak heeft. Sommige mensen kunnen een stuk directer zijn dan anderen, en sommigen mensen voelen zich een beetje bezwaard om direct te zijn. En dat je ook gewoon heel vrolijk kunt zijn aan de telefoon! Annelies (student consultant, red.) belde fantastisch, heerlijk was dat om te zien.

Daarnaast heb ik uiteraard een paar goede vrienden overgehouden aan het afgelopen jaar.

Er zijn ook helemaal geen ruzies geweest. Dat was best wel bijzonder, want volgens mij is dat weleens anders geweest.Het was een groep die heel goed met elkaar kon, dat was leuk om te zien.

 Hoe was het om op reis te gaan?

 Ik vond het best wel spannend. Het was mijn eerste keer buiten Europa. Maar het bleek heel natuurlijk te gaan. Ik had een cultuurshock verwacht, maar dat viel wel mee uiteindelijk. In tegenstelling tot andere groepjes had ik een sales project samen met mijn groepje. we hebben van tevoren naar ervaringen gevraagd van de gebruikers van het product in Nederland en zijn toen online gaan proberen om afspraken te maken in Colombia. Via LinkedIn bijvoorbeeld. Het was erg grappig om te zien dat er echt een verschil is in hoe men daar werkt en hoe men in Nederland werkt. Er gaat bijvoorbeeld veel meer via WhatsApp, in plaats van e-mail. In samenwerking met de co-mates, de studenten daar die ons hielpen, zijn we gewoon naar de bedrijven in de sector toe gegaan.

We zaten zo met de directeur om tafel, zonder van tevoren een afspraak te hebben gemaakt, geweldig.

 Kwam er een specifiek resultaat uit je opdracht?

 De opdrachtgever wilde potentiële bedrijven in kaart brengen die zijn product wilde kopen, zodat ze een idee zouden hebben of ze de markt moesten gaan betreden of niet. Dat hebben wij voor ze in kaart gebracht. Er zijn zelfs twee potentiële opdrachtgevers uit ons onderzoek naar voren gekomen. Het is leuk dat we daadwerkelijk met een praktische oplossing voor onze vraag hebben kunnen komen.

 Hoe waardevol is het om internationale business ervaring te hebben?

 Ontzettend belangrijk. Dat merk ik ook met solliciteren. internationale business ervaring is een van de belangrijkste dingen die je op je CV kan hebben. Het is een soort van stage.

Heb je een specifiek voorbeeld waarin je hebt gemerkt dat het belangrijk is?

 Ik had laatst contact met Ormit, een bedrijf dat traineeships verzorgt en trainingen geeft. Ik kreeg van ze te horen dat veel bedrijven een checklist hebben om een CV selectie door te komen. Doing business abroad en het om kunnen gaan met culturele verschillen staat heel vaak op die lijst. In die zin is het dus bijzonder leerzaam om aan het IRP deel te nemen.

 Hoe was het om het IRP met je studie te combineren?

 Heel goed te doen. Ik werkte zelfs 10 tot 15 uur per week naast het IRP en mijn studie. Alleen mijn sociale leven kwam er af en toe onder te lijden. Althans, het is te doen, maar op het bier drinken moet wel ietwat geminderd worden, haha.

Daarnaast heb ik dus mijn scriptie gehaald. Sommigen anderen hebben ervoor gekozen om te focussen op een paar vakken, en hadden daarom wat meer tijd, maar daar kun je zelf een keuze in maken.

 Wat heb je gestudeerd en wat had dat voor invloed op het IRP?

 Ik heb een keer wat geleerd bij een vak over Mergers and Acquisition waardoor ik bijna iemand over heb kunnen halen om te investeren in Colombia. Het is bizar om te zien hoeveel je kunt bereiken in een telefoongesprek. Als je alles weet van een bepaalde sector kun je iemand heel gemakkelijk overtuigen.

Daarnaast heb ik bij mijn studie theoretisch geleerd om een goede bedrijfsstrategie te verzinnen. Dat kan ook handig zijn in een jaar IRP.

 Wat was het leukste moment van het afgelopen jaar?

 Ik denk dat dat het moment was dat ik hoorde dat ik student consultant werd. Dat was fantastisch. Toen Pepita (bestuurslid, red.) me belde zei ik: ik kan je wel een zoen geven!

Het was alles bij elkaar, het hele project. Het was zo lachen, alsof je voor het eerst bij een studentenvereniging gaat: veel gezelligheid. Maar ook veel serieuze dingen, gefocust op het bouwen van carrière en dingen leren. Je wordt letterlijk meegenomen in het hele proces. En dan moest de reis nog komen. Dat was ook heel gaaf. Van de ups naar de downs. Dan weer een goeie borrel, dan weer een meeting. Elke dag was je productief bezig. Een geweldige manier van werken.

 Zou je het nog een keer doen als het kon?

 Ja. Lachend. Als er een bedrijf was die dit als business deed als werk/business development zou ik direct solliciteren, en concurreren met alle andere International Research Projecten.

 Hoe ziet de toekomst er voor jou uit na het IRP?

Solliciteren. Dat ik het IRP heb gedaan zorgt ervoor dat ik een klasse hoger kan kijken bij bepaalde functies. Ik hoop op een rooskleurige toekomst. Ik ben in heel veel geïnteresseerd, dus dat komt vast goed. Je moet ergens beginnen.


dare-to-be-different-1PepsiCo, Storymail, and Heineken. The much-anticipated Amsterdam Commercial night hosted three very different companies, each representing their own distinctive brands. All of which demonstrated the ways in which their advertising strategies and campaigns dare to be different. The impressionable and unique Vondelkerk was the perfect location to set the tone for an evening of stimulating conversation among marketers, all while enjoying a handful of Doritos and a refreshing Heineken.

What distinguishes you from the competition? And, what is the future of advertising were among a few questions asked during the Amsterdam Commercial Night.

PepsiCo uses online influencers to captivate its audience

PepsiCo started the night off by presenting the Doritos’ bold flavor campaign, A or B. By developing a unique twist to previous campaigns, Doritos differentiated its brand by asking consumers to vote to ‘eliminate’ their least preferred flavor of Doritos. PepsiCo’s marketing team explained, “we devoted 60 percent on digital marketing allowing Doritos to socially construct a viral competition between flavor A and B that captivated millions online.” With Internet users as the target audience, Doritos used YouTube influencers as a major driving force of the campaign. YouTube influencers were able to effectively motivate their followers to cultivate interest in the Doritos campaign, demonstrating the power of digital marketing.

“Digital marketing must stay human”

Storymail presented itself as a personal video company that adopts video content based on their audience’s interests and location. Storymail’s Rogier Ros stated, “It’s all about making the customer’s journey as personal as possible, digital marketing must stay human. Providing relevant videos to our audience is the key message here.” In a digital environment where consumers are exposed to an immense amount of content online, relevance is certainly an issue. Storymail dares to be different by customizing videos with the right message, being sent at the right time, in the right form. Interested in learning about this process? See for yourself!


“Lager really is full of surprises”

Heineken’s beer market is not exactly as you would expect it. Did you know that the lager sales have been decreasing, while specialty and non-alcoholic beers are dominating the market? This is precisely why Heineken felt the need to reinvent its lager by releasing the H41, a new lager that is brewed from rare wild ‘mother yeast’. Heineken was adaptable, and proved that daring to be different can be an effective marketing strategy, when looking to revive a declining product.

Every year the Amsterdam Commercial Night provides a great opportunity for students to network over drinks, circulate their CV to potential employers, and reach out to the evening’s presenters and fellow marketers. Student’s commented on the high energy of the event, “the presenters were young and enthusiastic, the Pepsico team told an incredible story of how to engage customers. Not to mention the location was fantastic!”

After another very successful event we can surely be excited to see what will be in store for the coming years! In some ways the future of marketing appears to be clear. As seen with PepsiCo and Storymail, both companies have proven that digital marketing is the way of future. Yet, the creative nature of digital marketing remains crucial, proving that the best advertising campaigns must dare to be different.

Written by Alexandra Martin

Finding a job! For me the time is there and probably for a lot of others too (only the very lucky ones already found theirs). It’s a very exciting, but especially nerve-wracking period, as you don’t get this job without any effort. Before the actual application process begins, you mig
ht visit inhouse-days and recruitment events of the companies you’re interested in, to gain more insights and find some orientation. These days are also the perfect chance to put yourself forward with the company.

How to solve a business case - business-analytics-intelligence

Most of the times you’ll be confronted with a business case and have to present your thoughts and solution to the company at the end, together with a team. The case will be related to the industry of the particular company you’re visiting and will be representative of assignments the company deals with regularly. I’ve got some ideas of my own to help you handle them in a successful way, so here they come:

How to deal with a case?

Usually you work with 3-4 others during the case, so the company can observe how you interact within a team. The company can observe which kind of person you are within a team: are you a leader, a mediator or a follower? Be conscious of your attitude within this team. Of course, you should always be yourself, but try to be a potential candidate for the recruiter. Is the company asking for future leaders as their potential employees? Try to show some of you leadership skills and collaborate with your peers!

Bear in mind that the case never has a right or wrong answer. It’s about your line of reasoning which needs to be logical and structured: multiple answers are possible. SoHow to solve a business case - Cartoon, be structured with the way you’re solving a case. Make notes, and express your assumptions in terms of figures and the sources you based them on: use actual information, rather than common knowledge. Also incorporate the values of the company into your reasoning, so the company can see you really think from the organization’s perspective.

1. Always ask questions

Don’t be afraid to ask questions – but try to ask questions which are not too obvious. Some people say there are no stupid questions… but there are. So be aware of this! This is your chance to show that you understand what the company deals with and what factors to consider, so inquire about the right aspects. Another advantage of asking one or more questions, is that a recruiter is more likely to gain an image of you and will recognize you easier the next time he or she sees you (e.g. at the upcoming interview).

2. Volunteer for presenting

Ultimately you’ll need to present your case. Probably in teams of four people, two will present: make sure you present your case for your group (even though it is easier to let others do it)! Again, this is the opportunity to show yourself and make the recruiter remember you. Present your ideas in a stunning pitch of a few minutes and show persuasiveness about why your solution is going to work.

3. Practice, practice, practice

Last but not least: practice beforehand! There are so many example cases available on the internet which you can practice in advance. Practicing, alone or with friends, gives you an advantage over the other participants during a case. In Dutch: ‘’een goede voorbereiding is het halve werk’’!


Hopefully these tips will help you next time you’re solving a case in a way that you absolutely outperform your peers. I bet your dream job will come true!

Guest article by Nicoline Russel

Sources: McKinsey&Company – Interview prep, Intermediair – Assessment

More than just a beautiful city

Amsterdam is not only a beautiful city honored by millions of tourists who come here for sightseeing and canal cruising every year but also home to many companies of any size. In the Dutch capital you can find enterprise headquarters of Shell and KLM as well as successful startups such as

The Dutch have in general a well-developed entrepreneurial mindset and are well known for their negotiation skills. Their whole nation is built on the shoulders of salesman and merchants. The Amsterdam-based startup Catawiki (no that’s not a wikipedia for cat content, watch the “a” in the middle!) is fostering this mindset and by itself a perfect example of the trading country at the North Sea.


Success powered by Napoleon

Catawiki, founded by René Schoenmakers and Marco Jansen in 2008, is Europe’s largest online auction house for special items. The website’s name is a mashup of “catalog” and “wiki” because it began as a community for collectors to organize their items. Today they focus on auctions of exceptional objects ranging from comic to classic cars or precious jewelry. If that is too boring, you could also bid on shark’s teeth or a dinosaur’s horn. One of the most expensive things sold on Catawiki was a 1960 Porsche 356 Roadster for €165,000, while one of the oddest were locks of Napoleon’s hair (not kidding).

They are hosting 100 auctions every week covering 60 different categories. With 25,000 items sold per week, Catawiki is the biggest website for buying and selling special objects. The booming Dutch startup has 200 employees in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany and Great Britain serving 400,000 registered users worldwide. Their website is reaching out to a massive international audience of 12 million visitors per month. These numbers are already quite impressive, aren’t they?

So it’s no surprise that the startup headquartered in the Netherlands calls itself Europe’s fastest-growing online auction house on its website.


Fastest growing startup of EMEA

The renominated consultancy company Deloitte went even one step further by calling Catawiki the fastest growing startup of the whole EMEA area (Europe, Middle-East & Africa). The Dutch online auction startup tops their Technology Fast 500 ranking, which is now in its 15th year. Deloitte Global’s annual ranking includes the top 500 most growing companies — large, small, public, and private — across a variety of industries. The list contains startups in the fields of software, hardware, communications, media, life sciences and clean technology.


Logo Technology Fast 500 ranking (Source: Screenshot Deloitte website)

This year, software was the most represented sector with an increased share of 52%, up from 47% in 2014. The rankings, which cover over 20 countries of the EMEA region, were dominated by France again with the most entries for the sixth consecutive year. Two Top 5 startups are from Israel which has a very strong and rising startup scene. The UK is also featuring four entries of the Top 10 fastest growing companies. But the list’s top spot among the region’s 500 fastest growing companies is held by the Dutch online auction house Catawiki.


Record growth rates

The growth rates for the 2015 Deloitte Technology Fast 500 EMEA program ranged from 0.2% to a phenomenal 45% over the past four years from its winner, Catawiki. Despite program criteria changes, the Dutch company achieved a record growth in revenue, which is far above the ranking’s average of 1.012%.

The Amsterdam-headquartered startup benefited especially from the raising of €75 million from a group of investors led by Lead Edge Capital (which has also invested in Alibaba and BlaBlaCar) this summer. The investment is one of the largest in a Dutch startup ever and followed by a period of immense growth where Catawiki’s revenues increased by 300%.


Modestly expanding

“Our hyper growth comes from our 300 talented employees,” said Catawiki’s René Schoenmakers in a recent interview. “Everyone has his or her own unique qualities and knows how to use them as part of the team. We find that hiring the right people makes all the difference. In the next couple of months we plan to recruit 100 great software developers from all over the world to work in Amsterdam.”


René Schoenmakers and Marco Jansen, founders of Catwiki (Source: Catawiki)

However, it seems as if the startup itself is not trusting in Deloitte’s judging criteria: On its corporate website and also in press releases Catawiki is still calling itself “Europe’s fastest-growing online auction house”.

Applause for Catawiki! Do you know any other Dutch startups whose success stories you want to read in our blog?