Interview with Rolf de Graaf

Sun | 27.08.2017


1. Dear Rolf, please introduce yourself shortly to our members.

When you are 59 it is difficult or hardly possible to introduce yourself ‘shortly’. Since 2008, so almost 10 years already, I am living and working in Romania. I came here to set up the Romanian entity of itsme ES Elektro. We are an industrial supplier for products and services in the electrical and mechanical field. Setting up a business during almost 10 years is, even for my standards, pretty long. So, you can guess I like it here, like the business, like my Romanian colleagues and the initial task/responsibility of setting up the business here in Romania has developed into being CEO. The fact that I met the love of my life in Romania, Andreea, who I married 5 years ago, also plays a not insignificant role in my well-being in Romania.

2. How did you find out about the NRCC and what triggered you to join its Board of Directors?

Very soon after I settled in Romania I heard or read about the NRCC and we became immediately a member. By the way, we also joined the local business club in Cluj, the DBCC, which does not exist anymore and are also still member of the Dutch Romanian Network. We, as a company and me personally, believe that is a good thing to join these sort of communities, more or less regardless of the ‘value for money’ you may or may not receive in return. Consider it a sort of ‘social responsibility’ policy. What triggered me to join the board? I felt you should sometimes be active and take responsibility in these sort of organizations – not stand at the sidelines and have an opinion about all sort of maters without contributing. Secondly, I respect the professional staff of the NRCC under the leadership of Maurits – I believe they do an excellent job – and I can probably support and guide them better from within the organization. And thirdly, it is or should be just fun with a couple of well intended, experienced and knowledgeable people to further grow the Dutch – Romanian business relationships within the framework of the NRCC.

3. What are your expectations and plans for your mandate as NRCC Board Member in Cluj?

Let me tell you what drives me. Growing the NRCC in terms of members. Of course, that growth could and should come mostly from ‘outside’ Bucharest and, of course, Cluj would be one specific growth market. However, what I find even more interesting and certainly challenging is to achieve over time my personal belief that all Dutch Romanian organizations should be integrated/merged, however you want to call it, into one (umbrella) organization. I refer herby to the NRCC and the DRN, an equally well run and professional organization. Please note, that I say ‘my personal belief’. Hopefully, the board of the NRCC will be able to ‘adopt’ these thoughts, make them into our vision and develop a strategy to make it happen.

4. You are here for a long time already. Since you came to Romania, have you noticed any change in the domestic investment environment? How about your market?

With all respect, but these sort of questions are pretty irrelevant. Irrelevant in my opinion, because it is ‘asking for the known answer’. I could mention the sort of politically correct but at the same time somewhat ‘colonial’ view of us elevated Westerners, giving our opinion about the somewhat inferior Romanian investment environment. We live in a global environment – although somewhat under pressure lately – and developments are therefore global and not so much locally. It is a great subject to discuss with a glass of wine, during an informal NRCC networking event.

5. Your company covers the whole of Romania from our head office in Cluj-Napoca. Why Romania and why Cluj-Napoca?

It could have been Baxt in Uzbekistan or for that matter any other place anywhere. The simple reason we are where we are is that we followed one of our key customers. This company CSI, a global leader in the field of producing material handling and palletizer machines, requested us to follow them in Romania. At the moment, we are in the process of following them to Mexico and with some regularity receive similar requests from other clients. We make such decisions on a case by case basis.

6. The Netherlands is seen as a “best practice” example. What would you bring from your country to Romania and vice-versa

A little bit the same answer as the answer to your previous question 4. Romania has its own culture, development phase, educational system, judicial system etc. Some things are great, other things are to be improved, to say it politely. The same applies to the Netherlands.  But if you insist in receiving an answer: Mihai Tudose to Holland and Mark Rutte to Romania. Do you think it would made any difference in either country? On a more serious note: I would bring to Romania from Holland the inquisitive, challenging authority and trading nature  The other way around: the more personal touch of doing business, the work ethic (!) and the less regulated working environment (!) The exclamation marks are there to signal this needs some clarification that I am happy to provide.

7. If you were to describe NRCC in one sentence, how would that sound?

NRCC is the platform to creating understanding, sharing knowledge and leading to opportunities between Romanian and Dutch businesses and people.

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