Dutch Business Structures

A deep-rooted system of industrial democracy has been developed in the Netherlands and has been in existence for more than thirty years.

The key institution in this system is the Works Council which has elected members, rights of discussion, recommendation, and crucially, access to information.

Although the Works Council meets in private, the meetings are always followed up with a meeting with senior management. Industrial relations have been historically good with emphasis placed on co-operation and conciliation, resulting in low levels of days lost through industrial action.

Larger companies in the Netherlands (NV or NaamlozeVennootsschap) have a supervisory board, in addition to a management board and managing director. This supervisory board is made up of members who are not employed by the company and whose job it is to oversee the direction of the company, appoint the management board and finalise the annual accounts. The Supervisory board seems to have many of the powers that might be vested in shareholders in some other countries, which possibly safeguards senior management from excessive shareholder interference. (For example, questions of merger and take-over are determined by the Supervisory board and not by shareholders.)

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in the Netherlands

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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If you are currently doing business in Europe it is likely that you will have had some contact with the Dutch. This is mainly due to the pre-eminence of Rotterdam as a port and its position as the gateway to the European Union. This fact reflects the Netherland’s history of one of the great trading nations of the world and also accounts for the fact that the Netherlands has more global, world-class companies than you might expect from a country with such a small population and geographic spread.

The Netherlands is international in its outlook – it always has been. Countries with small domestic markets need to look abroad almost as a matter of national survival and the Netherlands is a prime example of this. The Dutch want to trade – why not with you?

Given the Netherlands’ central position in European business life, it probably follows that you should consider doing business there and that doing business in the Netherlands might also help you to springboard into other European Union countries.

A word of caution though – just because the Netherlands has a long history of international business and the Dutch typically speak excellent English doesn’t mean you don’t need to develop a good understanding of local Dutch business culture. The Dutch can’t be all things to all men and when in Amsterdam you should maybe think about adapting to the local way of doing things. Dutch business culture is just as strong, distinct and all pervasive as in any other country and you are well-advised to do some research before you arrive in-country.

This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Dutch business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips