The Next Organisation founders look back and ahead

Steije Renes and Elrik Paap founded The Next Organisation together in 2010. They were recently appointed by interviewed. Dhe two founders and partners were asked about their motives behind founding the consultancy, their experiences and ambitions and what they have been most proud of since.

In 2010 The Next Organization (TNXTO) joined the Dutch consultancy landscape. Since then, the consultancy firm specialises in optimising and innovating commercial organisations, both at home and abroad. To this end, the Bussum-based agency offers clients support in refining their growth strategy and improving their operational management, among other things. The specialisation in growth is visible in its own organisation. While the originally two-man company was founded during the global financial crisis, it has since managed to develop into a mature consultancy.

Steije Renes explains that the financial climate was indeed not immediately motivating, but that the choice for the foundation felt quite natural at the time: "Looking back, it is indeed unusual to leave your job in the middle of the crisis and take such a step, but it did not feel like that at the time. The intrinsic drive made it no more than logical." Elrik Paap adds: "In hindsight, the crisis was probably also a support that made companies have to do something and at that time also wanted to do it themselves through help, instead of outsourcing the issues to a large advisory club."

When the consultancy was founded, its objective - to improve the business models of organisations - was also (partly) dictated by the economic situation. Renes: "The crisis only made that more relevant. Clients turned out to be happy with the work that the firm delivered, which enabled TNXTO to continue to grow. The agency now has about twenty employees. This group of people is one of the things the two founders immediately refer to when asked what they are most proud of: "That is mainly because of the great team of colleagues, the shared core values and the clients and cases that we can do with them. Our core values are central to this: 'Power to Perform', 'Inspiration by Innovation' and 'Collaboration with Fun'. We let these core values guide everything we do as much as possible."

In particular, the consultancy firm focuses on the commercial performance of organisations. Paap: "Subjects that we touch upon within this context are defining the vision, mission and ambition of organisations. Defining business models, propositions and translating them into consequences for the entire organisation also fall under our purview. Next, it is important to develop the operation in phases. Fact-based action is crucial here. Think, for example, of a customer survey based on communities, consumers, partner panels and live monitoring systems. 

Varied clientele

The agency carries out these services and the associated assignments for a variety of clients from different sectors. "For example, we work with Jaguar Land Rover and with Alzheimer Nederland. These seem like completely different things, but with both you are dealing with the needs and behaviour of consumers and with (technological) opportunities to create even more value," says Paap. Renes adds: "If you are dealing with changing needs and changing behaviour of customers on the one hand and technological possibilities on the other hand, then after a while you will see that this combination is actually relevant everywhere."

Besides serving Dutch clients, TNXTO also develops business in London and Accra, the capital of Ghana. This is partly sought after, but on the other hand, international clients also knock on our door themselves, which Paap appreciates in his work: "Working abroad attracts me. It takes a lot of energy, but you also get a lot of energy in return. Every time we travel, we learn an awful lot. The way people interact differently, work and also the solutions that are found everywhere."

Renes points to Ghana as an example. He explains that, compared to the Netherlands - where diaries are planned ad nauseam - a different working method applies: "Making appointments a few weeks in advance, no problem, just call when you are there. And indeed, you can then visit anyone. Mobile solutions are already available. Think of mobile payments, insurance and pensions. People have simply skipped the 'fixed' era. And it is very confronting to walk into a meeting there. In the Netherlands, you have the idea that you can assess people pretty quickly when you walk into a meeting, but in such an environment you have to explore how the people and the cooperation work."

These and other experiences optimise TNXTO's approach, which also sharpens the expertise within the organisation. This has led to a satisfied clientele, who are particularly enthusiastic about the customised service. Paap: "What we often get back is appreciation for the customer and result orientation. The client also knows that we take up the challenge to really crack the substantive nut with which clients achieve sustainable results. We always do all this together with the client rather than for the client. That way, you can learn together and the ownership of the solution also lies directly with the organisation itself."

Future vision

Looking at the plans for the coming years, Renes points out the importance of innovation that applies to all companies today: "The ambition is primarily to continue to innovate together with clients and to build together on the 'next' step for organisations. We do this increasingly from three propositions; Advice, Solutions and Institute. This is because we have noticed that technological solutions are often needed to operationalise advice properly. Employees also often have to become at home in the new way of working. That is what we facilitate with these three propositions.

He also indicates that - in order to be able to continue advising clients about their business models - it is of great importance to stay ahead of the game yourself. For this reason, TNXTO also seeks contact with various universities and business schools, so that students regularly write their graduation theses at the agency. In this way David Olfhof trainee since February 2018. According to Paap, the role of students like Olthof is important for the agency: "We always have graduates in our team. Together we develop a marketing & sales game. We also conduct research into how an organisation and its customers can create added value together. We also analyse 'open business models', something that society is increasingly moving towards."

In addition, as a consultant and PhD researcher in collaboration with the University of Twente, Yasin Sahhar combines academic knowledge in marketing with the expertise of organisations to develop new knowledge in core concepts in marketing. Within the new and revolutionary marketing perspective, the 'Service-Dominant Logic', he examines How organisations can align their value propositions with continuously changing customer needs and what optimal co-creation processes to facilitate this look like. The Next Organization developed the Value Proposition Research Program (VPRP) to help organisations become more customer-centric.

Research into trends and developments, developing knowledge with universities and business schools, and, above all, doing lots of cases, both nationally and internationally: these are all necessary in order to remain in the segment in which we are active. Our added value lies mainly in identifying opportunities by seeing and understanding our customers, their consumers and their market, and then providing them with a range of (technological) possibilities. By doing so, we inspire our customers and that is the start of transformation. In this day and age, there is still a lot to be gained from this."

The company is currently housed in a water tower in the Gooi region. According to Paap, they will stay there for some time to come: "We will probably grow from the water tower to about 25 to 30 people. At the same time, we want to set up similar 'spots' in other places in the world. These spots will interact with each other and strengthen each other. That offers the opportunity to help clients on an international scale and it offers colleagues the opportunity to work internationally."

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