In the 19 years since the start of the Dutch Chamber we have seen members come and go. As the idea behind the Chamber is to facilitate a dynamic network platform we try to stay in touch with members who left Sweden when possible. We are curious to hear where they are now and would like to reflect with some of them on their time in Sweden and what this experience taught them.
Ronald Maagdenberg, advisory board member 2008-2011
We came to work and live in Stockholm/Sweden in the spring of 2007 until the summer of 2011. I started as General Manager for the Nordic and Baltic countries for Philips Consumer Electronics. The company decided one year later to merge all the consumer products into one division and I became the Nordic GM for Philips Consumer Lifestyle, covering also the household, personal health and wellness products. Later I also became the CEO of Philips group in the Nordics and was appointed as country manager Sweden until we moved on to our next assignment abroad.
What were your expectations of Sweden with the experience you had from previous assignments in Denmark, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands?
During 5 years I worked in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was because of this experience that Sweden already felt a little more as home. We were already familiar with ‘The Scandinavian way’. My understanding of working and doing business in the Nordic countries was set there.
Why did you become a member of the Dutch Chamber? Was there a favourite event you joined or organised?
In a short time, I built quite a good business network, also with the Dutch Embassy and went to different gatherings and business meetings. Through these connections I was asked to join the Dutch Chamber which had just started up.
The Chamber gave me and others the opportunity to share our own experience and knowledge with others. Newcomers, people looking for business opportunities in Swedish markets or Swedes looking for some export business to the Netherlands. Together we supported quite an interesting mix of requests, ideas and business cases.
What was your biggest learning from your time in Sweden that you would like to share with our Dutch Swedish network?
The Dutch are known for working rather quickly, for having strong opinions and can come across as being very direct, also when it comes to positive and negative comments or feedback. It just doesn't always come across well in some other cultures, such as the Swedish.
But working in a Dutch multinational it requires adaptation from all to deal with local cultures, Dutch headquarters, and an international mix of managers.
I learned about the Swedes, how they deal with their agenda, the famous life work balance. In Sweden the approach between work and private life is different from what we are used to in Netherlands.
As an example I think it is important to also prioritize sometimes an international video conference meeting scheduled maybe just outside of the summer working hours above the private agenda. Not as a standard rule but it shows commitment and possibly also gives knowledge while missing out can give other reception internationally. But let's also face it: each country and culture is different, and a little common sense is important too.
Another example is the 'Fika' coffee break. It was nice to have colleagues drinking coffee together and people gathering to talk informally, connect and of course also talk business.
What did you after Sweden and what are you doing today?
At that time, Philips wanted to divest the TV business and I was asked to join that important dis-entanglement project. I moved with my family to Madrid and became responsible for the Southern European business and joined the leadership team in the NewCo.
In the beginning of 2016, I decided to change my life, and set up my own company. I said goodbye to Philips after more than 27 years and moved to the South-East of Spain. There we started the House Doctor Costa Blanca. We now help foreigners, mainly Dutch and Belgians, to find a holiday home at the coast and we do all tasks related to the search, the purchase and sometimes manage the project management of the reforms and decoration/interior job too. One stop shopping!! Feel free to check out our website.
Are there things you have learned you apply to your daily work now?
I think that what I have learned most from the Swedes is to keep a good work life balance, to be committed and to be transparent. Storytelling is not always necessary and a 'no' is acceptable once in a while..the latter is still a challenge for me, I still find it hard to say no.
Have you ever visited Sweden again after you left?
We still regularly visit Sweden. We always feel very welcome when we meet up with old colleagues, friends and neighbours. We love the culture, the Scandinavian design, the way of life, the nature and we like skiing in Åre. Wintertime in Sweden is wonderful, although it is also nice to spend the winter in Spain where the sun is out almost every day. 320 days of sunshine is of course also a very nice benefit of living and working in Spain. Sweden and the Nordics are in our hearts and we will remain fan of the region and we keep coming back.