In the ‘Vlaai eten met’ (‘Cake and a chat with…’) section, we get to know Desk’s employees a little better. This time, it’s CEO and owner Ruud Kreuwels’ turn to tell his more about himself. He grew up in a family of entrepreneurs, so it’s not surprising that he started Desk Services, 33 years ago. But why does he still enjoy what he’s doing? What things is he proud of? And what does the future hold? He tells us more about himself as we tuck into a piece of Limburg ‘vlaai’ (a type of sweet tart).
Why did you start Desk Services?
‘After graduating from an Institute for Business Administration and Economics, I was fairly sure I wanted to start my own company. I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. My parents worked very hard, from early in the morning until late at night. I started working at a marketing consultancy agency in Amsterdam, which is also where I met my girlfriend at the time. Having both done a lot of overtime, at one point we asked ourselves: “who’s actually running this company? Us or the boss?”. We decided it would be better to start our own business. Based on our work experience, we had the right knowledge to do just that. It was a no-brainer.’
Why do you still enjoy doing what you do?
‘I’m fascinated by the market we operate in. We’ve worked for well-known brands since day one, whether that’s Unilever, Coca-Cola, Huawei, or Samsung. I’m so proud that companies in the Randstad region are willing to travel all the way to the south to get help with their promotions.’
‘I’m so proud that companies in the Randstad region are willing to travel all the way to the south to get help with their promotions.’
Are there things you underestimated as an entrepreneur?
‘As a young entrepreneur, you don’t think about the “management” side of things. Our goal has never been to start a large company; we had an idea and enjoyed working for ourselves. As you expand, you suddenly have too much work for two people. Hiring the first member of staff was a big step for us. It meant we couldn’t just sit behind the computer in our pyjamas any longer – we really had to become a mature company. We now have over 30 people working in our organization. We have a very flexible team, as well as companies in Suriname and Latvia that carry out some of the data checks for Desk. We also have three call centres in the Netherlands that help with handling phone calls and e-mails for promotions. I never expected us to grow like this, so in that sense, I underestimated what we’d become.’
What are you most proud of?
‘Challenging assignments, things we’ve never done before, are what really drive me. These are the assignments that look nigh-on impossible on paper, but you still manage to deliver a successful campaign. The highlight of my career is the Flippo campaign. Flippos were included as a premium in every bag of Smiths’ crisps. This campaign started off small but soon became a craze: everyone in the Netherlands was collecting Flippos. To complete your collection, you could order your missing Flippos at Desk. It was a huge success! This campaign broke all records. Normally, a campaign lasts a maximum of six to eight weeks, but the Flippo campaign lasted almost two years. That was huge. A colleague even built a Flippo machine at one point, so that the process could be automated’.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
‘The coronavirus pandemic has turned the world on its head, and our customers are also facing significant challenges. Being an entrepreneur in this climate calls for long-term solutions. You need to ask yourself how you’re going to earn money in a few years’ time. That may be why we’ve picked up on a trend in loyalty programmes, as companies are eager to hold on to their customers and create a long-term relationship with them. We can help companies with our knowledge and smart solutions, and we’ll place more focus on that in the coming years. But sustainability is also a top priority. So, together with various municipalities, we’re working on solutions for energy-saving products and supporting anti-poverty policies in a fast, transparent way.
Companies themselves are also going to start doing things differently. Working from home will become more normal, and we’ll no longer all be at the office at the same time, meeting each other all the time. I want to look for other ways of working. I want more flexibility and to create a better work-life balance.’