I’ve always loved the phrase “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” Meeting Douglas was certainly a chance encounter.
Every time I travel to and from Europe, I typically have a multi-day layover in Amsterdam on my way to our office in Timisoara. I conduct meetings, pitch new business and catch up with old colleagues. During a trip in November 2012, I picked up a copy of “Hello Zuidas,” a prominent business magazine that highlights recent events surrounding Zuidas (the business district of Amsterdam).
When I was checking out of CitizenM in the region, I grabbed a copy to read on my 4 A.M. journey to the airport. Struggling to stay awake, I found energy in the story of Douglas’ amazing 37 year career as director at ABN AMRO.
Prior to the financial crisis, ABN AMRO was a global powerhouse. The Dutch company was the 15th largest bank in the world with over 110,000 employees in 63 countries. It was a brand I respected, and Douglas’ portrait in the magazine painted him as the ultimate Dutch zakenman (businessman).
After nearly four decades at the bank, Douglas shared his thoughts on retirement. “I’m good at building things up,” he said, “but winding down is not really my thing.” His countless secondary positions in the area meant he stayed busy as he expanded Zuidas into a formidable alternative to The City (London) and La Defense (Paris). He positioned Amsterdam as a serious place to conduct global business.
Download Douglas' cover story here.
Towards the end of the piece, Douglas signaled interest in working with young people and developing other projects in the area. Upon returning to Alaska, I sent the editor of the magazine a cold e-mail asking to get in touch with Douglas. As one thing led to another, I was able to get in touch with Douglas and schedule a meeting during my next trip to Amsterdam.
I first met Douglas shortly after 18 hours of travel from Alaska. A mix of excitement and espresso quickly shook off the jet lag and led to an awesome 90 minute meeting. I took notes the whole time, soaking up knowledge from Douglas.
When I saw Amsterdam for the first time in 2010, I dreamed of conducting business in the Netherlands. After a few visits to Amsterdam, Douglas and I stayed in touch and he met my fellow co-founders. As our relationship developed, we shared a mutual enthusiasm for moving Dutch companies into social media.
After a few months, Douglas joined SimplySocial as an investor and advisor. For me, having Douglas on board is a personal victory and a testament to a healthy mix of persistence and spontaneity.
Zuidas is the beating heart of a new global Dutch image. Just a few years after staring wide-eyed at the beautiful buildings and new developments, I was signing paperwork with one of most prominent businessmen in the area. Who says America is the only land of opportunity?
Thanks for joining us, Douglas! You’re already making dreams come true.