Dennis Held knew from a young age that he wanted to be an entrepreneur. After several jobs in paid employment, a reorganisation at his last employer signalled that it was time to start his own business. Through his company, Held Consulting, he trains and coaches professionals to enhance their personal effectiveness when working with (challenging) target groups. His services are used by clients such as prisons, where he leads group sessions and provides developmental training, with the aim of demonstrating to detainees that they are responsible for their own choices. Dennis is a real ‘people person’. He is sensitive to the inner lives of those he works with, but at the same time knows how to maintain a professional distance by applying a businesslike approach. His strength lies in this combination of abilities, a combination that is ideal for his supervisory role.

1. How long have you been in The Netherlands?

I came to The Netherlands in 1968. My parents were already here. They came in 1965, to study. In the meantime, my aunt in Suriname cared for me. Unfortunately she died nine years ago, but she is still a strong moral compass for me.

2. How did you become an entrepreneur and why?
I saw that my strength lay in working with people, so I was keen to become a trainer/coach.  I underwent various training courses in coaching and started my business, Held Consulting. I am also thinking of setting up a foundation to provide counselling to prisoners returning to society. I want to bridge the gap between prisoners and the board members and management of institutions and businesses.

3. Did you encounter problems when you wanted to become an entrepreneur?
In the beginning I had the tendency to look up to managers and directors, until I found out that they are also mere mortals. I also try not to be too sensitive to hierarchical issues. I follow my intuition as much as possible. But when something does go wrong, or when I come across an obstacle, I always look back to see what I could have done differently. The nice thing about entrepreneurship is not always ‘having’ to do things – though I do enjoy having to meet people!  What I do doesn’t feel like work, I enjoy it and learn something new every day.

4. What are the differences between doing business in The Netherlands and in Suriname?
The Dutch are much quicker in getting down to business. When Surinamers get into a conversation they first want to learn to know each other. Furthermore, I have the idea that the Dutch are less sensitive to hierarchy. In Suriname if you own a business you are the boss.  You tend to be addressed as ‘sir’. The Dutch aren’t so free with information about themselves and are more judgemental. I think this is also partly to do with the influence of the media. And if you really want a striking difference: The Dutch have the clock, but Surinamers have all the time in the world…

5. What is typically Dutch when it comes to doing business and being an entrepreneur?
The Dutch are always busy, because this creates the impression that things are going well for them. In Suriname things are going well if you can say, ‘It’s going well, it’s quiet, it’s relaxed man’. And in The Netherlands a commitment is a commitment.  Practically anything can interfere with a commitment or appointment in Surinam. In The Netherlands things run much more according to plan. Although I like to allow for a bit of spontaneity I have personally experienced how well everything is organised in The Netherlands. I think it’s a pity that people nevertheless complain so much. All these complainers should just take a look at another country – it’s then that you realise just how well things are run here! I still maintain that The Netherlands is a country of opportunities, where everything is possible!

6. What have you taken from both the Surinamese and Dutch cultures?
The drive to bond and obtain mutual recognition is unmistakeably Surinamese. And I’ve noticed that I often like to get directly to the point, without much beating around the bush. I think that’s typically Dutch.

7. Would you ever go back to Suriname?
Certainly! My dream is that, after completing my studies, I’ll spend the last 15 years of my career in Suriname. Or perhaps half here and half there.

8. What are the secrets of your success?
I keep to myself and do what I like. I know that I play a role in the lives of others, but I stand next to them, never in front of them. I don’t beat my own drum – though I do play the drums! (See photograph). I rely on my feelings a lot, but in combination with a good dose of common sense. And being genuine is important to me; relationships between people should be built on honesty – that’s what it’s really about for me.

9. What is your favourite fruit, and why?

10. What is your favourite Dutch product and/or place?
Amsterdam – because of its rich variety of cultures and opportunities.


TIPS from Dennis
1. Make sure you know the language
2. Be yourself
3. Follow your intuition
4. Don’t lose sight of the values you share with others

“The Dutch are always busy”