Established in 2002, the Budapest-based Netherlands-Hungarian Chamber of Commerce (Dutcham) is a self-financed business association with active co-operation of the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Budapest and the Embassy of Hungary in the Hague. Its aim is to facilitate the exchange of professional expertise and provide networking possibilities for Dutch companies operating in Hungary and also for those who wish to build a valuable business network within the Dutch business community.
This February, Dutcham elected a new Chair, Katinka Zinnemers (managing director at Abacus Medicine A/S) to succeed Lóránt Varga in that post. She tells Diplomacy&Trade that she hopes she could show her dedication and enthusiasm for the strategy and activities Dutcham was characterized by in the seven years she was member of the Board during the leadership of the previous Chair. Having been a company manager for many years means that “being a chair in meetings is something I experience on daily base. After a lot of leadership trainings and Belbin workshops, this role seems fitting to me. I like to bring people together, with their ideas, with their conflicts sometimes and with the common goal to make something beautiful that others can benefit from. As a chair, I have off-course ideas too, however, my ego is big enough to avoid being neglected but also small enough for letting others shine for their great contribution,” she says.
A mixed style of leadership
Her whole career has been in the pharmaceutical industry: for more than twenty years with big, well-known American companies (MSD and Pfizer) and the last 9,5 years with Abacus Medicine, which is headquartered in Copenhagen. “My style of leadership is a mix of American ‘no-nonsense, go for it, hardworking mentality’ and the ‘Dutch-Scandinavian cooperative, open-minded, friendly, ready-for-change-and-adaptation mentality’. I can flourish in both, depending on the need of the moment.”
She adds that living abroad as a Dutch citizen, one of the topics she likes doing the most is representing her country, representing her company, and sometimes doing both at the same time, like meetings at the Danish and Dutch embassies regarding Diversity and Inclusion or what to do in a labor market after Covid, with inflation etc. She stresses that her relationship with the embassies mentioned is good, as are the contacts with Hungarian authorities she has met in the last years, at events or during her work. “Dutcham’s partnership with the Dutch Embassy in Budapest has been standing on strong foundation since the establishment of the Chamber. The Ambassadors have traditionally attended our events and the current ambassador, Ms. Désirée Bonis is continuing this path with high engagement, that we truly appreciate!”
Making a more professional organization
Her predecessor had been at the helm of Dutcham for about the same number of years as that of her membership. Regarding the things from those seven years that she can build on now as Chair, Katinka Zinnemers highlights that “Lóránt, as one of the founding members of the Netherlands-Hungarian Chamber of Commerce, has been the ‘face’ of the organization for a very long time. He established very strong fundaments of mutual respect, openness and transparency that I can build on. In the recent years, we – as a board – have made the Chamber a more professional organization and created one of the most open and approachable meeting places for Dutch and Hungarian business. Defining the three pillars – Take it Easy! Let's Connect! and Grow Together! – also resulted in a more structured event schedule. We have many similarities – we are both Dutch with Hungarian roots – but we are also different in our professional background as an example. Based on my professional experience, my focus is more on Life Science and Health (LSH) and Environmental, Social Governance (ESG).”
Her credo is that "sharing networks, experiences and talents is the best fundament for growth and success." What she means by that in terms of applying it to her work at the helm of Dutcham is that “people feel that they can be themselves with us, they are good as they are. We create a relaxed atmosphere for business networking and development.”
Dutcham is a vibrant business community that melts cultures and promotes diversity. Late May, the chamber had an event about this topic. Regarding the message of that meeting and what Dutcham can do to highlight the benefits of cultural diversity to business communities, the Chair of the organization stresses that a diverse mindset improves the decision-making processes at the company level, thus supports profit growth and raises productivity, while establishing an inclusive working atmosphere at the same time.
“The Netherlands promotes this idea in various ways, like engaging women to male dominated areas such as in the IT sector, just to name an example. Another big area is healthcare where a workforce of diverse cultural backgrounds can help communication with patients of different cultural and religious background,” she explains.
Taking care of daily business
The core ‘business’ of Dutcham is organizing events, networking opportunities. As to what efforts that involves on the part of the Dutcham team, the Executive of the organization, Beáta Rakos-Szegleti says that since she is the only full-time employee of Dutcham, she has a wide scope of responsibilities ranging from daily operation to member acquisition, to organizing events. “The board of directors works in committees, each focusing on a specific type of event, which makes our cooperation much more efficient. Building on our slogan Building genuine connections for a more successful business, we have introduced the sub-brands #takeiteasy, #letsconnect and #growtogether in order to visibly define the scope and size of the events. I trust that it also guides our members through the annual agenda better.”
The power of personal connection
The Executive is in constant contact with members of the Chamber. “We believe in the power of personal connection at our events, but also build upon our online platforms to help maintain and further expand our business community. Our LinkedIn and Facebook pages include highlights, considerable achievements of Dutcham members, Dutch companies and Hungarian innovations as well as introductions of new members. Our events also reach a wider range of possible guests via these platforms and help build our image. The monthly newsletter and our website support the continuous information flow regarding our activities, partnerships and business reports. We also solicit continuous feedback from members, both in person and via online surveys,” she summarizes the wide-ranging aspects of her job.
A lot on the agenda
Events and plans are continuously formulated at Dutcham. As an example, Katinka Zinnemers mentions ‘Brain chain’, which is a small but regular exchange of thoughts with members. “It is also an informal way of sharing thoughts on a certain topic. Major focus topics like sustainability, climate, healthcare, will also be featured in the fall and in the winter. Thus, we have a lot on the agenda for the rest of the year, so, I urge readers to keep an eye on our communication channels and feel invited to join us as a Dutcham member!”
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