Nieke and Daan Renssen
Co-Owners, Strategic Partners
Temp-to-Hire Staffing and Direct Hire
What led you to start the business?
Nieke — Daan and I are from Holland and we both had professional careers there. Daan spent 20+ years in a variety of corporate positions with Phillips and Belkin. Belkin asked him to relocate, and we moved to Los Angeles in 2010.
I started my career as a marketing manager at Phillips and left the corporate world to become a Ayurvedic practitioner. It is almost unknown in the United States, but an Ayurvedic practitioner is a person who practices Ayurvedic medicine and holistic techniques as mentioned in Ayurveda, the ancient, complete medical system of India. It’s a different approach to wellness which includes lifestyle herbs, foods, massage techniques, meditation, and a variety of other techniques.
My education wasn’t accepted in the United States so I would have had to start over from re-educating myself in order to get certifications, then spend 200 hours working for free. While Holland insurance companies accepted Ayurvedic medicine, US carriers weren’t as enthusiastic. We had three children who were 8, 10 and 12 years old and decided that we needed to get them settled before I started thinking about work and a career.
Daan – By 2013, I was burned out. I held corporate positions for 20+ years which included a massive amount of international travel. I was in my late 40s and realized that I didn’t want to spend the next 20-years in corporate life. The more I thought about it, the clearer it became that I needed to get out. Finally, I just left. There was no Plan A, there was no Plan B. I was gone.
How did you decide upon the staffing business?
Daan — There were a few different reasons. The first one reason is that I was done with international companies and international travel. Over the years, we lived in Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Vienna, Atlanta, and finally Los Angeles, which was really interesting, but we never felt anchored anywhere. We loved living in Westlake Village and wanted to own a business and work in a business that directly engaged community members. We wanted to finally put our roots down
The second factor is that I was a products guy at both Phillips and Belkin. The challenge of creating a new product and getting it to market with a large mortgage and no source of income wasn’t. Also, I’m a people person and I wanted an opportunity with a high human touch element to it. I was introduced to PrideStaff which is a franchise staffing company and decided this staffing was a great fit because you could start quickly, was easily scalable, and is the ultimate people company. It was the right fit.
Nieke – It wasn’t quite that straight forward. We had enough cash in the bank to live for one or two years. This meant that every month there would be money going out, but not money coming in. But Daan is an optimist, and he needs his creative space before he can make his next decision, so we tried to figure it out. During this time period, we discussed the possibility or returning to Europe and there were other companies interested in hiring him here. But he said he didn’t want to return to that life.
Daan — I hate to say it, but there’s something beautiful about having your back against the wall and knowing you have to make things happen. It creates a massive amount of focus, drive, and dedication to take the plunge and make sure you can swim. It’s scary. But as an optimist I thrive on the uncertainty.
What was your biggest concern about starting the business?
Daan – Even though Nieke had her practice in Holland, we had never owned a business. We started the business late in life so had a high committed cost of living. We didn’t know when we would break even, and could we turn a profit fast enough to run out of cash.
Who did you seek advice from before starting the business?
Daan — We are two intelligent people, so we spent a lot of time discussing it with each other. We also spent time having discussions with friends over drinks and more discussions with friends over drinks. We also mentioned it to our parents; however, they had absolutely no background with starting and running a business, so they vacillated between being very impressed and questioning our sanity.
I was on my path to buying a franchise when I came into contact with a franchise consultant. He’s basically a staffing company for franchise candidates. He had a wealth of knowledge regarding the franchise industry. Early on, he administered personality tests to understand our skill set and gauge our risk profile.
Describe your role and your partners’ role in the business?
Nieke – The only rule I had in starting a new business is that I wasn’t going to be responsible for sales. I’m comfortable talking to people and explaining why we’re the best solution. I also support the team when it comes to processes and helping them work their way through problems, but Daan is all about networking and sales.
Daan — I am definitely love to meet people. I am a born optimist and like to dream at the big picture. Nieke is the one that grounds me and reminds me that being optimistic is great, but you also need to be realistic.
When did you realize that the business was going to be successful?
Daan – When we started out, we had a lot of small clients who never used a staffing agency. The result was a tremendous amount of work without a lot of revenue. Slowly we started getting larger clients which was very positive. Finally, we engaged with one manufacturing company that was looking for electronic assemblers and we were very successful. Suddenly, we were known for the company that could find electronic assemblers and things started to grow from there. Part of our success was due to the fact that we were one of the first companies to have electronic onboarding. It really helped with the efficiency of working with our clients. Because we had a focused location, our reputation began to build quickly.
We became Office of the Year (out of 85 offices) in our 3rd year of operation. Despite some self-inflicted wounds which included opening a second office a little too quickly and Covid, we were on our way to being a success.
How do you define and develop the firm’s culture?
Nieke — We are a very diverse, but close-knit team. We hire diverse personalities on purpose because we strongly believe that different personalities will click with different candidates and clients. We encourage our team members to show their personality to candidates and clients because ultimately, that is what bonds them to our company.
We celebrate success and have a lot of group activities: potlucks, happy hours, cook offs, etc. Because we have such a diverse culture, our potlucks are a smorgasbord including El Salvadorian, Dutch, American, Mexican and Guatemalan food. Everybody loves sharing food and their culture so it’s very special.
We promote a strong sense of group mentality. Our commission schedule is based on the performance as a group and not individual. In our world, recruiters don’t ‘own’ candidates or clients. Success is shared by all.
Daan – We use a platform called Bonus.ly which is a great tool to build company morale. Bonus.ly enables employees to recognize and reward other employees when they’ve done a good job. Every employee has $25 which they can award to other employees when they’ve done something positive. So, it’s both a public shout out of well done and a small cash gift. We’ve found that it builds stronger working relationships and creates a greater sense of belonging.
How did you create boundaries so your children wouldn’t be overwhelmed with the business?
Daan — We do not take business home. We have a rule that we do not discuss business at home. We only work in the weekends as an exception.
Nieke – Each one of us has our own ways of decompressing. One rule is that we never drive to work together in order to create a little bit of separation.
What advice do you have for partners who decide to go into business together?
Nieke — Define upfront what your boundaries are based on each partners’ strengths and weaknesses. It is much easier to have that conversation when the things are going well rather than during a time of crisis. It’s important to clearly define roles and responsibilities and be in complete agreement on who has the final say in the different issues.
Biggest non-family idol or inspiration?
Nieke: a friend that overcame several hurdles and challenges
Daan: any privately held company that is successful with strong values and takes care of its employees
What keeps you up at night?
Nieke/Daan: How we can grow the business, generating enough cash flow to pay the bills, family members (many of them live in Europe).
First job before going into the family business?
Nieke: GM of a small family hotel
Daan: during study I was a wedding photographer and driver.
What are you streaming?
Nieke/Daan: Succession, Undercover, The Bureau
What’s on your turntable or Spotify playlist?
Nieke: any and everything
Daan: Classical, James Brown, EDM
Godfather I or Godfather II?
Nieke/Daan: Godfather II
Favorite LA Sports team?
Nieke: Lakers but please do not ask me anymore about sports 😊
Daan: Cal State-Northridge Men’s Field Hockey
Favorite venue to listen to music?
Nieke/Daan: Santa Barbara Bowl, The Greek, Hollywood Bowl, Canyon Club
Quintessential LA activity or experience
Nieke/Daan: Food trucks and hiking
Desert, Beach or Mountains?
Where do you take visitors to spot celebrities?
Nieke/Daan: Malibu Village shopping mall or one of the farmers markets
Best part of LA
Daan: You can’t beat the weather, no bugs (compared to other warm climates).
Nieke: Every time we go on vacation, we realize nothing really beats the weather and nature where we live. The short distance to mountains and beaches is a great plus, and depending on your mood, there is a wide variety in choice of art, concerts and food. And the vast majority of people we meet are just good folks.
Least favorite part of LA
Nieke/Daan: Traffic, lack of an historic downtown
Nieke/Daan: Republique, any modern foodie place
Favorite LA junk food
Nieke/Daan: In n Out burger, Mexican food trucks
SoCal Social Causes
Nieke/Daan: Ventura food bank, Kids and Families together, American Cancer Society Relay for Life
Allen Esrock is the Founder of NxtGen Nexus, a platform for the next generation of family business owners which is based on his experience of growing up in a family business. Prior to that he started Jitter Fingers, the first safe, social networking website for tween girls and their bffs with Jitter Finger clubs in 12+ countries and 250+ cities in the US.