Get Inspired!

George Franssens, VP Sales

What is the core business of Van Dam?

Van Dam is a Dutch company working on a global scale supplying fire and blast protective products.

We wish to supply a variety of products to the global market from our central organization in the Netherlands. We service North America but also other territories and markets such as Canada and South America.

One of the industries that is going to explode in the coming years is offshore wind energy, an industry Van Dam is supplying to since many years in Europe.

We manufacture doors, walls and windows. It is our vision to protect personnel and critical equipment by designing and manufacturing fire and explosion resistant products. Being a market leader in this niche market and our innovative character enables us to stay ahead of the competition by investing in new technologies and anticipating the constantly changing safety regulations. We offer architectural packages.

Van Dam is more than 100 years in business. Van Dam B.V. is part of Group Gorgé S.A. The Group’s activities are focused on the fast growing technological niche market in the nuclear, defence and aerospace industry. I have been working for Van Dam for 2.5 years. Before Van Dam, I worked at ABB, a very large company in automation and electrical systems. My background is in Marine. I am an expert in propulsion, all kinds of systems to run ship, from engines to the thrusters. Propulsion that you find on a Cruiseship, it is a 360 degrees turning thruster. The actual motor is under the water inside the pot. They are called Azipod Thrusters.

Before I worked for Van Dam I worked in Dubai for 5 years, working for a Finnish company called Wärtsilä.

A company with a very large base in the Netherlands and also in the United States. They manufacture ship engines and thrusters, but also navigation equipment and automation systems.

So in all my background is definitely maritime marine. Now I have been working for 2.5 years with Van Dam. I felt the need to work for a company again that is quick and agile and where we can make quick decisions.

How did you end up in the US?

The maritime industry is extremely global and there are a lot of Dutch people in the maritime sector in, dredging, offshore, shipbuilding, and in management roles. You find Dutch people working in that sector anywhere in the world Singapore, China, here in the US, wherever. Yes we are proud of our waterworks development and dredging and the like, but in my vision we should be most proud of our Dutch management. Management is one of our best export products. Whenever I go to Houston to the Offshore Technology Conference held yearly, next to the British language Dutch is the most heard language there. Many Dutch people are working for an American company, and Dutch and Scandinavian companies, in management positions. Expertise in offshore, shipbuilding.

Before I worked in the maritime pleasure industry, recreational, yachts. Then worked for a US company on propulsion side. Then I worked for Damen Shipyards in North America for a couple of years. Then I got the opportunity to go to Dubai, we got the gypsy blood a bit, wanted to see the world. Great time to be in Dubai, then the Wall street crash happened. Dubai got hit badly. While in Dubai, were we were for 5 years, I applied for the Greencard Lottery the year before, I had forgot. My daughter came running out, Daddy we won the lottery! Then we discussed as a family and decided for the US.

We got together as a family to discuss what we were doing and I then found a job within a week.

Dutch company machine support, part of Swedish SKF group. We moved the company from Virginia to Houston. I jumped in there with a colleague, we set the company up in a complete new way. For about a year, I ended up more and more in the oilfields. Yet, I am a marine guy and via headhunter I got recruited and ended up in Florida, working for ABB in the cruise industry.

Pitfalls and tips and tricks for entering the US Market?

That is an important question. A lot of companies are entering the market with a lot of expectations. Not knowing what to expect, I see them making a lot of mistakes.

A common saying in Dutch is; “We do it our way, so that is the right way”.

That is something you should not do here in the United States in my opinion.

You have to adapt, if you come here and don’t have a US phone number or address, it won’t work, if you don’t want to convert from Inches to centimeters. If you don’t want to adapt the product forget about it. My advice is that you have to be willing to adapt. Many companies need 24 hour attention, every day. To reduce lead times and costs Van Dam is now starting local manufacturing in the USA.

How did you get in touch with TABS?

I have friend in Miami, Ron van Akel, I know him from my time in Dubai, he works for a company, called TerBerg Group, they make aiport lorries. He advised us to get in touch with Jan Joosten, he and maybe also Ron van Akel, mentioned TABS.

When we started working with TABS, we did not know much, we had had an agent. We were looking for someone to do our admin, paperwork, and help us settle down physically here. I must say the TABS experience was a flawless experience. I always worked for companies that ad an HR department, so in many ways we were very virgin when we came here.

TABS did our Payroll, IRS registration, the basic things to set up a company. TABS still does that for us. TABS is talking directly to the mother company, the headquarters in the Netherlands. Only when there is a problem I jump in otherwise I don’t see what is happening. I am in contact with Laura Hoogendoorn. Laura is moving to Houston which I think is an brilliant idea, lots of interesting opportunities there. I wish her lots of success in this role.

Fun Facts

Please find below a lovely little movie, with George Franssen, from a TV Show called ‘Check Please’. They asked me to rate and evaluate an Indonesian Cuisine restaurant, Krakatoa, it is in Hollywood, South Florida. Indonesian food is pretty rare still in South Florida.

Vlog Stadomroep Venlo, I grew up in Venlo, Limburg. They recently made a Vlog about our life in Florida. It is in Dutch in the middle of the Vlog (at 18 minutes).