Can you tell me something about yourself?
I'm Harry Brockhoff, I was born in Amsterdam, and I have a wealth of experience working for multi-national companies. Currently, I am CFO of Dutch Flower Group (DFG) – a role I have held for the past 20 years. DFG is a global family of specialist trading companies. Together, we are a leading player in the import, export, trade and marketing of cut flowers, bouquets, plants and decorative greens. And we supply our colourful products to every relevant consumer sales channel: importing wholesalers (florist supply), multiple retailers (supermarket chains, DIY stores, garden centres) and online / e-tailers. We export to more than one hundred countries worldwide and, as such, aim for trade that is frictionless. Within DFG, my role is often to stimulate cooperation and improve trading relations between other businesses and other countries. Mainly, my experience lies on the trading site – because of my role as CFO, I have experience in financial, legal, tax and supply chain matters. At NBCC, I hope to bring people together, increase the network’s breadth and support business in the future.
How large is DFG? How big is the UK as a market for DFG?
On average, 10 million bouquets of flowers as well as 75 million stems and 10 million plants weekly find their way to consumers around the world, via our customers. We have around 4,800 employees and a turnover of € 1.7 billion.
The UK is a very important market for us. The name of our company might be Dutch, but many of our subsidiaries are actually based in the UK and approximately 15% of our turnover comes from our UK market. We source a lot of products locally in the UK, such as daffodils. In the summertime especially there are a lot of local products which we source and sell to retailers and wholesale nearby.
DFG’s mission is ‘making life colourful’. How do you add colour to the UK?
Our mission is indeed to make life colourful! We bring flowers and plants of all different colours from all over the world to the UK. Together with our partners we try to create a happier and greener world – plants and flowers have the power to do this.
What has stayed with you from the UK? What do you think is the best thing about the UK?
I admire both the enormous drive of the UK economy and the relationships the country has developed over many decades. They have developed their diplomatic efforts worldwide.
Also, in terms of the people, I have found that people from the UK always try look on the bright side. I find that, in the case that something happens, people from the UK always focus on how they can move on and get things done. They are optimistic people!
How have you come to be involved with the NBCC?
The day after the 2016 Brexit referendum in the UK there was an interview for Dutch television at our premises. I met some people from NBCC that day and realized that we should join forces. I think the NBCC plays an important role in maintaining the trading relationships between the Netherlands and UK. Dutch Flower Group became an NBCC member later that year and that’s where it all started. From that point onwards, we collaborated again on many occasions. DFG’s premises were used again for other events in the perishables industry, and I also attended a roundtable talk with MP Liam Fox. Thanks to NBCC, DFG has had the opportunity to meet with British ambassadors Peter Wilson and Joanna Roper. I have also had the chance to speak to Jeremy Hunt and got the chance to share some firsthand insights on the perishables industry. I believe that the involvement of DFG, together with NBCC and our partners, to make the connection between companies and initiatives has made a great impact on trading relationships in the last years. So, together we achieved major milestones and objectives to the benefit of the industry.
What do you think the strengths of the NBCC are? What makes NBCC's mission meaningful to you?
NBCC is establishing platforms that bring the relevant decision makers together so that NL-UK business can continue to flourish. I have great respect for the drive of the people working at NBCC - they always look to get everyone involved with a principle aim of moving business forward. I think the role of NBCC will grow even more important now that the UK has left the EU.
How do you see the role of the NBCC going forward? Where are its opportunities for growth?
As I mentioned, I believe NBCC’s importance will grow because of Brexit, and I think the NL-UK relationship should further be intensified to ensure that trade between both countries does not diminish. We currently face practical problems such as a shortage of labour and should work jointly together to move forward in a mutually beneficial way.
Why would you recommend that all companies involved in NL-UK trade become NBCC members?
Doing things on your own often seems much easier than doing things with others but, at the end of the day, cooperation will always produce much better results than individual work. I have found that looking at the challenges from your own company and industry is not enough. Matters are often a lot more complex from an economic and political perspective than they may seem. NBCC can lend assistance to anyone involved in NL-UK trade, either through its own expertise or by making use of its large network. Everyone can try reinventing the wheel, but it would be much easier if we would all join forces.