Back in 2003, when I started Riet Business Consulting, my plan was to take all the lessons I learned about the right ways and the wrong ways to do things in the 20-odd years I spent working in the corporate world and apply them in a much more integral, cross-disciplinary way than what was possible from a cog-in-the-system place. I had seen more than enough cookie-cutter studies and advisory reports disappear into the backs of drawers and bottom shelves of cabinets. I decided to do things differently.
That need to be different was probably already the reason why I chose to apply my analytical skills to get a BBA in management accounting rather than financial accounting when everyone else around me was dreaming of high-powered jobs at one of the “Big Eight” accounting firms (I’m showing my age, I know!). In my studies and in my jobs after graduating, I always felt a need to be involved in improving the numbers instead of reporting them after the fact.
When I went back to school for an MBA in management, where I was pleasantly immersed in the big picture of running a business and how all the different puzzle pieces fit together, my absolute favourite subject turned out to be Organisational Behaviour. A little odd for an accountant, I know. Looking back, I also remember being fascinated in a psychology class in high school, and I seem to have always had an interest in why people do what they do. Anyway, at about that same time, I had been asked as a financial analyst at a large bank to figure out why their regional office was losing money. The answer turned out to be the result of over-enthusiastic discounts to the account managers’ favourite (read: high volume = high bonus) customers. When I then read a book on customer centricity, which was gaining popularity at the time, I was hooked. I had found my calling!
These days, I devour just about every book and article I can find on customer focus, behavioural economics and any other innovative ways of doing business.
As a business advisor with a very strong background in business management, planning and control, as well as being ridiculously obsessed with customer focus as a means for growth, I am especially enthusiastic about helping companies who want to change the 'status quo' and do things a little bit different from what is standard and boring in their market. Companies who refuse to be seen as a commodity, relegated to self-defeating discounts and price wars.
Whether it’s a new business trying to get to profit and stability or a brand that has hit a plateau, the key to growth is to make it more exciting to customers.
My job is to be relentless about the customer’s perspective on your business, but I also understand that you need a healthy margin to stay in business. (So do your customers, by the way.) Luckily, my background and experience helps me see both sides of that coin clearly and objectively. The goal is customers who are happy doing business with you, and you having more fun running a successful, profitable business.
The bottom line of what I do is creating organic, customer-driven growth. It’s really all about doing the right things for the right customers. And to do that, you need four things:
Sure, I talk about helping clients differentiate themselves, but how am I any different from other consultants? In other words, I talk the talk but can I walk the walk?
As I mentioned above, I don't believe in cookie-cutter advice and boring reports that end up in the bottom of a cabinet somewhere anyway. But more than that, I firmly believe that getting ahead means doing things that are unexpected and out of the ordinary, not what everyone else is doing. I want to help my clients do things that get people talking – in a good way – and put them way ahead of the competition. That requires a willingness from both of us to get out of the comfort zone and away from how things have always been done to come up with surprising solutions and fabulous experiences for your customers. Over the years, I have managed to gather a ‘bag of tricks’ (my collection of tools, methods, techniques and other assorted idea-generators) to get the ball rolling in just about any situation, and especially useful when your company is stuck in a rut.
Of course, bags of tricks aside, what I really do is simply helping clients find especially customer-focused ways to improve their business performance. Because doing amazing things for your most important customers - profitably - is one of the best ways to generate long-term growth. What you get is a sharper business focus, but most importantly, one that builds on a culture of genuine care for your customers.
"I worked with Darla van de Riet in a situation that was, to put it mildly, extremely complicated. Complicated not only financially but also because of typical issues such as business culture, public opinion and the like. Working with her was a breath of fresh air.
A professional in heart and soul but also, and especially, with a sharp analytical eye and offering solutions for the unique problems that present themselves in an organisation in that kind of business situation.
Expertise paired with patience, empathy and pragmatism, those are the qualities that I recall most about Darla. It goes without saying that I heartily recommend her."
- Wim A.J. van Grimbergen, HR & Organisational Advisor
Originally from the U.S., I have lived in the Netherlands since my early 20s. I have worked with all sorts of companies across a wide variety of sectors. I have also travelled much of Europe, and that has given me a good sense of service expectations in different cultures.
When I’m not travelling or working on location for clients, I spend my time ‘living the quiet life’ with my husband at our house in the beautiful Veluwe forest region of the Netherlands. That is where I am lucky enough to do a lot of my work, and otherwise entertain two very demanding cats.