Some things get better with age – take single malt whisky, for example. The most desired whiskies have been aged for more than a decade to develop a superior taste and product. Unsurprisingly, Martín Verhoeff, a partner at Zirkzee Group, is a connoisseur of single malt whisky, and has built up quite a collection over the years.
Like a single malt, he admits he also gets better with age – and with his years in the accounting sector, as well as the embracing of new technology and the data that comes with it, he provides accounting services that are valued by clients inside and outside the Netherlands.
Things could have been very different for Martín – he became an accountant almost by accident. During high school, accountancy and number crunching was never on his career radar. Even when he went to university to study business and economics, he’d still never considered it as a serious career option. First and foremost, Martín wanted his own business, rather than work on the accounts and audits of someone else’s.
At the end of his university studies, Martín took up an internship and joined an accountancy practice… and the rest is history. Immediately, he enjoyed the work and the challenge – not just the numbers, but also the people his colleagues and the clients he met as part of the job; helping them to manage their business in the most financially and tax-efficient ways. It worked out perfectly for Martín’s entrepreneurial outlook.
“I think most accountants end up being accountants by accident,” he says. “As soon as the work started, and I found there was a good excuse to pick up the phone to speak to people, I enjoyed it – it’s about getting to the people behind the numbers.”
This means that Martín is anything but a stereotypical ‘numbers man’ – he seeks to develop strong and long-lasting personal relationships with his clients, seeking to understand the business and how the financial figures play into that. Above all, he wants to know how he can help with the success of the business.
Small firm, big service
Zirkzee Group, which is based in Noordwijk in the Netherlands, is on financial accounting and audits. This includes day-to-day accounting, compilation of annual accounts, legal audits “and everything in between for company owners and employees,” says Martín.
The firm also takes on cross-border work, which mostly involves tax for people or companies from outside the Netherlands: “If they are from outside of the European Union, we assist them to gain a foot on the ground in the Netherlands, such as establishing a business here, getting employees to register with them, making sure they have the right papers to work in the Netherlands and comply with the regulatory system.”
One of the advantages of being a small firm is that clients always deal with one of the owners or senior management of the business, rather than an assistant or an assistant to the assistant. “We also give fair fee quotes up front to clients – we don’t want them to have any nasty surprises at the end of a project,” he says.
Building close relationships with clients is critical for Martín and his colleagues, so they can provide advice and assistance as soon as they see emerging trends in the client’s financial performance, potentially averting a crisis before it happens.
“We have contact with our clients every month,” he says. “Our team also hear things about the business, not only when they have a problem, but also if we see that they can do things more efficiently or better in some way. We can help them to think about the future.”
Zirkzee Group has a diverse client base, from small companies such as pubs and public institutions to branches of multinationals. It makes for a very diverse workload.
Helping clients with an international focus also means it’s important to be part of an international network such as IR Global: “If we have clients who want to move to or start up business activities in another country, we can use our IR Global network of colleagues from all over the world to work together to find the best solution for the customer.
“Likewise, other IR Global members contact us if they have clients who want to do something in the Netherlands and need help with the accounting side of business.
“One of our specialities is international double tax treaties that the Netherlands operates. We know the procedures and how to ensure that a company moving to the Netherlands only pays tax on their earnings once.”
Martín says that being part of IR Global makes it easier to find trusted advisors in countries Zirkzee Group is not familiar with: “If you do not know any advisors in a particular country, you contact IR Global, and they will find out another company is the best match with us.”
Martín and his colleagues also do what they can to accommodate clients’ needs and eliminate potential problems such as time differences. “Our approach is that it shouldn’t be a problem if the client isn’t based around the corner in the Netherlands,” he says. “We take a red-carpet approach for businesses accessing the Netherlands market.”
Indeed, the company has clients as far afield as South Africa and New Zealand. With the time differences, Martín often has to wake up very early in the morning to ensure that meetings can take place online.
Of course, with advances in technology, especially videoconferencing in recent years, it doesn’t matter where you are, what time zone you are in or what kind of device you have, you can talk with clients. This is something Martín has embraced.
Data is something else Martín is increasingly using. The technology customers use is producing more data than ever before, which can be analysed faster than before too. “Data is becoming available of a higher quality,” he says. “In the old days, it was all paperwork-based so the processes are much quicker now, meaning our advice has greater depth and more timeliness.”
Martín has led the firm’s transition to use more technology and software in day-to-day activities. “This is new way of working, I think it’s important first to get your colleagues to see the benefits of it, and then roll it out to clients.”
Martín adds that this is all part of their focus on highlighting opportunities for clients, rather than adding to their stress: “We’re positive rather than negative and proactive rather than reactive.”
Unsurprisingly, when he’s out of the office, Martín tends take his leisure time as seriously as his day job – and predictably, his ideal unwinding time features a single malt in the evening: “I never really stop working, but if I do have an hour or two away from the business it tends to be with friends over a single malt whisky.”