It was the Tuesday 17th November 2020 and Louisa was trying to have some time off. This is no mean feat during corona times where you’re restricted where you can go and if you don’t turn off your phone someone can always contact you! She received a call from the NBCC (Netherlands British Chamber of Commerce) about us being nominated for an Entrepreneur of the Year Award. They needed some information sent the same day as it was the last day of nomination submissions to the judges!
This was such a surprise to be nominated! The NBCC SME Award 2020 is given to a company which has showcased an outstanding, innovative and sustainable achievement towards British-Dutch trade. Wow we really didn’t see that one coming! But we quickly worked out it was our business coach Stefanie Bertram from BeKo Consulting who had nominated us.
Luckily, we’d built up some promotional material during the summer from defining our brand proposition, these included one pagers explaining ourselves in both English and Dutch and a presentation deck for pitching, so we weren’t working from a blank piece of paper. However, this was our first nomination and without a PR department we had to pull all this information together in a short timeframe!
Here are the details we submitted
Revenue growth of Dutch-British business over the past 3 – 5 years
From starting our partnership in January 2019, we have increased our turnover with UK companies by 33%, and over 2 years in business we’ve grown a secure business base with a very positive turnover for a virtual services-based business.
We maintain our strong links with our clients in the UK, continuing to support them virtually and we are also building our network and reach by attending virtual online events all across the UK. Virtual work environments have had a lot of visibility this year with companies having to adapt and we are at the forefront of best practice in virtual business management.
Inspiring, innovative and competitive proposition as well as in organisational design
Blue Ninja provides bespoke services that help businesses reach their growth and profit potential. We understand business operations and help to improve time consuming and often critical tasks.
We are backed by more than 30 years of experience in process development, project management and administrative management in its many forms and have the skills, knowledge, tools and techniques to support businesses. Our values of adaptability, diligence, pro-activeness and objectivity underline our principles of running our business and are at the heart of how we support others.
We cut through the complications to look for the most logical and best way to work via our Ninjas;
Process Ninja – we assist businesses to optimise productivity by documenting and organising information coherently and appropriately for their type of business.
Project Ninja – we help businesses define the plan and goal of their project, timescales, deliverables and tasks along with tracking the project, complying with project parameters and requirements.
Admin Ninja – a key support function when businesses need an extra pair of hands to help with a range of operating tasks and will assess tasks in terms of how they fit into the bigger picture of the team, processes and projects.
Report Ninja – we review, evaluate and report using business products already in place, as well as provide recommendations that fit the business’s needs, helping them to critically analyse progress against goals and objectives.
We are an award-winning business, with one of our Directors having been VA (Virtual Assistant) of the Year 2017 Scotland and Runner-up UK Outstanding VA of the Year in 2018. We continue to engage with the virtual assistant networks in the UK and where possible leverage skills and talent within the UK to support us and our clients.
Recently we have worked with business coaches to examine how we manage Blue Ninja Business Support and to leverage our strengths to build new opportunities, both in the Dutch market but also making sure we are capitalising on our UK contacts and knowledge. This has brought in a revised market structure that works internationally, speaking to a broad audience and making our propositions cross-cutting across countries and industries. Our website reflects these changes and can be found at https://blueninja.eu.
Demonstrable high level of customer service
Here’s a link to our testimonials, an example is here:
Blue Ninja is our ‘go to’ external support system
We have been working with Julie and Louisa since December 2018 and have been delighted with the support that Blue Ninja has given us.
Julie and Louisa have integrated well with our team and have supported us with the development of our CRM system and data management and process and procedure creation and documentation. They were invaluable during product research for a live event registration solution and also in providing live support with registration onsite at our flagship event in London, UK. Their ‘can do’ attitude, enthusiasm and forward-thinking focus, coupled with a wide ranging skill set, objective eye and superb attention to detail has made them a pleasure to work with. They have been able to work to some very tight deadlines and have gone the extra mile and delivered beyond our expectations.
Julie and Louisa have been very flexible in order to meet our requirements and they’re currently helping us to re-adjust to this current changing landscape we now face.
Blue Ninja is our ‘go to’ external support system and we highly recommend their services.
Christophe Sauerwein, ICAAD
Socially engaged & sustainable track-record with a contribution to community service and/or SDGs
We support small businesses through our ‘Small Business Connections Leiden’ Facebook group. Since forming this group with other small business owners in March this year, we now have over 125 members and are growing steadily. The aim of this group is to help other small businesses feel connected and supported, as well as provide advice and leverage our knowledge to help small businesses connect, support and grow.
We brought on an intern in May 2020 as we wanted to provide an opportunity for learning and growth to a person interested in business administration. Our intern was British, and we were able to provide her with a range of experiences she could pro-actively use in her University studies.
We also support a UK based social enterprise business (and recently award-winning) Inspire Alpine as ‘Automation Wizards’ on a voluntary basis. We love helping people and this feels good to give back. We share information between our businesses with new tools and ideas. We are learning new things as well and we hope to help Inspire Alpine grow and flourish in the coming years.
More recently we have also launched ‘Ninja Me’ which provides CV and LinkedIn support to help people that have been impacted by the pandemic to get back to work. Our initial Ninja Me clients have been UK based, and we used our knowledge and experience in the UK market to support.
COVID-19 resilience? How did the company deal with COVID and were they able to translate a challenge into growth? Did they show empathy to staff and clients?
In 2019 we had worked with a client on their flagship annual 2-day conference in London. This year we very quickly had to pivot and change how we worked. We had to turn around a 2-day physical event for a client into a virtual event within a short time scale to make the event still viable. It was a lot of work to get all the systems we were given in place to work together seamlessly to make the virtual event happen. It was an intense couple of days but successful for the client.
We have leveraged our knowledge and experience of working virtually to support businesses during this time. We have also supported our network by publishing guest blogs on our website and social media to introduce them to our network.
Would they be worthy recipient of the NBCC award? Will they still be operational in 3-5 years from now?
This award would mean so much to us as we retain strong links with the UK and our strategy is to continue this going forward. We have strong values, along with our strength in working remotely and virtually has put us in a great position during uncertain times to continue supporting our customers.
We are a unique proposition to change and grow with the environment, and we are growing steadily with support from specialists in both the UK and the Netherlands.
Nomination info submitted
As the presentation was taking place that Friday there wasn’t too long to wait until the nail-biting conclusion. Apart from a zoom background for us to use and an invite to the video call we were a bit in the dark as to what was going to happen. There was no promotion on social media that we could track so we just turned up at the event. We were due to have a free lunch delivered to us however they couldn’t manage to deliver a lunch to both of us at separate addresses, seems like they really did need a ninja!
Friday 20th November The ‘surviving & thriving in challenging times’ lunch
So, this is the first time we got to see our competition, our fellow esteemed entrepreneurs. The event was presented by one of the NBCC board members Andrew Moore and we watched the interesting presentations on ‘Brexit & Banking’ from ABN AMRO, ‘Inspiration by Rituals’, ‘The journey of N+P Recycling’, ‘Tips & tricks on amending contracts’ by a legal advisor and then came the ceremony.
Some of the nominees are household names here in the Netherlands, all of us having strong trade links with the UK. We were interested in the definition of the nominees as some companies were significantly larger than ourselves, who may already have awards under their belt and if not had staff to pull together their nomination information! Tony’s & Kelly’s Expat Shopping being very well known to us.
So we held our breath while they went through the list and their key attributes and the winner was announced…..‘Double Dutch’ Drinks. Another company with 2 female founders again significantly larger than our 2 women partnership. Not a company known to us but see them all the time now in the supermarkets, read more about them here.
So that was our first award ceremony, it was an exciting and unexpected week, but we will be ready for our next nomination, fingers crossed.