Last year, we asked three students from the BSc in Business Administration to pay tribute to their mothers; now, with Father’s Day coming up, we want to put fathers in the spotlight. And we found the perfect interviewees: Dorus, Robert and Dorus Boland, three generations of Nyenrodians from one family – in a straight line as well, which is unique for Nyenrode. They all arrived at the campus in Breukelen exactly thirty years apart: Dorus Sr. in 1959 (NOIB), his son Robert in 1989 (BBA) and grandson Dorus Jr. in 2019 (BSc in Business Administration).
Dorus Sr. grew up in Brussels but has Dutch parents. He moved to Nyenrode in 1959 after having attended boarding school in Belgium. “My father had been looking for a study program for me that would be practical. Nyenrode has given me a solid foundation. And of course, education shapes and changes you, that’s part of the process. It already started during hazing, when I started a choir and even the members of the hazing committee wanted to join.”
“Robert was the enfant terrible in our family,” Dorus Sr. continues. His son attended no less than five different schools. Robert explains: “I had too much influence on others, they said. In my senior year, the teacher told me to use that for the betterment of the group, and that is what I did, which ensured that the year went very well.”
Dorus Sr.: “I told Robert: ‘You’re perfect for Nyenrode.’ But he didn’t want to go. I took him to Nyenrode for the selection day, anyway, but I had my doubts about whether it would work out. But, I’ve never seen him as enthusiastic as he was that night.”
Robert: “When I arrived at Nyenrode, I was not as strong verbally as the rest of the group, and I had to start at the bottom of the ladder. At boarding school in Belgium, I had learned how to function in a group, that you have to be considerate of each other. So I quickly felt at home on campus. In the end, Nyenrode was the perfect match for me.”
Dorus Jr. grew up in a family of entrepreneurs: “When my father came home from work, he would always tell us stories about happened at the office that day, about the problems he had encountered and how they had solved them. I was found these stories fascinating to listen to.”
Still, going to Nyenrode was not necessarily an obvious choice for him. Dorus Jr. was more interested in technology and initially had his mind set on studying econometrics. When he attended an Open Day at the university, he was told that although he would
be able to earn a lot with an econometrics degree, he should forget about having a social life during his student years. He laughs and says: “That was nót what I wanted to hear. And because I also had an interest in business, I also started
looking at Nyenrode at a fairly early age. The idea that this would be perfect for me started to grow on me. I also feel completely at home here and I enjoy campus life.”
“My father had been running a trading agency since 1936 and traded between Western and Eastern Europe,” Dorus Sr. says. “When he died, I had to take over. In 1970, I started Boland Benelux BV in the Netherlands with a business partner, initially working from his home. We would go on business trips to China together, coming back with hats, caps and streamers. That is how it started.”
Robert got a job for a television production company after graduating from Nyenrode. “Really, it was the best job in the world. At one point, my father asked me to become the director-owner of Boland Benelux BV. I spoke with several parents of other Nyenrodians and a few other people. All of them said: ‘This is once in a lifetime opportunity.’” Dorus Sr.: “We knew that Robert could do it and he has proven that. Trust is very important. I had no problems handing the business over to him.”
Boland BV has continued to grow over the years. The company is number 1 in the party supplies market in the Netherlands and number 5 in Europe. Robert: “We don’t have the ambition to be the biggest in the world, but we do want to be the best and the funniest. Because of Corona, business was slower last year. We just moved from three separate branches to one new location in Bleiswijk. We invest a lot in providing fun and happy services, and in a way, you get that back from your customers.”
Dorus Jr.: “Boland is a cool company with great people in a very good market. But the world is much bigger. I want to keep my options open. Maybe in ten or fifteen years when an opportunity comes up, I might think about joining the business. And I also have a brother and a sister who might want to take over eventually. Maybe I will focus on doing something with my technical skills and interests first.”
Dorus Jr.: “What I value most in the relationship with my father is that we totally trust each other. He always supports me. The most important lesson I learned from him was to let nothing stop me. He always insists on just getting things done.”
Robert: “When I started working at Boland, my father provided millions in securities, yet he hardly interfered in the decisions I made. At first, I found that quite difficult and sometimes even annoying, but later I came to appreciate it more and more. I inherited that honesty and sincerity from him, and I also appreciate my father’s diplomatic side; he very much likes peace and harmony. My father is also not a person who likes to boast about his achievements. He has the most amazing network, but never flaunts it.”
The three generations have always been and remain involved with Nyenrode and the community. Dorus Sr. co-founded the Belgium Circle of Nyenrode Alumni VCV, for instance, and was appointed an honorary member. His grandson was on the organizing committee of the annual ski trip last year, and now serves on the committee that organizes the annual Jazz Festival. A while ago, Robert made a donation to Nyenrode Fund which was used towards installing the lighting system around the rugby field.
The three Bolands arrived at Nyenrode exactly thirty years apart. Can we expect the next scion in 2049? In any case, Nyenrode will welcome him or her with open arms!
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