What does it mean to make it in the north? This is part of a series of portraits of local people, organisations, and companies working to further internationalise Groningen, Friesland, and Drenthe. This time we spoke to Arne Bos, Director at the fast-growing Internet Parking company Parkos.
By Thomas Ansell
Parkos has been officially up-and-running since 2014, and at one point in its history was situated in the offices under my apartment. It’s a small space, and one which is a world away from the spacious, brightly-lit hive of activity that I enter at Parkos’ new location. One thing that is particularly striking in the Parkos offices is the amount of languages being spoken, by a young and fashionable-looking staff.
Parkos came from a blog (started in 2007), which originally covered tips and tricks for saving on plane tickets and accommodation. But, after lots of readers reported terrible service and high costs for parking, an idea was born. Now, Parkos operates in eleven countries (including both the US and Australia), and includes seven of the largest ten airports in Europe on its rostrum.
Arne himself is, typically, modest about Parkos’ ongoing success: “we began with two people, so we’ve grown a lot”, he says as we wander through the serried ranks of Parkos staff: technicians, country managers, salespeople; marketing, communications, everything is in house. “We are, putting it simply, made up of our software and our staff”, says Arne, “and so we have to make sure both work well and are well-looked after.”
Being located in Groningen has some specific advantages, says Arne: “We’re in a position now where we need skilled people with experience. We are on the hunt for a new country manager for France, for example, and if we were based in an enormous European city we would have enormous companies rivaling us for talent. So it’s great to be somewhere that has a steady stream of people that we can work with.”
Whilst at one point the company considered decentralising, and having a satellite office elsewhere in the Netherlands, its Directors decided to keep everything in one space to preserve the culture: “we think that the better our people, the better the platform”, says Arne, “and we like all of our people to work together.”
And this culture is indeed all-important: Arne notes that all of the leadership team are very happy to learn from their staff, especially if it is something to do with another culture. “One of our first expansions was into Germany, but what we didn’t know is that lots of German consumers read the T’s and C’s: in the Netherlands most people ignore them! So, it was only with the help of a German person that we realised for our service to be trusted, it needed to have easily-accessible legal text.”
Parkos’ expansion has been led by its staff. Entering into the Italian market was only done with the help of an Italian member of staff: “when our Italian Country Manager first started working here, we had to be honest and say to her ‘yes, this is great, but we are quite small at the moment and you’ll have to start on 16-hours per week’. Now, the manager in question is full-time, and even has someone to help expand our Italian offering!”