Gender Equality Symposium A Contemporary Conversation on the State of Female Leadership

One of the AABC’s goals for 2020 is to create more events in partnership with other business organizations. For the first co-hosted event of 2020, we joined forces with the American Women’s Club of Amsterdam to bring you a symposium on gender equality and female leadership. During the symposium, local leaders from various sectors will discuss the state of gender equality and leadership opportunities. The conversation will highlight career opportunities, leadership, entrepreneurship, education, and societal perception. This program will be moderated by Tracy Metz, the Director of the John Adams Institute and host of talk show Stadsleven.

Highlights of the event

  • Current climate for women in business. Where are we now, what is next, and how long to achieve gender equality? How do we measure success?
  • Successes and obstacles in the workplace. Hear our speakers’ professional journeys.
  • Women in the workplace the US and the Netherlands & EU. A look inside business in both continents and how policy, government and culture play a vital role in equity in the workplace.
  • Where do we go from here. How can we impact change and break through barriers? What are you doing to affect women in leadership and expedite change?


Marja Verloop – Deputy Chief of Mission 

A career member of the U.S. Department of State’s Senior Foreign Service, Marja Verloop assumed her position as Deputy Chief of Mission at U.S. Embassy The Netherlands in June 2019. Previously, she was the Deputy Executive Director for the East Asian and Pacific Affairs Bureau, with administrative responsibility and oversight for 45 overseas posts and 12 domestic offices. Marja has also served as the State Department’s Director for Innovation and at Embassies around the world including India, Canada, Namibia, Malaysia, and Poland. A member of the Department’s Leadership Roundtable, Marja is also the recipient of numerous Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards.

Judge Kimberly Prost, International Criminal Court

Prior to her election as judge of the ICC, Judge Prost served as Chef de Cabinet for the President of the International Criminal Court for a two year term. Before joining the Court, she was appointed in 2010 as the first Ombudsperson for the Security Council Al Qaida Sanctions Committee. In July 2006, after election by the United Nations General Assembly, she was appointed to sit as an ad litem judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia on a multi-accused trial (Popovic et al) related to events at Srebrenica and Zepa.

Previously, Judge Prost worked for the Canadian Department of Justice for 18 years, appearing before all levels of the Canadian courts, including the Supreme Court. Judge Prost also held managerial positions with the Commonwealth Secretariat and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime delivering a range of programmes for States on international cooperation, money laundering and asset forfeiture, counter terrorism, implementation of the Rome Statute, and combating organized crime and corruption. Judge Prost graduated as a gold medallist from the University of Manitoba Law School.

Christina Moreno – CEO, She Matters Recruitment 

Coming from a background of poverty, Christina Moreno dropped out of high school at 16, became a mom at 18, and was on social benefits with no promising future at all. Yet after a life-altering event with her caseworker, she decided to pursue a degree in law. Today, she is the founder and CEO of She Matters, a social enterprise recruitment agency working towards the social and economic empowerment of migrant and refugee women. 

Ida Sabelis – Associate Professor, Vrije Universitiet Amsterdam

An associate Professor of Organization Studies at Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam. She holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Anthropology. She is currently working on a biography of the Durban artist and ‘bush wife’ Nola Steele and her husband, conservationist Nick Steele, who worked in KZN, which came about because of an interest in ecofeminism and the position of women in nature conservation. In the 1980s and 1990s, Ida worked as an organizational consultant on the topic ‘diversity in organizations’ in the pioneering Dutch institute of Kantharos (management of diversity). From the mid-1990s on, the perspective of time/s in organizations offered a conceptual framework further to theorize questions of complex inequalities in organizations (gender, multiculturalism, and diversity) and long-term organizational development (sustainability, future/s, continuity and change). Publications include “Gendering environmental sustainability and organization: Introduction,”Gender, Work & Organization'”25(3), 215-221, with Agnes Bolsø and Mary Phillips and “Hidden lives, invisible vocation?: Giving voice to game rangers’ wives in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa,” in Contemporary perspectives on ecofeminism (pp. 132-149), Routledge, with Harry Wels and Tamarisk van Vliet (2015). Her most recent book isAcademia in Crisis (2019; open access from Feb. 2020) with Leonidas Donskis and others, dealing with increased work pressure and commercialization of universities in Europe.

Sarah Woodhouse – General Counsel Europe, General Counsel Food and Refreshment Global, Unilever

Sarah joined Unilever in 2003 and currently advises on all strategic aspects of the company’s food and refreshment division from innovation to acquisition. She connects to a global team of lawyers across the world. Sarah was based in Singapore for 5.5 years leading the legal team across Asia and Australia on development and diversity and inclusion. She has the distinction of the appearing on the 500 Powerlist Benelux 2019. Sarah has extensive corporate experience in a global setting.

Moderated by Tracy Metz

Tracy Metz is a Dutch-American journalist, writer and moderator who is driven by her passion for our relationship to our built and natural environment. She writes for the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad and the American magazine Architectural Record and has a live talk show on urban issues called Stadsleven (‘city life’). She has written several books, all pertaining to the way we furbish and relate to our surroundings, of which the most recent was the best-selling Sweet&Salt: Water and the Dutch. She is also the director of the John Adams Institute, an independent foundation that provides a podium in the Netherlands for the best and brightest of American thinking.

Symposium Introduction by Susan Davis

Susan is the founder of Leadership Designs and its principal consultant. Her 20-plus years of experience with companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks, and organizations including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the WNBA’s Seattle Storm, and venture philanthropy organizations spans executive coaching, leadership development, organizational alignment, meeting facilitation, and human resources strategy. Susan holds a master’s degree in applied behavioral science and is the co-author of Brand Driven, The Route to Integrated Branding Through Great Leadership.

Susan is a founding and extended leadership team member of Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company created by Melinda Gates in 2014. Pivotal Ventures partners with organizations and individuals who share their urgency for social progress in the United States. They grow understanding around issues, expand participation, encourage cooperation and fuel new approaches that substantially improve people’s lives. Most recently, in October 2019, on the heels of her N.Y. Times best-selling book, The Moment of Lift, How Empowering Women Changes the World, Melinda Gates pledged $1 billion to gender equality.

Join us on March 17th, starting 06:00 PM to discuss the state of female leadership in 2020.


How To Stay Current In A Fast-Changing Work World

Technology is changing the workplace faster than many of us can keep up with. We all know this. It poses distinct challenges to people with highly specialised training, or have been in the workforce for longer periods.

The truth is, we are all happy to keep things the way they are most of the time. Change is threatening, frightening and involves lots of hard work. This means that very often, people retreat into their habits, ‘the way things have always been done around here,’ and similar reactions.

Unfortunately, this response is fast becoming a quick way to the exit door. The pace of change is only increasing and the only way to survive it is to adapt with it: to grow, to change and to innovate.

However, very few adults consider themselves the kinds of people that can easily think of new ideas, products, ways to do or approach things. We are simply not creative. Because we didn’t take art at school can’t draw, write, dance or paint, we also cannot be creative at work.

This is the biggest obstacle to happiness at work: this idea that you are a certain way and can therefore not change or develop. Of course, you can. Every new thing you learn means you are changing… and provides an opportunity to create.

Art is nothing more than a product of Creativity. Just one aspect of what this skill gives us. Creativity also gave us fire, the lightbulb, space shuttles and E=MC².

Creativity is actually the ability to see connections between previously unconnected things and join the dots. It is problem-solving. And we can all do that. The trick is to apply how you solve day to day problems to those big issues that require new solutions, thinking or products…

And the good news is, the more you know in life, the creative you can be because you have more dots to join. Highly experienced veterans are in fact MORE likely to come up with game-breaking ideas than youngsters. Why? Because they have seen more, experienced more, know more… if they can start to join the dots in new ways, of course, they can see more connections.

How Do You Start Being More Creative?

Stop saying you can’t. Think of it as a practical problem and apply the same method. It’s not magic.

• Take time
Creativity is a normal brain function, but its workings are still a bit mysterious. Don’t insist on instant, black and white answers. Sleep on the problem, do some reading around the topic, let your unconscious go to work.
• Work and re-work existing ideas.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and the best ideas do not emerge fully-formed from our minds, sometimes they need revising, adding to, removing parts… work.
• Claim time
To be aware of the process of seeing new unexpected connections, you need time where you can be pretty quiet and introspective where you can calmly think about things without too much pressure. If your job doesn’t give you this time, you need to make it.
• Keep trying
Like any skills, it takes time to master your own creative process and fine tune it. The Sunflowers was not Van Gogh’s first painting. Keep trying and focus on improving. You’ll get there.

Remember, just because you can’t paint, write poetry and act does not mean you are not creative. There’s a good chance your products look very different from these. It’s the same process, so just keep improving.

I am David Chislett and I am a Creativity Trainer and Coach in Amsterdam. I help individuals and companies hone their creative habits, skills and ideas with workshops, coaching sessions and custom-made training. For more details, please look at my website: https://davidchislett.com

Author: David Chislett, Creativity Trainer and Coach in Amsterdam. Photo credit: Dave Pelham.

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Have Your Say About the 30% Ruling Cuts

The government is planning to cut the 30% ruling duration from eight years to five, following the publication of a report last year which stated that most people do not benefit from the tax break for the full term.

The plans are currently beginning finalised, and will be debated by parliament’s finance committee on May 31. The final proposal will be presented to parliament on Prinsjesdag in September.

In the meantime, opposition to the proposal is mounting – particularly because the government is not planning to introduce a transition period for people who have benefited from the tax break for five years.

In other words, if you’ve had the tax break for longer, on January 1, 2019, you will have thousands of euros less to spend per year.

Employers, academic organisations and expat groups saying the proposal is damaging the country’s reputation and will hurt many people financially.

Petitions have been organised and behind the scenes, intense lobbying is taking place. The Dutch universities association VSNU is writing to tax minister Menno Snel urging him to rethink, saying the plan will hit academia hard.

Employers organisations VNO-NCW and MKB-Nederland have described the plan as ‘not good’ and say the measure will make the Netherlands less attractive compared with other foreign countries.

‘It will not make it any easier to attract foreign talent but we need that talent because of the tight jobs market,’ the organisation says. In addition, existing claims should be honoured because a ‘trustworthy government is essential for a good investment climate.’

The current plan means that someone earning around €60,000 a year will have to pay some €8,000 more in tax, plus a further penalty if their employer pays for their children to attend an international school.

The expat media have carried many stories of people who may have to give up their jobs and move, because they will not be able to pay the rent on their homes – particularly in Amsterdam, where rents are soaring.

One American expat in Amsterdam told DutchNews.nl that the change will cut his family’s income by €20,000 from next January.

‘This could potentially ruin us. We moved here in January 2014 and have just bought a house based on what our income was supposed to be until 2022. ‘Now we potentially can’t afford it, and we can’t resell and leave without incurring a huge financial loss.’

ICAP, the International Community Advisory Panel, is currently carrying out a survey on the likely impact of the cut on the country’s expats. The results will be presented to tax minister Menno Snel and members of the finance committee ahead of the their meeting.

‘We’d welcome anyone who still benefits from the 30% ruling, or who used to benefit, to take part,’ said ICAP spokeswoman Deborah Valentine. ‘It is essential that when it comes to government policy, the voice of the international community is heard.’

Take part in the ICAP survey

Author: Robin Pascoe, Dutchnews.nl

Photo source: Depositphotos.com

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Which Visa Do You Need to Work in the United States?

Many dream of moving to the United States. Some want to be closer to family and loved-ones, while others need to go for work or wish to buy or start a business. While relocating to the United States can be exciting, it can also be an overwhelming experience.

One of the first administrative obstacles you will face when going to the United States for work will be immigration. Unless you are a US citizen moving back to your home country, you will most likely need a visa. You will need to wade through the alphabet soup which is the US immigration system to determine which visa is right for your situation. Here is a brief description of some circumstances you may be in and the visas you may be eligible for.

Working in the United States for a US employer

Those wishing to move to the United States to work in ‘specialty occupations’ may be able to apply for a H-1B visa. Specialty occupations are jobs that require theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and at least the attainment of a bachelor’s degree or equivalent to properly carry out the role. Further, someone wishing to use a H-1B visa must be paid at least the prevailing wage for the job position in the geographical location in which the person will work.

A major downside of the H-1B is that there is an annual limit on the number of visas issued. There are only 65,000 visas available per fiscal year. The first 20,000 petitions filed on behalf of those with a US master’s degree or higher are exempt from this limit, as are those who work or wish to work at an institute of higher education or a non-profit research organization. Last year, there were almost a quarter of a million applications submitted before the government agency dealing with them stopped accepting new applications. Those on a H-1B may enter the United States for up to three years. The H-1B may usually only be extended up to a total of six years.

Transferring to the United States from the Netherlands

The L-1 visas allow people who have been working for a company outside of the United States for more than one year in the past three years to be transferred to an affiliated company in the United States. The transferee must be going to the United States to work in either an executive or managerial capacity (these may apply for an L-1A visa) or they must possess specialized knowledge related to their work or organization (these may apply for an L-1B visa). Those transferred on an L-1 visa may stay in the United States for an initial period of three years. At the end of this period, the visa may be renewed in increments of two years for a total of seven years for the L-1A and five years for the L-1B.

What happens if the company you work for abroad has no affiliate in the United States? Both the L-1A and L-1B allow for the transfer of executive or managerial and specialized knowledge employees respectively to be transferred to help establish a new office in the United States. New Office L visas have the same total time limits as mentioned above but the initial visa is only valid for one year.

Starting a new business or investing in an existing business in the United States

The Netherlands has a treaty with the United States which allows for its citizens to move to the United States to start a business (using an E-1 visa) or to invest a substantial sum in a US business (using an E-2 visa). Dutch citizens starting a business in the United States using an E-1 visa must also ensure that the business will carry on substantial trade between the United States and the Netherlands. This means that the business should conduct more than 50% of its trade with the Netherlands. This trade can be in anything: goods, services, insurance etc, the meaning of the word ‘trade’ is construed quite liberally in this context. However, the trade must be substantial, meaning there must be a continuous flow of sizeable international trade consisting of many transactions over time. A very simple example could be starting a business in the United States which imports Dutch cheese for sale in the United States. Those applying for an E-1 visa must be an employee of the business.

Dutch citizens investing in a business in the United States using an E-2 visa must have invested or be in the process of investing a substantial amount of capital in a business in the United States. When applying for the E-2 visa, the Dutch citizen must be seeking to enter the United States solely to develop and direct the investment enterprise, either through their managerial or executive role or because they are specially qualified to do so. This can be proved by showing that the applicant has at least 50% ownership of the business or that they have operational control of it. Further, the investment must have the present or future capacity to generate more than enough income to provide for the applicant and their family.

Those applying for an E-1 or E-2 visa may stay in the United States for two years but can potentially renew their visa as many times as they like if they still qualify.

What about family members?

All the visas mentioned in this article allow the main applicant to bring their spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 to the United States. This is not automatic and separate applications have to be made for each person wishing to accompany the main applicant. Spouses may apply for work authorization which, if approved, have no restriction on where the spouse may work.

Other US work visas

The visa options mentioned above are the options most often used for Dutch citizens to work in the United States. But what if you are not a Dutch citizen? The United States has treaties with many countries and the E-1 and E-2 may be available to you if you are a national of another country. What if these visas don’t seem like the right fit for the type of work you intend to do in the United States?  There are also several other visas not mentioned here which you may be eligible for, depending on your circumstances. While you are not required to use an attorney for your US immigration issues, it may be wise to consult one to find out the extent of your options as well as what option is the best fit for you.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this article is provided for general informational purposes and is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice.

George Lake is the founder and Managing Attorney at Blue Lake Law LLP, a US Immigration law firm based in Amsterdam. He has experience assisting those who want to move from Europe to the United States. George specialises in US immigration law and focuses particularly on business and corporate immigration.

Author: George W. Lake, Managing Attorney at Blue Lake Law LLP

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The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

On December 22, 2017, President Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act cutting corporate tax rates from 35% to 21% and dropping the top individual rate from 39.6% to 37%.

This is the first tax overhaul in more than 30 years, which went into effect January 1, 2018. The overhaul cuts income tax rates, doubles the standard deduction, and eliminates personal exemptions. Corporate cuts are permanent, yet the individual changes expire at the end of 2025. Expats and dual citizens have been fighting for years for reform the burdensome policies affecting Americans overseas, and sadly, those reforms will not be brought about by this bill. Many of the reporting requirements most affecting Americans overseas – like the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion and the Foreign Tax Credit and FATCA – remain untouched. Many expat business owners will see tax increases and complicating factors in 2018.

What’s in This Tax Overhaul?

Following is a summary of the major changes we can expect on the individual level. This is not intended to be a full list, but highlights the areas of the tax code that impacts most taxpayers. Specific details, phase-outs, thresholds, rules, etc. are still being worked on, so stay informed.


Changes affecting expats specifically:

1) Taxpayers living abroad will continue to receive the automatic 2-month extension to file and pay taxes. 2017 tax returns, associated forms, and FBARs are due June 15th, 2018.

3) Deductions for real estate taxes on real foreign properties are eliminated.

4) Expats are not subject to the reduced taxation of “passthrough” entities. Passthrough entity profits will be taxed on the individual level for expat business owners.

5) Net Investment Tax (NIT) cannot be reduced by Foreign Tax Credits (unchanged from previous years).

6) Moving expenses are no longer deductible.

7) Inflation calculation has changed, which means the FEIE will grow at a slower rate, increasing only fractionally each year.

8) Corporate taxes have changed significantly. Expats who are owners of Controlled Foreign Corporations (CFC), will be subject to a one-time “deemed repatriation” tax of 15.5% on any previously untaxed profits, 8% for illiquid assets. Taxpayers may have the option to pay this tax over eight years. If you are a shareholder of a B.V. here in The Netherlands, this affects you. Any undistributed profits will be considered to have been brought back to the U.S., and the repatriation tax will apply.

9) Additional forms required to be filed by many expats remain unchanged. These include The Foreign Bank Account Report (also known as FinCEN 114), the FATCA requirements, Form 8938 (Statement of Foreign Financial Assets), Form 5471 (Report of Certain Foreign Corporations), and Form 3520 (Report of Foreign Trusts, including pensions), and more depending on your situation.

10) As one last kick-to-the-gut, tax preparation fees, which can often be exacerbating for expats, will no longer be deductible.

For All Individual Filers:

1) Lower individual rates – our previous rates were 10%, 15% 25%, 28%, 33%, 35% and 39.6%.
New rates, including how much income would apply to them:
• 10% (income up to $9,525 for individuals; up to $19,050 for married filing jointly – MFJ)
• 12% (over $9,525 to $38,700; over $19,050 to $77,400 for MFJ)
• 22% (over $38,700 to $82,500; over $77,400 to $165,000 for MFJ)
• 32% (over $157,500 to $200,000; over $315,000 to $400,000 for MFJ)
• 35% (over $200,000 to $500,000; over $400,000 to $600,000 for MFJ)
• 37% (over $500,000; over $600,000 for MFJ)

2) Standard Deduction has nearly doubled greatly reducing the number of taxpayers who will choose to itemize. The bill increases for single filers to $12,000, up from $6,350. For married filing jointly, the new standard deduction increases to $24,000, up from $12,700.

3) No more Personal Exemptions. Previously, you received $4,050 for yourself, your spouse and each dependent. The tax bill eliminates this exemption.

4) State and local tax deduction (SALT). Under the old law, there was no limitation for the itemized deduction of your state and local property taxes along with income or sales taxes. The new law states that the SALT taxes remain as an itemized deduction but caps them at $10,000. Those taxpayers living in states with high income and property taxes will be unlikely to deduct all their SALT taxes. If you rushed to pay property taxes before year-end, the taxes must have been already assessed in order to claim the deduction in 2017.

5) Mortgage interest deduction. If you take out a new mortgage on a first or second home, you will only be allowed to deduct the interest on debt up to $750,000. The bill will no longer allow for a deduction on home equity loans. Previously, the limit was mortgages up to $1,000,000 plus up to $100,000 on home equity loans. This may mean digging up old paperwork to determine the piece of existing loans that is deductible, and working out complicated basis calculations.

6) Alternative Minimum Tax (Alt Min). While we were all hoping that Alt Min would be eliminated, it was only eliminated for corporations. The income exemption levels are being raised to $70,300 for singles (previously $54,300) and $109,400 for married couples (previously $84,500). With the increased levels, the number of filers hit should be reduced.

7) Child tax credit increased. Under the new law, the credit will be doubled to $2,000 for children under 17. High income earners will now be eligible as the income threshold would be raised from $75,000 single to $200,000 and for married couples $110,000 will increase to $400,000. The first $1,000 will continue to be refundable along with $400 of the additional $1,000. This means if you have no tax liability, you may be eligible to receive a refund of up to $1,400 per child. This credit is available to taxpayers living abroad.

8) New credit for non-child dependents. The law allows parents a $500 credit for each non-child dependent they are supporting. This includes a child 17 or older, an elderly parent or an adult child with a disability.

9) Mandate to buy health insurance. While the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as “Obamacare” has not been repealed, there will no longer be a penalty for not buying insurance.
Note: The IRS is ENFORCING the penalty for 2017. This repeal does not affect last year. Many taxpayers abroad qualify for an exemption from this requirement.

For Business Filers:

This subject is beyond the scope of this article, but a couple things should be pointed out:
1) The corporate tax rate has been slashed from 35% to 21%.

2) For owners, partners, and shareholders of U.S. based S-corporations, LLCs and partnerships, the tax burden would be lowered by a 20% deduction. There are some exclusions and complicated calculations which may apply.

Taxpayers living abroad always have complicating factors in their tax situation. This year promises to be extra complicated. Be sure to seek the advice of a trusted tax expert well in advance of the tax deadline to help navigate the waters of expat tax issues and this year’s tax reform.

Author: Christie DuChateau, BNC Tax & Accounting.

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Blanca Vergara

How Joy Can Bring Better Results in 2018

Do you want to see better results in 2018? Money, impact, influence?

Do you want to find more joy in 2018?

Do you want both?

If you are like the people who attended the Amsterdam American Business Club (AABC) December event, you will answer with a definite YES.
We all want this, and we have wanted it every single year. However, there are huge barriers within us that have stopped us from achieving these things and continue to do so, including…

  • Our beliefs: We think, “we cannot have our cake and eat it, too.” Is this true, or is this just one of many self-defeating popular beliefs?
  • Our fears: We set objectives and work on projects that don’t make our heart sing. In other words we walk over our own desires.
  • Our habits: We want to lose weight, but keep choosing the cake instead of the carrot.

These three barriers are linked to the three centers of intelligence in our body: our brain, our heart, and our gut. Yes, scientists have discovered we have more than one “brain.” Our heart and our gut are also valuable sources of wisdom.

Our brain is the source of creativity. It generates wonderful ideas. No wonder we have, for centuries, centered our world around it. However as creative at it is, it also creates unreal realities. It generates thoughts that sabotage our intent. Sadly some of these thoughts become chronic thoughts, a.k.a. beliefs. Once they reach this stage, they are very powerful and stop your endeavors.
Our heart and our gut haven’t received much attention over the centuries. We have actually learned to suppress our compassion and our courage. Current social changes, however, are bringing these two qualities to light.

We are starting to realize how important it is to work on purpose. When we are truly committed to doing what we love, we engage our heart’s intelliguence. Thus we create solutions that are truly meaningful to many, most importantly you. Plus when you listen to your heart, everything becomes easier. It allows you to find the most graceful route toward meaningful impact.
The one that has the least attention is the gut. No wonder there are so many people with creative and compassionate business plans, movie scripts, or book drafts that never see the light of day. What we need is the power of the gut: courage.

To get all you want out of 2018, you need to activate the powers of your three brains. You need to illicit:

  • A better MindSet: Activate your creativity. Invent new and empowering beliefs.
  • A better HeartSet: Activate your compassion. Smother all your fears by allowing the wisdom of your heart to be your guide.
  • A better HandSet. Activate your courage. Build daily habits that gradually expand your comfort zone and your self-reliance.

I have created courses and books full of techniques outlining how to activate these three sets. For the purpose of this article, I’ll give you one technique that will allow you to engage your three intelligences at once. This tool will help you make difficult decisions fast. Once you are proficient at using it, your productivity will soar. The best is that your joy and sense of calm will too.

When you are confronted with a difficult choice (going to a networking event when tired, accepting funding for your venture from a person you don’t trust, developing a software/app further after knowing there is already competition in the market, etc.) ask yourself:

What is the most creative, compassionate, and courageous thing to do?

Notice this question is forcing you to use the three qualities at the same time. It is forcing you to align the power of your whole being in the choice you will make. It is asking you to come up with innovative options that make your heart sing, allow you to care for humanity, and are still daring adventures.

Once you have an option on the table, butterflies will flutter in your tummy. It’s unavoidable! Then ask yourself: is there another alternative? Brainstorm. Ask your heart. Feel the fear. When they are finally aligned, take action, no matter how small. Success loves speed. You must tell your brain, your heart, and your gut that you mean it. This way you will build brand new neuro-pathways of resilience and self-belief.

With this article, I also want to wish you a Merry Everything and a Happy Always. Plus I have a special gift for all of the AABC community. I decided to give you 30 percent discount off all my books and online courses. I expand on techniques to transform your fears into fuel. To claim your gift, go to http://www.blancavergara.com/for-you-2/ and use the code aabc2017.

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How to Deal with Stress?

Feeling and functioning better under stress, starts with understanding stress. What stress is, how to recognize it and the secret of how to deal with it.
But let me start with; why stress coaching? The reason is that besides being a trained coach, I am an experience expert. Twenty years in corporate sales thought me what stress is. A burnout about 7 years ago, thought me how not to deal with it.
The good news is, that I came through it, now know how to deal with it, and am able to help others with this knowledge. I do that by means of presentations, workshops and of course life coaching.

What is stress?

Stress is a mental and physical response to an event, that comes in three forms:

  • Incidental stress
  • Overspannenheid (No English word for this, sorry)
  • Burnout

Incidental stress

Stress that occurs now and then, followed by periods of recuperation and rest, is called incidental stress. Your body, mind and energy levels can deal with this fairly good without too much strain.



Overspannenheid is a continuous period of chronical stress. It leads up to a feeling of not being able to rest anymore and of not being able to function. Overspannenheid also leads to mental and physical complaints. Your battery is almost, but not completely empty. And that is the good news, you still have energy to make a change and recover, worse can be prevented.


Burnout is the result of completely ignoring the symptoms of overspannenheid. It will lead to a complete and utter exhaustion, both mental and physical. You will wake up, not knowing how to get out of bed or how to get through your day. Your battery is completely empty, and you need to recharge first, before you can recover.


It all sounds serious, but how big is the problem?

There are a lot of studies being done into this subject, The numbers differ, but the message is generally the same. All studies state that a large part of the workforce in the Netherlands is suffering from stress and stress related issues.

Concerning burnout the numbers a bit more clear, because these people don’t show up for work, so they get easier noticed. In certain age groups the number goes as high as 17% of the workforce suffering of burnout related issues. Those are serious numbers.

If the difference between recovering from overspannenheid and ending up with a burnout, is listening to the symptoms, how do you recognize them?

If your mind is ignoring the facts, learn to listen to your body. Your body will always show when there is stress. Indicators of that are for instance a higher breathing, tension in your body or sweating. Of course, by themselves, these can just as well mean that you are falling in love, and therefore no reason to be alarmed, but when combined for instance with a deep and utter feeling of mental and physical fatigue, highly irritable behaviour or sleep disorders, to name just a few of the easy noticeable ones, they can and should be reason for alarm.

I call these mental and physical signals the “early warning system” and as a coach I teach people how to listen to them. In fact this “early warning system” is the strongest tool you have to prevent stress to turn from bad to worse.

How do you prevent or deal with stress?

Stress is an imbalance between (work)stress-load and your (perceived) ability to deal with it. So the secret lays in working on these two parts of the equation by:

  • Either reduce the pressure or increase your stress resilience!


As promised, I have practical tips in line with this that will help you deal with work related stress.

1. Do not try to do everything yourself

Being an entrepreneur, you are eager to do it all yourself. Don’t! Ask yourself what is your business, and how you best add value to that. Focus on what gives you energy and leave the rest to external experts. This will not only free up time for things that will give you energy, but most likely your business will improve too.

2. Make sure your goals are realistic

Many starting entrepreneurs write unrealistic business plans with sky high goals. Unrealistic goals are a sure source of stress and failing businesses. So plan realistic. But keep in mind, planning your daily activities should be realistically too.

3. Take good care of yourself

Eat healthy! Research has shown that there is a clear connection between eating and stress.

Exercise! This has to do with the build-up of the so called stress hormones, like adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol in your body, which can be lowered by exercise.

Commit to charging as you do to working! Take breaks, real breaks! Without emails or social media. And that goes twice for vacations.

4. ASK!

A lot of work related stress has its origin in uncertainty.

“What does this colleague really means to say? Does my manager think that I am not doing a good job? How should I do a better job at this? What does he/she think of me? Is that client satisfied?”

The only way to know what is really happening, is to ask! So prevent unnecessary stress, ASK!

5. If all else fails

Well, then it is time for professional help. Don’t keep struggling, find help to deal with it.

To Conclude

Be honest with yourself. Listen to your body, learn to read the signs. If you find that difficult, there are all kinds of books and otherwise this coach, that can help you to connect what is below your neck to what’s above.

I am Rob Lacroix and stress coach at ExpatCoachingCompany.nl, and I can help you feel and function better under stress. Want to get in touch? Email me at rob.lacroix@expatcoachingcompany.nl or look me up on LinkedIn.

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Is the Popularity of Paracetamol in the Netherlands a Myth?

Earlier this month, figures from the European Union showed that what many Americans in the Netherlands think about Dutch doctors is true – they do prescribe fewer antibiotics than in any other OECD member country.

The report, entitled Health at a Glance, shows that just 10.7 people in 1,000 are prescribed antibiotics in the Netherlands at any one time. This is around half the OECD rate of 20.6 and well below league leader Greece, on 36.

The report also shows Netherlands has spent less on medicines in the last few years than many other countries, with spending down by almost 3% between 2009 and 2015.

At the same time, the Dutch health system is highly regarded in international circles. In May, the Netherlands came in ninth place in a ranking of almost 200 countries by The Lancet magazine. The ranking was compiled by looking at how likely you are to survive various diseases, including tuberculosis, whooping cough and measles. And, a year ago, research by the Commonwealth Fund think-tank in America, put the Netherlands at the top of a list of 11 western countries in terms of its healthcare system.


The International Community Advisory Panel is trying to get greater insight into attitudes to the Dutch healthcare system among the international community and has launched a new survey to find out more.

ICAP, an independent foundation set up in 2016, has already carried out two surveys, one focusing on the international community and housing and the other on education. The findings are being used by Amsterdam city council in its efforts to make the city a more attractive place to live and do business.

The research showed that 63% of people considered to be expats in the Netherlands get no financial help from their employer in paying school fees and 77% of new arrivals get no help with paying for housing.

In addition, over half of the 700 people who took part in the surveys have no plans to leave the Netherlands within the next five years at least.


‘We need to redefine what we mean by “expat” because most international workers these days do not get generous housing and school deal packages from their employers,’ said ICAP chairwoman Robin Pascoe.

‘In addition, most internationals in the Netherlands to work came here by choice and live here for much longer than a couple of years. Not only can they not afford the fees for international schools and expensive ‘expat’ housing, but they want their children to integrate into the Dutch community.’

Dutch government policy currently focuses on investing on creating additional international school places in Amsterdam and The Hague but moves are also being made to make Dutch schools more ‘international’ as well.

‘While the decision-makers at multinationals will benefit from spending on international schools, we also believe there are enormous gains to be made if the government invested properly in helping the children of new arrivals integrate into the Dutch school system,’ said Deborah Valentine, director of voluntary organisation ACCESS and a member of the ICAP board.

Do you have doubts about doctors or issues about health insurance? Is the popularity of paracetamol a myth? Have your say in the ICAP survey about the Dutch healthcare system as seen through the eyes of internationals. We much appreciate your help.

You can find ICAP’s survey here.

Photo credit: Michelle Tribe via Wikimedia Commons.

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Business Owners Beware: the UBO Register is Coming

In this short article, Adam Kiolle provides an update on the introduction of a new register listing the identity of the ultimate beneficial owners (UBOs) of businesses and legal entities registered in the Netherlands.

At present the Dutch commercial register (handelsregister) does not list information on who owns or ultimately controls Dutch legal entities (except for in the case of sole traders (eenmanszaken) and companies (BVs and NVs) with a sole shareholder), however this is soon going to change.

Under new European anti-money laundering and financing of terrorism legislation, EEA Member States now need to implement a so-called UBO register identifying the ultimate beneficial owner of corporate and other legal entities incorporated within their territories. This register will list up-to-date information on the “beneficial ownership” of such entities. In the Netherlands, this UBO register will be integrated into the KvK’s commercial register.

At present it is uncertain when the Dutch UBO register will be up and running, although it is definitely a question of “when” rather than “if”. While the European Member States are free to decide precisely how to implement the register, under the European legislation, they do not have a choice about whether or not to implement it.

Once in place, virtually all businesses registered in the Netherlands will need to provide UBO information for the purposes of registration. The only exceptions (for the moment) will be for foreign companies registered in the Netherlands and (for obvious reasons) sole traders. The register will list details each ultimate beneficial owner’s name, month and year of birth, nationality, country of residence as well as the nature and size of the UBO’s economic interest in the entity. In addition to the foregoing information which will be publicly available, other information will be collected and kept on record in a non-public UBO register which will only be available to certain public authorities (most likely the tax authorities, national police and financial regulatory or investigation bodies).

In principle (and subject only to very limited exceptions) entities will be under an obligation to provide and update the relevant UBO information, with failure to do so attracting serious penalties.

Am I an UBO?

Under the draft Dutch legislation, a UBO is defined as the “natural person who has ultimate ownership of or control over a business or legal person”. Beyond this it is not quite clear exactly how the UBO will be defined. For this, we will have to wait for the passing of a statutory instrument setting out the precise definitions for each type of entity. It is, however, likely that anybody who holds (or controls) more than 25% of the shares in a company will fall under the definition. Where no individual shareholder holds (or controls) more than 25 % of the shares, it is not unthinkable that the law might look to the board of directors and identify one or more of the directors as the UBO, as odd as this may sound. What is certain is that all entities will be deemed to have at least one UBO.

Can I avoid being listed as an UBO?

If you are the UBO of a Dutch business or entity, you may, under some limited circumstances, be able to have your personal information suppressed in the public register. However, to do this, you will need to be able to prove that publication of the details would give rise to an actual risk of fraud, kidnapping, blackmail, violence or intimidation. The other exception is where the UBO is a minor or otherwise lacking legal capacity.

If you are a shareholder or director of a Dutch company and want to know how this will affect you, feel free to contact Adam Kiolle from Blenheim Attorneys.

Photo credit: Patrik Göthe

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Engage Your Audience from the Stage

By: Sangbreeta Moitra, www.sangbreetamoitra.com

“Invisible threads are the strongest ties.”― Friedrich Nietzsche

Last week, I was talking to a friend in business development who has to give a high-stakes talk at a conference. He said, “Of late, my audience is just off. They don’t respond to my one-liners or humour. Fingers crossed for a better audience next time!”

I’ve had that in the past too. A talk or presentation that was prepared for hours, with the perfect amount of witty humour, storytelling and rhetoric devices for audience engagement, that worked brilliantly at several conferences… fell completely flat at others. Zero audience engagement. No smile, no response. And worst of all, you have to continue speaking until you finish, to the wall of silent faces. Ever faced that?

Why does it happen? Even with the best speakers, even with the help of top coaches, why doesn’t the audience always respond the way you want to your amazing prepared speech?

Here’s the secret. It is not the audience that should be receptive to you. YOU should be receptive to THEM.

It is unwise to expect the same reaction to the same content from different people in front of you. Their culture, sensitivities, attitude, perception, perspectives, mood and most importantly, collective energy as an audience are completely different. I faced this last year. Gave a talk on leadership communication at a corporate event and it was my ‘ideal’ audience. They laughed, cheered, clapped at all the right points. It was a fabulous experience. Repeated the same talk at another event and they didn’t even chuckle at what I thought was a very, very ironically funny communication issue. What then? Should I continue my talk as prepared, and hope that they respond to me?

NO. Doesn’t matter which industry you’re from, and what your talk is about, if your audience engagement tactic is not working, SWITCH IT. Modify it on stage, at that moment, to reel your audience back in to your story.

What do I mean? Different speakers have different styles. Let’s say you’re dramatic; theatrical hands and exaggerated anecdotes gets you going. Or, you have a serious presentation with some interactive segments. Either way, your audience isn’t responding. Interrupt your session right there with an active audience moment- talk TO them.

Different tactics: If you’re bold, humorously acknowledge that your front row is not impressed with your Oscars-worthy story. Or, if you know someone in your audience, have a quick gag (joke) referencing him/her, that usually gets the crowd going.

Example: Barack Obama (and his speechwriters) deserve an award for superb audience engagement. Within the first few seconds of his Correspondent’s Dinner, he makes fun of the event and then himself and then different people in the audience. “Welcome to the White House Correspondents Dinner. The night when Washington celebrates itself. Somebody’s gotta do it!” The speech is filled with different techniques of rhetoric questions, self-depricating humour and direct references to members in the audience. It worked like a charm.

Now, this speech was created the way it was. For you, be prepared to pull the rabbits out of the hat. If audience-related humour isn’t working, you have to be flexible to jump into an anecdote. If the anecdote isn’t working, switch to self-referenced or relatable situations of humour for your audience. Be prepared to share a personal story, if your audience isn’t moved by your pure corporate results-driven slide deck.

Ultimately, be flexible and be receptive to the needs of your audience. Change it up on stage, find their sensitivities until you hit bull’s eye and you will create a speech that’s remembered forever. The legacy is all yours to create.

About the author

Sangbreeta Moitra is an award winning Keynote Speaker and Corporate Storyteller based in The Netherlands. She works with top corporates to help professionals find value, confidence and a powerful speaker & leader within themselves. Alongside, she functions in a leadership role as a Global Manager in the pharmaceutical industry. Follow her on LinkedIn here and contact her at SangbreetaMoitra.com

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