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Richard Oosterhuis, managing director of Working Spirit

‘With Unica, I have a clear feeling that ‘my baby’ is in good hands’

Working Spirit seconds specialists in the field of Software Development (.NET and Java), IT infrastructure, cloud solutions and Data & Analytics. In 2018, the company sold more than half its shares to investment company Antea. But when Unica came knocking in 2021, the management – consisting of managing director Richard Oosterhuis, marketing manager Frans Scheuneman and commercial director Jurgen Spoor – saw far more opportunities for growth. What followed was an acquisition. Since 2022, Working Spirit has been part of the Unica ICT Solutions cluster.

Snowball effect

Working Spirit was founded twenty years ago by Richard Oosterhuis and his wife Nancy, who came up with the name for the company, in Deventer. Working Spirit originally specialised in recruitment and selection. But the focus soon shifted to IT secondment. In his own words, Richard is genetically predisposed to be an entrepreneur. “I had a good job with Deutsche Telekom, but wanted to start something for myself, and to be honest, I thought I could do things better. I re-mortgaged by house, bought a cheap car and a laptop and we started: just get that ball rolling!”

“The first eighteen months were really hard work,” says Richard, looking back. “I asked myself time and again, are we going to make it? Because one thing that never stops are the costs. In the meantime, I doggedly kept on sowing seeds with a real sense of confidence. And suddenly the contracts started rolling in. It quickly snowballed and Working Spirit was a real success. We continue to achieve progression on all fronts, almost every year, and our numbers are still growing.”

‘This is a win-win situation: Unica has access to ICT talent and we can achieve our growth strategy‘

Richard Oosterhuis, managing director of Working Spirit

Close-knit team

The IT sector is a fast-moving world, with new developments constantly overtaking each other. That makes it all the more remarkable that the strength of Working Spirit has remained unchanged for two decades: the people. “Your staff are your most important asset,” says Richard. “And we have a close-knit team of fantastic people! Intelligent men and – unfortunately far fewer women – who wish to make a real impact, and are willing to share their opinions; we have no yes-men (or women) at Working Spirit. Everyone has the drive to make the organisation better. And that is something we attempt to facilitate as far as possible. With a flat organisation, attractive orders, a great deal of personal freedom, humour and the culture of a family-run business. We are good at small, personal gifts, and every two years the whole company goes off on a fun trip.”

The Working Spirit Foundation, the vehicle for the IT secondment company’s investments in goals and activities that contribute to a sustainable future, is of real added value in that respect. As Richard explains, “We started the foundation in the first place because of our desire to contribute to a better world for our children and grandchildren. We are now seeing that the Foundation helps us stand out on the market; it is one of the reasons new colleagues are keen to join us.”

Working Spirit Academy

Richard recognises the importance of employees feeling comfortable and involved in the organisation. “Certainly for a secondment company, where the majority of employees work off premises, it is essential that the staff maintain their ties with the company. Also because there is such a high turnover rate in ICT, and because of the shortages on the labour market.”

For that very reason, Working Spirit launched its own training programme in 2014: the Working Spirit Academy. As Richard explains, “We were facing the difficulty of attracting enough good people. Customers want graduates from university or from universities of applied sciences with an IT background, but they are thin on the ground. In response, we started retraining smart, analytical people and job switchers to meet the specific needs of our customers. This was something no one else was doing and it became a huge success. And demand continues to grow. More and more organisations – including financial institutions and technology companies like Unica – need experienced IT specialists.” According to Richard, Unica’s acquisition of Working Spirit represents a win-win situation. “Through us, Unica has direct access to ICT talent, and we can achieve our intended growth strategy with the customers of Unica’s network of companies.”

In good hands

Richard is particularly attracted by the idea that just like Working Spirit, Unica is working to create a sustainable world and stands out for its ‘heart for people’. “We wanted to be part of an organisation that is honest and engaged and that shared our chemistry. Unica has been following us from the side lines for more than ten years, and they had done their homework well. The way they approached us was pleasant too: personal and informal, no beating about the bush and with a clear story, that enabled us to retain our own company culture. We all felt happy and at the end of the day that is more important than money. After all, Working Spirit is very much my brainchild, and with Unica I feel that my baby is in good hands.”