With a combined experience of almost 80 years of working in the United States, two of the pillars of Atlanta’s international communities are collaborating to enhance their executive search services.
Bernard Vanderlande, managing partner of Tula International and a former president of the Netherlands-American Chamber of Commerce for the Southeastern U.S., has announced that Dr. Eike Jordan, the founder of the German American Chamber of Commerce of the Southern U.S., has joined the company as a senior adviser.
Both are U.S. citizens while Mr. Vanderlande retains his citizenship with his native Netherlands as does Dr. Jordan with Germany.
And both have held front row seats as witnesses of Atlanta’s development from a regional center into its current status as an aspiring commercial hub to be a global business, cultural and educational center.
They also share an evident optimism about the Southeast’s prospects for attracting international investment, which is reminiscent of the boosterism that captured the 1996 Summer Olympics held in Atlanta.
Reflecting on the 1990s, Dr. Jordan told Global Atlanta that the Olympics “put Atlanta on the map,” providing “a huge push” in the widespread realization that the city could realize goals that were almost unimaginable beforehand.
Mr. Vanderlande agreed that the Olympic experience was important in enabling it to promote its strengths, but also forced public officials and business executives to become more introspective about its limitations as a global center. A glaring example, both cited, were the difficulties such as those faced at the time when trying to exchange foreign currencies.
A sense of adventure brought each to the city, which has vindicated their choice as the location to develop their professional careers. Their motivation, however, differed, they acknowledged in an interview at Tula International’s office in Buckhead
Mr. Vanderlande recalled what he termed “a wrenching time” in the Netherlands during his student days in the 1970s while there were widespread movements to create a more socialistic society.
“I came from a family of entrepreneurs,” he said. “I always knew that I would be involved in business and would try to build a company. There were a lot of questions about capitalism, but I wanted to be in business.”
When he had the opportunity to take a temporary position at a chemical plant in Chamblee, he took it, eventually enrolling at Oglethorpe University and then going on to the University of North Carolina for a master’s in business administration.
Dr. Jordan following receiving a master’s degree in economics from the University in Bonn and a doctorate in economics from the University of Dortmund was working at the Association of German Industry and Trade in Bonn.
He came to Atlanta in 1978 when he had the opportunity to establish and direct the Southeastern chapter of the German American Chamber of Commerce, which was headquartered in New York.
Once his academic credentials were in hand, Mr. Vanderlande launched in 1983 an export company based in Stone Mountain that was primarily focused on Western Europe. In the early 1990s, however, he landed important contracts through the World Bank for projects in Nigeria, Romania and Poland, providing him with a platform to bid for similar projects around the world.
In 1997, his company continued to be awarded World Bank and United Nations-related development contracts and had won a $13 million grant to supply some 5,000 personal computers to elementary schools in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Then President Clinton learned of this initiative while traveling in Brazil, he praised the project as “good for the students and good the Stone Mountain company and its workers.”
In the early 2000s, however, grant procedures at the international lending agencies changed and foreign governments made it more difficult for U.S. companies to acquire these contracts.
After having built a company which had managed a wide variety of projects successfully around the world and then experiencing the shift in grant procedures, Mr. Vanderlande had to reinvent himself. Benefiting from his exposure to global markets and business practices, he focused on executive recruitment.
He started Tula International’s executive search service in 2010 with a focus on energy, clean tech and advanced manufacturing and remains involved in these sectors as managing director.
Over the course of the past six years, Mr. Vanderlande has placed dozens of senior executives for companies from around the world including locals such as the Southern Company, which serves the Southeast region.
“Today’s workforce is a melting pot,” he is fond of saying, “especially in companies based outside the U.S. Chief executives must know how to harmonize teams with diverse backgrounds so that they can work effectively. The best way is to start with leadership.”
Both Mr. Vanderlande and Dr. Jordan agreed that the main challenge of the executive search business is to understand all the variables that a company’s executive will face and provide the right “fit” for the company.
“You can’t rely on a resume any more,” Mr. Vanderlande said. “You have to have the right fit for the company. That’s where the rubber hits the road.”
Both are optimistic about the prospects for future business, praising the quality of life as well as the opportunities for foreign firms in the Southeast. They also were positive about Atlanta’s role as the commercial center for the growing region.
Foreign direct investment, they said, is bound to continue at a fast clip and they are joining forces to double their efforts. “Having Eike join our firm will clearly strengthen our work with European companies,” Mr. Vanderlande said. “His experience and credibility will help our firm.”
Dr. Jordan is no less serious than Mr. Vanderlande about the need for foreign executives to be sensitive to different cultural mores.
After having launched the German chamber, he started his own company, Jordan Inter Consult & Associates, in 1985, and followed up with Jordan Inter Start Inc., an incubator company for foreign firms coming to the U.S. In 1989, he extended his efforts to include an executive search arm.
He called his success with more than 60 overseas clients as a “Dutch uncle” — perhaps poking a little fun at Mr. Vanderlande’s origins — for his cost efficient methods ranging from inventory control to shipping and receiving.
Both he and Mr. Vanderlande will be working with small- to medium-sized companies often owned by a single family that will have to put up a substantial investment to be successful in the Southeast. These sorts of companies’ commitment, he added, demand that they be extremely well-managed by especially qualified executives.
While establishing his presence in the region, Dr. Jordan also has been a committed community activist. As co-founder, past president and honorary board member of the German School of Atlanta, he as awarded Germany’s Cross of the Order of Merit.
He also was chosen by Claus M. Halle, the former senior executive vice president of the Coca-Cola Co., as successor trustee and chairman of the board of the Halle Foundation, which fosters friendship and understanding between the American and German people.
In addition, he is a long-time member of the German Cultural Center and has served as president, chairman and board member of the German American Chamber of Commerce here.
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