Know your customer!

Young BDO makes some instructive client visits

Mieke Loncke, Marketing & Communication Director BDO Belgium

The young professionals at BDO are keen to encourage a sense of connection between colleagues. But practical experience has taught them that their initiatives become even more valuable when they also involve clients. Through this cross-fertilisation, Young BDO gains a better feel for the client’s business, and the client in turn gets to know the person behind the consultant. That’s the beauty of a win-win situation!

A promise is a promise. When Nick Huysmans (Risk Advisory), Katleen Coppens (Strategy & Transformation) and Wannes Rousseau (Digital) launched Young BDO last year (read all about the organisation at, they committed to organising a (multidisciplinary) workshop, event or keynote at least once a quarter. The idea was to create a stronger sense of connection between colleagues and with the organisation as a whole. “We’ve now added an extra dimension to this,” Wannes and Katleen say. “By organising our activities on client premises as much as possible, we also get to know them and their business better and vice versa. Fun is an important factor, but the personal contact and feel for the business environment is at least as much of a motivator.”

“With the ‘Know your Client’ events, Young BDO combines pleasure with utility.”

Katleen Coppens, Junior Manager BDO Strategy & Transformation

‘Know your Client’

The concept has been named ‘Know your Client events’. It proved an instant hit when visits to Plopsaland De Panne (Studio 100), the Vandeurzen Castle Vineyard in Linden (near Leuven) and the La Ferme des Loups microbrewery in Trooz in June attracted a combined total of around 160 young BDO professionals. “It’s so important for BDO’s multidisciplinary approach and for us as colleagues to have a really good understanding of what everyone gets up to,” emphasises Gert Maris, a partner at BDO Belgium and one of the project’s mentors. “And only when you’re familiar with the feel and smell of the client’s business, so to speak, can you give them sound, business-wide advice and, where relevant, call on the support of expert colleagues in fields in which you yourself are less skilled. We make the difference at BDO by standing close to the client and understanding their business.”

“Whenever there’s a BDO event, why not consider hosting it on the premises of a client?”

Wannes Rousseau, Junior Manager BDO Digital

“We also spread the events across the country and choose clients to which we offer complementary services.” By this, Wannes means that “we ensure that the services we provide are different for each client. In this way, young BDO professionals from different fields come into contact with practice in a variety of business lines and sectors.”

Great added value

Are the clients also open to this kind of events? “Nobody has ever said no when we’ve asked,” Katleen laughs. “For them too, our visit means great added value, as we have learned from past events. They really like it that BDO doesn’t just show up when the client has a question or for business matters. Just the fact that young BDO professionals make time outside their working hours to get to know the client better comes across as very positive and engaged.”

“The closer we are to the client, the more we distinguish ourselves from our competitors.”

Wannes Rousseau, Junior Manager BDO Digital

“It’s definitely a win-win situation,” Wannes continues. “We get a better feel for their business world, while they experience the human corporate culture at BDO first hand and get to know the person behind the consultant. The closer we are to the client, the more we distinguish ourselves from our competitors.” Reactions from colleagues who took part suggest that Young BDO could “put even more emphasis on the business side of the event”. To pick one example, here is Aubry De Pauw’s reaction: “The event was a successful way of making closer networking possible, both with colleagues and with the client. The idea of linking the fun part of the event to the business case is a good one, but could be even more instructive if we encouraged the client to explain their business model and strategy.” An important lesson learned that Young BDO will take into account in the future.

Call to all colleagues

Given the success of the ‘Know your Client’ concept, Young BDO is calling on colleagues of other generations to apply the concept as well. “Whenever there’s a BDO event, why not consider hosting it on the premises of a client?” Wannes muses. “It requires little or no extra effort and the return on investment is certain. Provided, of course, that it can be meaningful and cost-efficient.”

“It should be everyone’s first instinct to think about how we can involve clients in every activity, where feasible,” Katleen concludes. “You would be amazed at how many activities are suited to this. And how willingly clients will respond. So do it!”