NEW YORK — Dick van Raamsdonk was only 24 when he staged his first flower trade show, in Taipei, Taiwan, in 1985. He was calm, with nerves of steel. It was when he came to his home country of Holland to put on his second show that he got stage fright.
“I was very nervous about opening a flower show in Holland, my native country,” he said at the World Floral Expo, here, almost 200 shows and three decades later.
“At home, I rushed to get dressed for the opening, started downstairs in my stocking feet, slipped and fell down a flight of stairs and broke a bone in one of my toes. Then I hobbled over to the show and opened a door into my face. That left a mark. I was black and blue in the face for that show.”
Today, 30 years and nearly 200 trade shows in 35 countries later, Mr. van Raamsdonk likens putting on flower shows to show business. “You can’t rest on your laurels with a successful show,” he said. “There’s nothing more dangerous than a successful show, because there’s a very thin line between a hit and a flop. You’re only as good as your last show. You’ve got to act as though every show is opening for the first time.”
Things have been rough the past few years during the global recession,, he acknowledged.
How did HPP deal with the recession? “We went out after new business,” he explained. “We put on new shows in Holland, Kenya and Russia.” Mr. van Raamsdonk speaks five languages, and can put on a floral trade show at the drop of the proverbial hat. “I’m used to going into a strange country and putting on a show,” he observed. “The key to a show is bringing buyers and sellers together. In an increasing digital age, nothing can replace the power of human contact.”
A native of Schijndel, Holland, a town of 23,000 near the Belgian border, Mr. van Raamsdonk got a university degree in business administration in Amsterdam. “I’m doing flowers for 29 years now, and not many people get to see so many people, so many shows in so many countries in such a short time. You get inside information to make your shows better.”
Formed in 1984, Holland Products Promotions, now HPP, has offices in Ecuador, Ethiopia, Holland and Kenya.