Niels de Ruiter is an investment professional at Committed Capital, and a former independent freelance consultant. In this article, we explore Niels' adventurous and entrepreneurial experiences that have permeated his personal and professional life since his studies.
Tell us something about yourself and your background
I did a MSc. in Accounting & Control in Rotterdam. As a side-hustle I co-founded a wooden sunglasses business with friends. While demand was high, production presented challenges. It was my first entrepreneurial experience and planted a seed. After closing the company, I pursued a second master’s in Financial Law and I started an internship at Soestdijk Capital (predecessor of Committed Capital), which confirmed my affinity for the field of finance.
I took a step away from finance after that and worked for two years as a ski instructor. Ready for the next challenge, I joined Lindenaar & Co Corporate Finance. This corporate finance boutique allowed me the freedom to engage with a wide range of exciting avenues for six years. I had the opportunity to explore my own role and value add in transactions. During this time I was able to work closely with many entrepreneurs.
Why did you decide to quit your job?
I left my job due to new ambitions and a desire for adventure. A compelling dream began to consume my thoughts: embarking on a sailing trip around the world. Initially, my girlfriend had no plans to join me, but as the plan became more concrete and I started searching for a boat, she quit her job and joined me on this adventure. Ultimately, I was away for 1.5 years. I spent three months working remotely in the mountains while ski touring and mountain climbing every day, another 1.5 months preparing the boat, and then setting off for a year. It was an indescribable feeling of freedom, autonomy, and a close connection to nature.
Despite the desire to stay away longer, something unsettled me, perhaps the challenges of deviating from the conventional path. Upon our return, my girlfriend and I started from scratch, having given up everything - including home and jobs. Rebuilding meant a period of hustling. We purchased a new boat to live in and anchored in Schellingwoude, where we can maintain a connection to nature while enjoying the amenities and pleasures of Amsterdam. Living quarters were secured, however, my place of work was yet to be determined. After I discovered Sweav through a LinkedIn post, I met with Joeri and was quickly welcomed in the Sweav community.
How is working on projects as a freelance consultant different from working at an advisory firm?
It was never part of my plan to become a strategy freelancer, so I had to take some time to adjust, especially to working independently instead of being part of a team. However, the advantages began to show. It’s an extremely fulfilling feeling to bring in clients on your own, deliver quality work yourself - the sense of accomplishment. An additional benefit of frelancing is the earning potential, relative to being on payroll. And, finally, there is the diversity in environments and projects.
Being a freelance consultant enables me to gather knowledge from various parties, comparing cultures, and different work approaches. This comes in very handy when browsing for further career opportunities. I came from an advisory firm, but through freelancing I was able to enter PE firms and discovered my interest in this sector. Because I realized I wanted to immerse myself in PE, I started working at Committed Capital. I take pride in coming in with an entrepreneurial spirit.
What is the biggest misconception people have about being a strategy / M&A freelancer?
A misconception is that people think you stop learning as a freelancer; that’s not true. I also received assignments that I had never done before, but if you approach them with an entrepreneurial mentality and teach yourself new things, you actually learn a lot.
What is your endgame career wise?
The allure of entrepreneurship always remains. That is why I have decided to start a new chapter in my career and gain experience in private equity. Compared to M&A advisory, private equity comes with more entrepreneurial tasks and responsibilities. It’s not just about transactions; it’s about adding significant value as well. That’s why my current focus is on gaining extensive experience and learning rapidly in a short period of time.
What would be your advice for people considering going freelance?
The aspect of leaving; quitting your job, giving up your home: there is always a reason not to do it. Ultimately, you just have to bite the bullet. Yes, there is always an awkward phase, and it’s not necessarily the path of least resistance. But something beautiful always emerges from it.