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A golden duo

Ronald Giphart and Ruud Hollander own De Bigraaf. Together they create biographies written by literary writers on behalf of (affluent) people and organizations with a special story. Here they talk about their experiences.Text: Ruud Hollander
Image: John van Helvert
Online editorial: Mical Joseph Edward Hermans thinks back to the beginning of his career with a touch of nostalgia: “We could do nothing and dared to do everything,” he remembers. By 'we' he means himself and business partner Arjen Kuijten, with whom he has formed a golden duo for almost his entire adult life.

Edward and Arjen meet when they both recently graduated and work at NIPO, the Dutch Institute for Public Opinion. Two young dogs who believe that things should be completely different at the company. They do not hide this opinion and the older generation therefore finds them quite difficult. But they persevere. Banished to the basement of the office, they develop their innovative ideas. They appear to be so successful and generate so many new customers that the management cannot ignore them. It can happen that a number of years after their stormy entrance, the two friends themselves are appointed directors of NIPO.

It is also called the 'power of two'. Journalist Rodd Wagner and pollster Gale Muller wrote a book about it in 2009. They describe how people as a duo can strengthen and encourage each other. In their words, "Many great achievements could only be accomplished because two people worked together."

'The power of two' certainly applies to Edward and Arjen. The latter calls it stacking insight: “When the two of us sit down, it's back and forth, back and forth, back and forth... In that process we bring each other further, we have had that from the beginning. had. We hold ideas and insights against each other and we validate or disprove them. Until we get to a point where we say: could this be it?” They have now tied their fate together for about thirty years. After NIPO (later TNS-NIPO) they continued together and since 2008 they have been owner/director of Leeuwendaal, a management and consultancy firm with around two hundred employees. Questions they deal with are: how do you organize an organization as best as possible, how do you cultivate leadership, how do you ensure that people are satisfied and can develop? In short: how do you ensure that your people are better tomorrow than they are today, and so is your company.

Publisher De Bigraaf was asked if we would like to make a book about Leeuwendaal. Which is of course an honorable assignment, because Arjen and Edward are fascinating figures and the way they strengthen each other is fascinating. Moreover, they have a wonderful company that deals with important issues. As a consultancy firm that specializes in healthcare, education and government, Leeuwendaal plays a role in the ins and outs of the Netherlands. They teach people to discover their strengths, where their talents lie and what gives them energy. They use this knowledge to improve both organizations and people's lives. And therefore also the world. Because my partner Ronald and I suckers are for people who want to improve the world, we thought it would be great to immerse ourselves completely in Leeuwendaal for a while.

The book will be published around this time: a beautiful portrait of a beautiful company and two special men. No men who talk about themselves and think they're great. Because even though they are giants in their field, they are not bosses who like to stand out and be the center of attention. So why this book? “Because we are proud of our company, of the people, of what we can do,” says Edward. “And maybe not so much on ourselves, but on each other.”


The spring issue of MASTERS celebrates regained freedom after two years of corona. The value of this is underlined by developments in eastern Europe, where the freedom of an entire people is at stake. We live in a new reality, but we can make plans again, go out for dinner, meet people. The world is turning again! Only: which way? Time for new bridges, new initiatives. What this edition of MASTERS offers inspiration for.