The secret behind Emma Handson: 30 years of innovative approaches for clients

30 January

In its 30 years of existence, Emma Handson has grown from one freelance secretary to an innovative company with 80 employees and a complete range of secretarial services. What is the secret behind the company? We spoke with the two women who led the company to success: founder Joos Geerts and her successor, current managing director Franka van Dommelen. We unravel the secret using keywords that characterise the company.

The beginning

Franka began working for the company, then called E‑Way Out, 15 years ago. The company was founded by Joos Geerts in 1993. “Actually, it started a little earlier than that,” explains Joos. “I started in 1989 as a freelance minutes secretary at home in Haghorts. I was keen to start working again after leaving my job as a secretary when I had my first child. At that time, it was still common in the Brabant countryside, but I wanted to do more than just be a mother. In 1993, in addition to taking minutes, I got my first remote secretarial assignment and founded the company.”


“Mobile dictation was the focus of the company, right?” Franka recalls. “True,” says Joos. “It was a few years later. In 1995, the internet started becoming more popular, and I found this a very interesting development. I remembered the typing rooms where secretaries worked out tapes and realised that there were now digital products for this: the digital Dictaphone, internet and e‑mail. I combined these and created a new service: the Digital Secretary. It sounds very simple now, but back then, it was really something new. In 1998, we won the People’s Choice Price of the Telework Awards with it!”

Work independent of time and place

The digital service caught on and Joos moved the company from her home office to Biest‑Houtakker in 2002. “There we had much more office space, but actually we never really needed it because we were increasingly working more digitally,” says Joos. “We hired more people, but they worked from home and did not need to come to the office very often.”

“In this respect, the company was also ahead of its time,” Franka adds. “Actually, only now, after the Corona pandemic, has working from home become much more common. But, we were already offering services independent of time and location back then.”

Siezing opportunities

Franka speaks of ‘we’, because this is when her story begins. She was hired in 2008 to help set up the HR department. “I was studying at the Hamburg Conservatory and was only supposed to work here part‑time for nine months. But, that turned out differently,” Franka laughs. “After a few months, Joos asked me to take over a sales call. I always considered myself to be more reserved, but, like everything else that came my way at the company, I seized the opportunity with both hands.”

“That is exactly what I saw in Franka,” Joos says. “She takes hold of the opportunity and goes for it. I do not know if I said it out loud at the time, but I immediately had the idea that if there was ever a successor, Franka could be it. That this would happen so quickly, I could not have imagined it.”


Things did indeed turn out differently than Joos intended, as illness forced her to take a step back. As a result, plans to start a European franchise from Spain did not get off the ground, and Franka, also because of her great commitment to the company, took on an increasingly important role. “In 2008, we won the Ewerk prize for mobile dictation,” Franka remembers. “That was the first time I represented the company.” Soon after, E‑Way Out moved to Tilburg. “The main reason was that we could get a fast internet connection in Tilburg; there was not yet a fast connection in Biest‑Houtakker. You can’t imagine that now, can you? It is actually quite funny: the development of our company evolved alongside the growth of the internet.”


The company now had about 20 employees, and under Franka’s leadership, the company has grown to almost 80 employees as of today. “In any growth spurt, you have a choice between consolidation and innovation,” explains Joos. “If that entrepreneurial spirit is in you, as it was with Franka and me, and you see opportunities, you pursue that and choose to innovate.”

“I was young and above all, I wanted to continue to serve clients and for colleagues to continue working,” says Franka. “I wanted us to be able to continue our valued services.” That attitude led to more innovation and growth, which to this day has been recognised with six FD Gazellen Awards and a nomination in both the top 250 growing companies and the Netherlands’ most vital companies.

Picking up and moving on

“Because Joss was ill, I started taking over the business,” Franka describes the situation. “I saw what needed to be done and went for it. I dove right into the work. I did sales, but I also worked on manuals and, where necessary, I typed out dictations. This way, I could carry out acquisitions based on the content. An example? I approached Paul Laseur at a conference and was then invited to talk about our company live on BNR Radio. This helped us get our first major client for minute-taking, a pension fund.”

“Franka was thrown into the deep end,” acknowledges Joos. “But, I love how she did it and how she still runs the company today.”

Top quality services
“Actually, it was typical,” explains Joos. “I started taking minutes, but in the early 2000s, there was no demand for it at all. It was great that Franka saw opportunities for this again after the economic crisis (2008‑2012) and that minute taking became the trigger for explosive growth.”

“Indeed, we were not doing a lot of minute-taking at that time,” says Franka. “But, there was a demand for it, so we took it on. I was on top of it: the service had to be top‑notch, and that is exactly what it was. Through word‑of‑mouth and, of course, acquisitions, we were able to welcome more pension funds as clients for our minutes services and now, we are really specialists in that field.”

The client’s right hand

In early 2019, Franka also set up a separate department for assisting, in addition to services for reporting, editing and minute-taking. Franka: “We had always been active in providing secretarial support, but from 2019 onwards, I deliberately focused on that. I hired the right people, recruited clients and further developed ourselves as Assistants in the broadest sense of the word, from executive assistant to strategic business partner. Helping other companies build and grow their businesses brings us joy. We want to offer a complete service for secretarial and textual support. That is why we also offer translation services, minutes in English and advising companies on if, how, and which support is best for them. Everything to give the client peace of mind!”


Everything to give the client peace of mind; is that Emma Handson’s secret? “That is definitely an important part,” confirms Franka. “I never want dissatisfied clients. We say ‘yes’ as much as possible, always deliver quality and are always quick. We are hands‑on. That is also why I changed the name from E‑Way Out to Emma Handson when I became managing director in 2015. We then moved from Tilburg to Vught. I wanted to be more centrally located in the country, so close to Den Bosch, and increase the search area for new employees. We were – and still are‑ growing and the Tilburg office was becoming too small. The PAs may still work mostly remotely for our clients, but often work from our office so that they can share knowledge with each other.”

Joss recognises the hands‑on mentality: “We both take on the opportunities that come our way. You respond to what is in demand and that is how you create your offerings.”

Always learning

“What is also important is that we are always learning as a company,” says Franka. “Things can and must always be better. That is the mentality I was taught as a professional musician: always bring out the best in yourself. Sometimes, we were even too ahead of ourselves. Did you know that we had the first app for Mobile Dictation back in 2014? But, in those years, very few people had smartphones. In 2018, when there was a demand for an app, we were able to move very quickly and redeveloped the app. We continue to improve the Mobile Dictation app to stay innovative. In fact, a completely new version recently went live.”

The secret unravelled

So, that’s the secret: although it is about the company’s past, the keywords discussed still apply. “That’s right,” says Joos. “The company has grown, but I still remember the basics. My motto was: ‘people, planet, profit’. People always come first. You need profit to run a healthy business, but that has never been my main driver, nor Franka’s.”

“True,” confirms Franka. “We are making an impact through the volunteer projects we are now participating in, such as Kletsmaatjes. I am delighted that we have the opportunity to help people inside and outside the organisation.”

Looking to the future

So can we continue like this for another 30 years? “Definitely!” says Franka. “We continue to grow, which allows us to innovate, and at the same time, we want to continue to feel like a small organisation for our clients, which moves with them and responds quickly. The same also applies for employees: it should feel like a small team, where we all lean on each other to achieve great results. With the professionalism we now have AND the 30 years of experience, we are ready for the future.” Do you want to help grow Emma Handson’s success? In our growing organisation, we are constantly looking for people who are innovative and who identify with our hands‑on mentality. Check out our vacancies. Would you like to learn more about the services we offer? We would be happy to tell you more. Contact us by calling +31 (0)73 747 00 54, emailing or click here

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