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Deeply passionate about their product, innovative with their design and forward thinking with their marketing and development, Outstanding Tents is one of the newest tent manufacturers to spring out of Europe from their native home in the Netherlands.
We were fortunate enough to speak with one of their founders Robin van Kooten. In charge of advice and sales he stands at the forefront of the business, seeing changes and developments in both brand and client tastes ahead of others.
HOW IT BEGAN
Officially, Outstanding Tents launched in 2014, but Robin explains that to really understand the roots of the business we need to look at the year 2009. This was the year when the man who would become his co-founder started importing tents from Pakistan. Erik already had a couple of businesses under his belt, and after a single container of tents sold out faster than he expected he knew there was a definite demand for the product.
The pair of them do motocross together and it was during an after-ride beer that Robin heard the full story himself. After the success of the first year’s tent sales Erik was keen to repeat it and had ordered two containers the second time.
“The second containers had even more sales,” Robin says, “However he wasn’t satisfied with the quality because clients were complaining that the tents had become mouldy and rusty over the course of a year. Also, there were delays on the second container which arrived half way through the season.”
The website he was running at the time (www.safaritenten.com) was generating a great deal of interest and Erik, concerned about the quality of his tents severed ties with the Pakistani company and found better and more reliable suppliers for his growing pool of clients.
“Right at the start quality was and remains the most important element of our business,” Robin says, “Our clients have to be 100% satisfied and that soon became the foundation of everything that we are built on.”
Erik started expanding and working with different companies and the demand on his website continued to grow. Naturally, as would be the case with any serial entrepreneur, he soon became interested in expanding the business and this was largely what the famous beer after the motocross was about.
“He wanted someone to help him expand the company and grow the quality,” Robin says, “I was interested because I had been working for five years in a family owned business revolving around the sales of vans and trucks and I wanted a change. So, I quit my job and we founded Outstanding Tents at the end of 2014.”
Treating the new business like an entirely new entity they started developing new products that were mainly produced in Southern or Central Europe, and they began developing their own tents.
“It was an exciting time starting from scratch,” Robin says, “New designs, new exteriors and new looks. We were able to start doing our own things, getting bits and pieces ourselves and assembling them in the Netherlands.”
A millennial company in every sense of the word, keeping Outstanding Tent present and relevant in the digital media has come naturally. Combine this natural instinct of social connection and communication with the perfectly timed flood of Glamping Mania, and, as Robin puts it, “Things have gone crazy.”
In the first year they grew 400% and since then have grown regularly by 100% each year. Employing ten full time staff members with an additional forty coming in each season to help with the peaks. But such expansive growth does come with its own problems.
“Our demand went beyond our capacity to keep up,” Robin admits. He goes on to reveal that while this is always a good problem to have to deal with, it did present them with the dilemma of businesses versus quality.
“Our clients come from one of the most publicised and media facing sectors in the world, hospitality,” he says, “We have to factor in that a client’s satisfaction is based on the awe and appreciation of their guests. Because of this we have to do whatever it takes to reach our standards of quality.”
To ensure that the hotels, the glamping and camping sites and the many other businesses relying on Outstanding Tents are never disappointed, Robin explains that they have decided to only aim for a 35% growth this year. This forms part of a plan to move to a new facility and grow their backend to support the front.
HOW FAR SHOULD YOU TAKE A QUALITY GUARANTEE?
So, what would be the outcome if a client wasn’t 100% satisfied with a product? Robin had a simple answer for that, “When we say that we put our quality guarantee ahead of everything we really do mean it,” he says, “If a customer isn’t 100% happy with a product and if it cannot be improved upon, let’s say with repair or redesign, we will take the tent back and refund them their money.”
He admits that this approach has been problematic in the past and sometimes, in the early chapters of their business, it cost them a lot of money but the prevailing philosophy in the business has always done them better in the end.
“We don’t want any unsatisfied customers,” he says, “Not one. We work with clients needing permanent tent structures and this is what we want to offer, permanent quality.”
This year they are introducing insulated safari tents which can be used all year round. It isn’t easy to achieve though as highly insulated tent fabrics tend to get mouldy due to condensation. After a lengthy period of intensive research and development to find the most cost-effective means of doing so, they decided to start a concept redesign. This included introducing elements of rustic cabins to the tent. Ergo, the inner tent is made of wooden panels allowing for reliable insulation and stability while the exterior remains a tent.
Over and above that they are also designing a new range of modern interiors for their tents which are being worked on now and will be introduced in 2020. This new development will fit in well with their one-stop-shop approach where they take care of all the details. From the moment they approach the business for advice to the moment the installation is complete.
With remarkable success in the early years of the business, one of the philosophies of Robin and his fellow directors is to keep a current eye on new developments and being realistic about their own chances in the market.
“Ultimately it can be a bit of a guess, but it is so important to take chances and try new things,” he says, “Part of making this work is listening to the various sales agents we have in seven countries. Those markets are really interesting, and we pay attention to them and have done exhibitions in most those countries.”
He highlights that listening to the agents has been so useful because they are the front line of their business in these areas. Also, they are very active and keen to help the business progress further just like their other staff.
“It’s really a pleasure to work with them and to discuss in an open manner what the growth potential for our business is,” Robin says, “Ultimately, we want to make sure that we always live up to our brand’s name and this is how we do it.”
TELEPHONE NUMBER: +31 318 575 056