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Unusually relaxed and undemonstrative for a business leader, Ben Noteboom insists that he’s not obsessed with work. But the chairman and CEO of staffing giant Randstad Holding keeps charging ahead in a fiercely competitive industry.

Since Noteboom took over in 2003, Randstad has nearly tripled its annual revenue, to €14.2 billion ($19.7 billion) last year. It’s now the world’s second-biggest human resources provider after Switzerland-based Adecco. Much of this expansion has come from mergers and acquisitions, especially the 2008 takeover of Dutch rival Vedior — then the No. 4 player globally — in a €3.3 billion deal.

But Noteboom, 53, also excels at driving organic growth, almost single-handedly at times. In 1997 he set up Randstad Inhouse Services from scratch to provide on-site human resources services. At first, sitting in an eerily quiet office with only a secretary reporting to him, Noteboom wondered if he’d made a big mistake. But the unit delivered more than €2 billion in revenue last year.

To offset economic cycles in what is often a low-margin business, Amsterdam-based Randstad’s broadly successful strategy has been to push up volumes. During the first six months of 2011, revenue jumped 17 percent over the same period last year, to €7.6 billion. The earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization margin was only 3.4 percent, compared with 3 percent in the first half of 2010.

Founded in 1960 by Ger Daleboudt and Frits Goldschmeding — the latter is still its top shareholder, with a 30 percent stake — Randstad has some 27,500 employees and roughly 4,200 offices. Temporary staffing across most sectors, about 40 percent of it blue-collar, makes up the bulk of its business; on any given day it deploys half a million workers under the brands Randstad, Rowlands International and Tempo-Team. But fees for permanent placements yield an outsize share of profits: 10 percent, compared with less than 2 percent of revenue.

Picking up Vedior gave the group much more clout in the higher-margin professionals market, as did September’s acquisition of Fort Lauderdale, Florida–based SFN Group, which specializes in sectors such as finance and information technology.

Noteboom points to four trends that will help keep Randstad’s business thriving. First, employers want more flexibility in their staffing. Second, as the number of working-age people in Europe declines, companies will be chasing a smaller pool of workers, whom they can entice into changing jobs more often. Third, deregulation is gaining momentum throughout the European Union and should increase demand for temporary employment. Last, employers are looking for one-stop staffing solutions.