© Illustration | ebm-papst, Gernot Walter

International “desk exchange” shows valuable competencies

Two employees exchanged their desks in 2007


Live in the world, and be at home in Germany. With 17 production sites and 57 sales offices in 50 countries, ebm-papst operates a diverse sales network with branches in many corners of the globe. But the company’s roots are deeply embedded in its South German native soil — in Mulfingen, St. Georgen and Landshut.

As a global citizen originating from Germany, ebm-papst wants to become expert in the multifaceted aspects of global markets and also embed this global thinking in its parent company. The formula for this is called “Global Domestic”: ebm-papst is present in every country as a national company with primarily national employees. Customers will therefore always receive advice from familiar contact persons who, in turn, are closely networked to the employees in the German headquarters.

Thomas Borst, Group Sales Managing Director, sees this as being the key to worldwide markets: “Business transactions are always based upon the personal interchange between people”. And this applies equally for the communication and understanding between colleagues. For instance, Andreas Gerlinger the project engineer from Mulfingen and Alessandro Masotto the technical manager of the Italian subsidiary in Mozzate (Lombardy) exchanged their desks in the summer of 2007 so that they could familiarise themselves better with the work and environment of their colleague for ten months. This German-Italian switch-over was initiated by Thomas Borst who gives his emphatic support to job rotation beyond national boundaries: “The proverbial look beyond one’s nose, understanding of foreign markets and customs is extremely helpful, in particular for our colleagues in sales.” In addition to cognitive competencies such as practical experience and background knowledge, Borst also places value upon intercultural management competencies such as communication skills, sensitivity and tolerance when dealing with foreign cultures. Options for foreign visits or a visit to the German headquarters are flexible and oriented upon individual situations. A stay in a foreign country for several months is not always necessary, some employees need only a four-week “introductory stay” to extend their personal horizon.

“There is less moaning in Italy”

Andreas Gerlinger, 33, is the project engineer for Europe sales and has been with the company since January 2000

Alessandro Masotto, 38, is the technical manager of the Italian subsidiary and has been working at ebm-papst since 1996

Where did you have your greatest difficulties at adjusting in the beginning?

Andreas Gerlinger: Everything went without problems, the Italian colleagues gave me their help and advice throughout the entire stay. I only actually had problems after work, with the traffic for instance…

Alessandro Masotto: I realised how important the language is. My proficiency in German was unfortunately not good enough at the beginning to do my job in the way I actually wanted to do it. But it improved every day.

What was your greatest impression during your stay in a foreign country? What were your best experiences?

Gerlinger: I was impressed by the great flexibility and the colleagues’ attitude in the subsidiary, and that every type of customer problem is taken seriously. The customer is king in Mozzate, and customers also appreciate this.

Masotto: My contact to the colleagues in the Development Department was extremely interesting, I learnt a lot about the technology and the philosophy of our products. And the look at Production and how problems are dealt with there was also very instructive.

What do you consider to be the major difference between the work in Germany and in Italy?

Gerlinger: There is less moaning in Italy. The Italians are also very flexible and, contrary to a frequent prejudice, they are sometimes also considerably faster.

Masotto: There is less moaning in Italy. The Italians are also very flexible and, contrary to a frequent prejudice, they are sometimes also considerably faster.

How did your way of working change during your stay in a foreign country?

Gerlinger: As I know the colleagues and work operations in the subsidiary, I can understand much better and do not have to ask further questions about small things. Also, I now tend to lift up the phone rather than send an e-mail. This is faster and therefore prevents many a misunderstanding.

Masotto: I have learnt very much about how ebm-papst thinks and acts, and I have a more detailed view upon the work operations and requirements in the German headquarters. This reduces friction when working together, and it is a great aid to me in providing even better service to my customers.

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