[Column] Male or female? Does it really matter? There is only one single business – to know the customer! | Plastika Skaza d.o.o.
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[Column] Male or female? Does it really matter? There is only one single business – to know the customer!

26.04.2017

The year 2008 was truly one of the turning points. For me, for Igor, and for the entire company. The time of the economic crisis, redundancies, many sad faces and emotional moments. A company with no future and vision?

It was that year, when I gave birth to my second son. And when he turned two months I was faced with the fact that the process of making employees redundant in the company was inevitable. While I could have been enjoying all the wonderful moments with my young children and loved ones, I had to reduce the number of employees from 120 to 93. Can you imagine the feeling of a mommy being emotional and happy after the birth, but then these emotions turn in another direction?

The management board was made up exclusively of men's team. Igor needed me in those times of crisis, but then again he did not want to put any excessive burden on my shoulders during pregnancy. As I brought passion and sense of leadership with me from my previous job, I consciously decided to take over the responsibility and change our future.

My first decision was to run the business. Igor believed, that I could do it and that I was capable of successfully carrying out those inevitable measures in order to overcome the crisis. Firstly, my biggest challenge was to improve employee satisfaction. It was necessary to establish a clear vision for the future. With a team of seven men gathered at a crisis meeting, we decided that it was necessary to face the truth and learn about the possible impact of the recession on our future along with the future of our Skaza company.

Let me show my sincere gratitude to all my colleagues that accepted me among them at that particular time and were willing to let go of the male ego. What is more, they helped me set up a new organizational structure. We started to analyze the past and examine all the mistakes that had been done so, as to no longer repeat them.

We were aware of the fact, that, in order for a company to be successful we had to build at least four good pillars, i.e. quality, production, customer care, and technology. And that each and every manager needs to take over responsibility and begin to work with due diligence.

We were there for one another by being supportive, trusting one another, and believing that we can have a better future.

I, alone, decided to take over the reins and work on the organization within the company. It was of great importance to face with the mindset and views of customers. It was necessary to ask them whether or not they see the future with us. I needed a strong, powerful person, who would be able to establish such a relationship with customers where they could talk openly.

Ana Laura Rednak was who I chose.

I chose her because of the sparkles in her eyes, because of the incredible desire to succeed, and because I knew, that she was able to comprehend my advice regarding improvement as a challenge rather than a burden. She was extremely persistent; the only thing missing was a strategic view of building a partnership with customers.

Laura was faced with an important challenge. To meet one of our biggest customers, Landis & Gyr. She had about a week to study all the details about the largest multinational corporation with a field of business that is completely male. Her task was to learn all about our technology, products, and materials, past stories of good practice, production processes, cycles, and the customer's presence on the market. 

The aim was to have a sovereign appearance in front of our customer and to present all the necessary knowledge for them to recognize us as partners rather than only manufacturers. Did we want it? No. But we had to find out, whether or not we could continue with them. Or was there a possibility that our revenue would drop even if we had them?

She was forced to learn about the entire history of the company and talk with the biggest experts and top managers of Landis & Gyr. I wanted her to represent herself with her expertise, knowledge, and sovereignty.

While Laura was waiting to get on the plane, I called her and asked if she could do it. She replied calmly: »Everything will be okay.«

I was waiting anxiously for her to call me back and deep-down I knew, that she was able to pull it off. That everything was as it should be. However, I admit, I was scared.

In the evening, the phone rang and Laura told me: »Tanja, we are going to work even better with Landis & Gyr, if we know their needs and develop the strategy together. «

She talked about an amazing experience with excitement, but she did not forget to mention the anxiousness and fear of the outcome. She talked to the greatest experts, such as John, Gary, Neill, Joe, Dieter, Ugo, and others. It was her honor to be able to sit by their side.

She confessed, that it was difficult. Despite being a woman, they did not take it easy on her. When it comes to business, there are no male and female negotiations. It is only about the figures, knowledge and business ingenuity. It never happens that the most intelligent wins, but the one that is the most persistent and has the right, strong arguments.

It was then when Laura got her wings. She wanted to become one of them. She got the vigor and realized how nice it was to work in the field of technology industry. She also learned that gaining knowledge from the best experts can only bring advantages. She accepted that it takes a lot of contribution and sacrifices if you want to create a story like theirs.

After she had got to know the customer and faced them, their depths, needs, and desires, it was the ideal time to start building a real partnership. Knowing the customer and having a good relationship with them is the most important. 

A few years later, with the help of Laura, we were also able to achieve that. We developed a real partnership and were no longer in a producer-buyer relationship. Instead, we work in synergy, i.e. partner – partner.

When I ask Laura today about what feelings she had back then, she answers that what inspired her most was my confidence in her and the freedom to make decisions. She has an ability to perfectly integrate into the customer's company and back up every answer with knowledge. The aim is what counts for her.

Today I look at her and I smile. I smile because I know that good multinational corporations trust us, as they know that we delve into their problems and try to help them to the best of our ability.

But then Laura says that she acknowledges most when a customer tells her: »Laura. But you are Skaza!« With no professional knowledge about technology industry in the past, today she builds partnerships with multinational corporations.

And today Laura represents the power of Skaza trademark.

I would like to share her three tips with you:
  • You can live your femininity even in a man's world. You do not need to pretend. Everybody appreciates individual authenticity and, if we are able to add knowledge and reputation to this woman, she is a winner. 
  • We started off at the operational level. Today, we develop strategies with business partners who know exactly what it is that we do. They show their interest. They watch. Monitor. Follow us on social media. It is of great importance for them to know that we try to build a story through all these channels and influence the people around us with our deeds. Let the words and actions speak for themselves.
  • Let us set an example for all those young women. Let us build talents. Let us teach young women to become leaders, but let us never forget to work at the very depth. Do not convince them that the world of men is different. It is not. It may be a little more consistent and operated primarily with a ratio.
Dear ladies,

If you are willing to invest your time in knowledge and believe in what you do, there is no doubt that you can succeed. It is all up to you. Do not compete with your colleagues. Instead, try to contribute to the team. When it comes down to business, we are all equal if have the knowledge and true values.

If we are determined to learn something and truly focus on details, we will make our personal progress. If we are aware of our competencies, we will be able to sell to men. And it is only then, when they will follow and accept us as business partners. They will believe in us and leave the decisions to us.

It is time for you to become visionary, follow your dreams, live your true values, develop strategies and not be afraid to say »no«. Complete your businesses and you will succeed regardless of the path you are taking.

Your Tanja

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