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30 May 2017

Voerman in the Czech Republic – A Moving Company

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Wiegert Smallegange, Branch Manager, tells about the evolution of the branch in Prague.
Wiegert Smallegange

Vadim Hristov is the Country Manager of Voerman Czech and together with Wiegert forms the management of the company. Vadim focusses on all commercial aspects and Wiegert has to make sure it is realized. “Due to our commercial successes, keeping the growth sustainable, has been the main challenge.”

Wiegert joined Voerman just over 3 years ago, with a background in Operations Management, Finance and HR. “I was used to working in Rotterdam – the Port - where a multicultural environment prevailed. “The Rotterdam locals are always very open and critical”, remembers Wiegert.

In the beginning, Voerman Czech started out with mainly Czech and Slovak employees. “What I really had to get used to” – says Wiegert, “was the notion that Czechs are much less ‘open’, or direct, especially in their criticism.” In Wiegert’s experience, people in the Czech Republic keep more to themselves: “In the beginning there was quite a lot of gossip” – he continues, “and I really felt we had a ‘Us vs. Them’ culture, with management on the one side and employees on the other.”

In the past 2 years, Voerman Czech managed to add several other nationalities to the staff in Prague. First a Serbian, then a Brit, an American – the list goes on. “Things that matter in the end are a good customer-service attitude, competence in the English language and, of course, the will to grow – and help others grow,” shares Wiegert. Eventually, the ‘Us vs. Them’ culture, as Wiegert calls it, disappeared and today we see open communication, constructive criticism and good teamwork. “But this requires hard work, every day. It is never finished.”

As of now, Voerman in Prague is proud to have a wide ‘bouquet’ of nationalities: Czech, Slovak, American, British, New Zealander, Ukrainian, Russian, Moldovan, Dutch, Serbian, French, Rumanian, Greek, Hungarian, Australian, Armenian and Kazakh. All these people are connected through their life in the Czech Republic, the English language and their type of work. The latter, according to Wiegert, ensures that the differences in background and culture become much less important. To put it in his own words: “You must be able to communicate clearly, be self-confident and flexible. You can’t be that different, you know”.

Many would call Wiegert a ‘dream-recruiter’, after learning about his hiring policy: “If you have a valid working-visa, are fluent in English, have a clear connection to Prague and have it in you to be a servant-leader, there’s a good chance that I’ll hire you!”

It wasn’t always as sunny as now, by the way, for there has been a lot of staff turnover. “We hired people in the beginning of the summer – our peak season - and were forced to be less critical, which was ultimately counterproductive, because they did not last.” Was this wasted time and energy? Wiegert doesn’t think so: “I learned a lot from these experiences, we developed an effective training program and now are happy to have a team of extremely talented people”.

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