January marked the first four weeks of the year with Vincent Petri as the new Head of Sales. In an interview, we learned from him how he felt about his first time at Häffner and what goals have been set for 2023.
Mr. Petri, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome you to Häffner. How did you experience your start at Häffner?
The start at Häffner was very pleasant. Everything was well-organized down to the last detail, and I was very pleased with the welcome gifts from my team. I was also impressed by the openness and helpfulness during my induction. I find the atmosphere and the team spirit to be very collegial and informal – just as you would wish.
We would like to get to know you better. Please tell us something about your career so far.
I am a native of Groningen, in the north of the Netherlands. After my education and first work experience in sales, I moved to Germany in my mid-twenties. Here I have already worked for a medium-sized chemical distributor for the last eighteen years or so. There I learned the chemical trading business ‘from scratch’. My first station was the sales field service. There I was able to contribute to the expansion of the business by opening up new markets, acquiring new customers and looking after regular customers. While working, I studied business administration in Oldenburg and was able to take on more responsibility in my job after graduation, first as an area sales manager and later as a sales manager and authorized signatory. In the latter role, I was able to work with the team to increasingly digitalize, specialize and expand the retail business nationwide.
At the beginning of the year, you took over the management of the Sales department from Florian Grandel. Which areas of responsibility are particularly interesting for you in the department and why?
First of all, I’m a salesman. This gene is in me and I like to apply it in my day-to-day work. The tasks in sales are looking after and expanding existing business, developing new sales areas and winning new customers. Portfolio expansion and further development are also important tasks. The diversity of industries, the large number of chemicals and countless areas of application make this trading business so multifaceted. Running this multifaceted business together with a team also means that it should be broadly based. There is hardly anything more fulfilling than shaping new things together and seeing how a team masters new tasks and develops itself and the business in the process.
What goals are you pursuing together with the sales team in the medium and long term?
First of all, I would like to emphasize that it is not my job to change everything. Häffner has a solid business, long-standing relationships with customers and the sales team has recently mastered what were probably the most turbulent years in the chemical trade in an outstanding manner. The sails are set correctly at Häffner: We have a committed team, colleagues who want to move forward and a modern distribution center in Marbach am Neckar, where we will be able to fill chemicals highly efficiently in the future. With these great prerequisites, I would like to work together with the team to further develop the business. I believe that customers today have different demands on distributors than they did just a few years ago. We should always offer added value in a service-oriented manner, for example through simplified business processing thanks to digitalized interlinking, through an individual and market-specific approach, and through logistical excellence. These requirements call for strong relationship management. As a team, we will succeed in continuing to be a competent partner for our regular customers.
What is important to you in your day-to-day work?
In my day-to-day work, it is important to me that we work in a goal- and customer-oriented manner. It is also important to me that we work together as a team and treat each other openly, respectfully and, above all, with a sense of humor. Laughter is healthy.
How would you describe your management style?
Goal-oriented, cooperative, coaching.
We live in times of digital transformation. What is your opinion of digitalization and what opportunities and benefits do you associate with it?
There is a lot of talk about change, about digitalization changing everything. But many things have already been ‘transformed’ for a long time. You have to adapt to this if you want to remain successful. Young decision-makers expect digital execution models. Digitization offers an incredible number of advantages. Processes can be streamlined and simplified, our sales reach changes and thus we are always present and accessible. Thanks to ‘IOT’, we can improve logistical processes, deepen relationships with customers and offer real added value. In my opinion, the motto is ‘everything that can be digitized will be digitized’. If we don’t do it, others will – in this respect, we should continuously be aware of our customers’ needs and recognize and take advantage of the corresponding digitization potential. It is important for me to mention here that one thing cannot and should not be digitized, namely personal, trusting collaboration. I like to use the term relationship management, because a good relationship between customer and distributor is the basis for a sustainable partnership.
What is your vision of a future sales department?
The future sales department will be more digital than it is today. This starts with the popular ‘paperless office’, but goes far beyond that. Relationships will become more transparent and digital, systems will ‘talk’ to each other, which means we can collect more data to support our customers in the best possible way. The tasks of sales staff are changing accordingly. It is important to keep all colleagues informed, trained and involved in any changes.
There are also turbulent days in sales. How do you manage such days yourself?
I actually quite like them. These days and the variety in the daily work routine are also what make the job. For me, the solution is to always keep calm and to approach everything in a relaxed, relaxed manner and with a sense of humor.
What tips can you pass on on how to maintain motivation and enjoyment in a team even during tense market times?
Team play. Cohesion is the most important thing. It can be no matter how exhausting, no matter how stressful. When the team faces such situations together, strengthens, drives and motivates each other – then you can also celebrate together what has been achieved. In addition: respect, recognition, understanding and praise for a great job.
How do you balance your private life with your professional life?
I’m a family man. My time with my wife and two daughters means a lot to me. We like to cook together and spend our free time together. Both children ride, so I can be found regularly at the riding arena. I also like to go jogging in the forest or spend time in the garden. The cozy touch is not neglected: I like to go out for dinner regularly, and I also enjoy time and creativity at my own barbecue.
After many questions, now a few short ones to relax. If you had to choose:
Coffee or tea? Coffee in the morning. Tea in the afternoon.
Dog or cat? …. Goldfish?
Sun or snow? Pure sun and 30 degrees.
Structured or creative chaos? I maintain there is structure in my chaos.
Tablet or book? Book.
Music or podcast? Music.