On the Path to Success with Artificial Fibres
Chemical firm expands its customer base and develops new materials
Iryna Smartselava works for Europe’s largest producer of artificial fibres, SvetlogorskKhimvolokno AG in Belarus. The state enterprise set up a new product line two years ago to produce multilayer non-woven fabrics. These so-called laminates are breathable and are popularly used in hygiene products. The German market for hygiene products, which has a volume of about €4.7 billion per year, is very attractive, although it is also conservative as regards new suppliers, reports Iryna Smartselava who is an economist. With the help of the Manager Training Programme, despite the obstacles, she nevertheless succeeded in establishing contacts in this industry, which is new for her firm, and in delivering samples. For 2019 her sights are set on two major customers.
Iryna Smartselava will soon have an important meeting. In the near future, a conference for hygiene products will be held in the Croatian city of Dubrovnik. She is scheduled to meet a firm from Germany there. That meeting could be a milestone in their further cooperation: it concerns a one-year contract to the value of €400,000 for the delivery of laminates as an outer layer for nappies. Six months have passed since the first meeting with the firm during the MP. During these six months there have been countless negotiations, sample deliveries, product modifications and a comprehensive search for raw materials. “Agreements in this industry sometimes take months or even years”, notes Smartselava. The industry is known for its conservative attitudes, especially in Germany. Initiating contact is difficult and emails often go unanswered, reports the sales manager. With its good reputation, the MP functions as an important icebreaker for establishing these complicated business connections.
Germany is the Main Buyer
After Russia, Germany is the most important export market for the chemical giant, which has an annual revenue of about €120 million – with products that are largely manufactured on German machines. The nonwoven fabrics are produced in systems built by the Reifenhäuser Group and Trützschler GmbH and Co. KG, for example. Orders from Germany previously only came from the furniture, construction and technology industries. The major customers include Continental AG. This global player from Hannover relies on quality from Belarus in the production of turbocharger hoses.
New Product for Existing Customers
The existing customers also include Sima GmbH, a wholesaler for painting supplies. Smartselava used the MP to develop their relationship. In close collaboration with the customer, she had a new product developed: breathable cover sheets for floors. When wooden floors don’t breathe under cover sheets, damage may occur as a result of the dampness. The innovative sheet prevents this from happening. The first sample delivery was sent to the medium-sized enterprise from Baden-Württemberg in October 2018. Smartselava expects to close the deal in 2019.
Organic Market is Still a Way Off
But not all meetings have been grand successes. So far there has not been any agreement with WILOGIS Hygieneprodukte GmbH, whose product range includes nappies. The company is interested in organic laminates, but the chemical firm is not ready for that. There is a lack of suitable sources of raw materials, regrets Smartselava. “I have assigned that to our development department because that’s an interesting market for us in the future she says”.
Founding a Promotional Group
The requirement profiles for the individual nonwoven fabric layers in hygiene laminates vary greatly: they must be more permeable or less permeable. In coordination with the customers, the different layers are developed and made available. Three employees in the sales department have been assigned to a promotional group for the hygiene market to survey the needs of the customers and increase sales. There is major potential, and more than one third of all the nonwoven fabrics the firm produces are already sold in the hygiene sector, and the numbers are increasing.
Smartselava’s most important job is to ensure full capacity for the new production facilities. She accomplished that in 2018 with many smaller orders. From 2019 on, the line should increasingly be producing for larger orders. Those will be coming from the contacts established in Germany and the new promotional department.
German Measuring Technology for the Belarusian Market
Kirill Filippenko’s family are among the pioneers in the private sector in Belarus. Immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union, his father established one of the first private companies in the former Soviet Union. And this “entrepreneurial gene” has been passed on to his son. Upon completing his degree in systems engineering and an MBA, he began working at his parents’ company. In May 2015, he participated in the MP and signed important contracts with two key clients from Germany.
Minsk. R&D Gran-System-S LLC is a medium-sized company based in the Belarusian capital. Around 100 people, half of which are engineers, work to develop and manufacture electricity meters and other measuring devices. In Belarus, the family-run business that has been operating for almost 25 years is the market leader. The business with Germany has been an important factor for many years, constituting 15 percent of the company’s total turnover, though Filippenko believes that this can definitely be increased further.
Gran-System-S has cooperated with Nuremberg-based Landis+Gyr GmbH for decades. Landis+Gyr offers solutions for the metering of electricity, water and heat consumption. Until now, the Belarusians sold products for this strong German partner in their country and took care of a portion of production. The two companies negotiated for two years on the outsourcing of the production of an entire assembly line of heat meters to Belarus. It was reasoned that the products could then be produced and sold for considerably less, as customs duties or transport costs would no longer be payable. What’s more, the markets in Russia and Kazakhstan with whom Belarus has entered into a customs union (EACU) could then also be served. While Landis+Gyr trusted the quality of the work of their long-standing partner in Minsk, they were hesitant about this step. It was only during the MP and following several meetings in Germany that Filippenko was able to convince the global enterprise – an agreement was reached to produce the heat meters in Belarus from 2016. A service centre will also be set up to take care of customer support as well as to offer service, repairs and recalibration. Filippenko has invested 250,000 euros in building his production facilities for Landis+Gyr. In the first year, he anticipates turnover totalling 1.7 million euros. This alone would double the turnover with German partners. The engineer is currently working on obtaining the necessary certification for the sale of the new products in Belarus, training his employees, and preparing a marketing plan. He also wishes to enter the Russian market. “Our Belarusian proof of origin means we are able to sell to Russia without any problems. And we have all the necessary certification for sales within the customs union,” says Filippenko. The 36-year-old has thus cleared the way for him and his German partner to establish a supply chain for the world’s largest country.
The meeting with ZERA GmbH was also a success. Preliminary contact was made with the manufacturer of measuring and testing technology based in Königswinter three years ago – though only via a subsidiary in Ukraine. Personal contact during the MP helped to further the partnership. Gran-System-S is now the official retailer for ZERA products in Belarus and is set to boost the Rhineland-based company’s sales activities in the landlocked Eastern European country. Filippenko is responsible for developing the Belarusian website as well as for preparing a marketing strategy. He will also set up a service centre for ZERA, train the employees and recruit new staff.
“Due to cultural differences, situations arise time and time again where we do not understand one another. This also played a role in the cooperation with my German business partners, despite our having known one another for a long time. The MP allowed me to improve my intercultural skills. Now I understand the differences. This really helped me during the negotiations,” says the deputy managing director.
Growth through Improved Motivation
Anna Grigorjeva, Managing Director of the family-run Spezialsystem company in Belarus, was looking to better her management skills through training. In 2011 she participated in the BMWi Manager Training Programme.
Vitebsk. The “Spezialsystem” research and production centre in the Belarusian city of Vitebsk works in the development, production and implementation of measuring systems. These monitor gas, water or heat consumption for industry, electricity producers, municipalities and agriculture. The family firm was founded in 1992, is now one of the oldest private companies in Belarus and employs 35 people. In 2003 Anna Grigorjeva joined her parents’ firm as Marketing Director before becoming Managing Director in February 2014.
While training in Germany, the young entrepreneur wanted to expand her knowledge of management and gather ideas to drive the future development of “Spezialsystem”. She was particularly interested in innovative management methods, marketing instruments, budgeting and modern production processes. On company visits and during the management seminars, Grigorjeva learned how to streamline her company’s the cumbersome organisational structure. Today the firm is structured more logically; processes can be controlled better making them more dynamic. The entrepreneur also implemented some restructuring while introducing a quality management system in accordance with ISO 9001. She clarified duties and areas of responsibility for individual employees, simplifying traceability. The introduction of CRM software for customer relations management made the firm more transparent and efficient – and promptly doubled turnover from 2011 to mid-2013. Additional innovations: employees share the profits generated by the company’s success, which can amount to an entire month’s salary. This has also promoted growth and brought recognition. In 2012 the Vitebsk city government honoured “Spezialsystem” for their good working conditions and team spirit as “best employer in Vitebsk” in the small company category.
Grigorjeva is an active member of the “Association of Employers and Entrepreneurs” and the chairman of its “Club of Young Entrepreneurs”. With other club members she has already organised six meetings with students from Vitebsk universities where the young chief executives talked to the students about their practical experience as entrepreneurs.
As an alumnus of the Manager Training Programme, Grigorjeva maintains many important contacts to MP graduates in other countries: “During the programme I made some really good friends who share my ideas and interests. Informal exchange is sometimes just as fruitful as the seminars. And at the most recent alumni meeting in Alma-Ata, I even found a Kazakh business partner.”
Irina Skakun – Negotiate Better
When Irina Skakun came to Germany for the MP, she was still working as Sales and Development Manager for EKOTrade in Minsk, a trading company for foodstuffs and additives. She now successfully imports EU goods for the wholesaler Agroproduktservis – thanks to the MP.
Sometimes, a new career prospect only appears when we stand back from our everyday careers. This was also the case for Irina Skakun. At the MP in Germany, her desire to work in an international context increased. So she decided her career had reached a turning point and, after she returned, she applied to the Minsk firm Agroproduktservis. She now continues to work on the sales of food additives there – this time with a much stronger focus on importing goods from the EU. “I learned a great deal at the seminar on negotiating techniques in an international context” beamed the MP graduate. “I now feel more competent and can perform with confidence!” She now looks forward with optimism to her forthcoming contract negotiations with two German companies she became acquainted with during her trip to Germany. Prospects for cooperation are very good both with the firm Lay Gewürze OHG and Heroka Keller KG. Agroproduktservis would like to distribute the complete product range of both spice producers in Belarus. Skakun will clarify how large the contract is set to be in the negotiations – and her newly acquired negotiating skills will help her in this endeavour.
By Eva Daub
TÜV Rheinland Akademie GmbH
Valeriya Sudilovskaya – Energy projects for German-Belarusian economic relations
That Valeriya Sudilovskaya loves her job becomes self-evident when she holds forth on the development of bio energy and the use of biogas. Sudilovskaja works at Effektiven Energiewirtschaft GmbH, a scientific-industrial centre for commercial energy and automation based at the Belarusian state university in Minsk.
The Belarusian expert travelled to Germany with high expectations. Her aim was to make contact with Germany companies active in the energy sector, to organise sales in Belarus for German energy suppliers, or to represent them herself. Moreover, she was looking for business partners for joint projects in the energy sector.
During her stay in Germany, Sudilovskaja held talks with several interested German companies including an Augsburg-based diesel engine manufacturer, a federal association of energy service companies, and the Biogas Conference and Exhibition.
These meetings led to preliminary negotiations with German suppliers regarding various projects in Belarus. The negotiations themselves ranged from standard exchanges of information and consultations to pre-contracts.
The promising nature of meetings with German business partners can be attributed in part to the BMWi Manager Training Programme in which Sudilovskaja participated in Germany. She attended various courses in which she learned about German business culture and participated in simulated negotiation scenarios, which she was subsequently able to implement in practice.
She now knows how to establish contact with German companies and how to conduct high-level co-operation negotiations. The Belarusian manager advises future participants: “Never miss the opportunities that are made available to you.”
Name: Valeriya Sudilovskaya
Company: Effektive Energiewirtschaft GmbH, Minsk, Belarus
Position: Co-founder, manager
Training in Germany: 2 June – 1 July 2009
Training centre: Wirtschaftsakademie Schleswig-Holstein, Kiel
Juri Smirnov, Andrei Romanjuk – New fields of activity for Belarusian advertising professionals
As the managing director and owner of his small advertising agency, Belorg S, Juri Smirnov is responsible for almost everything from the financial planning to the fitting of door locks. Six years ago, the trained marketing specialist took over the family business and expanded it further. In addition to standard services such as the creation of logos and print products, his company also offers customers multimedia and outdoor advertising solutions.
Despite his hectic work schedule, the entrepreneur took the time to participate in further training in Germany: “I wanted to develop my management skills and familiarise myself with the work practises of German companies,” he recalls.
On his company visits Smirnov was so taken with the precise time planning and exact distribution of duties, that he used them as stimuli for change within his own organisation. He redefined his employees’ duties, reallocated the fields of responsibility and introduced daily schedules and regular reporting.
These changes were by no means the only outcomes of his stay. He and fellow programme participant, Andrej Romanjuk, discovered a new field of activity in Germany: co-operation in advertising displays. During his time in Germany, Romanjuk, co-owner of software business Flemart, got to know a company specialising in software for displays among other things. After an intensive six-month negotiation phase with meetings in Minsk and Berlin, the German-Belarusian joint venture Confire Media was established in Minsk.
The first order came from the Belarusian department of commerce, which requested an advertising panel for its campaign to support domestic manufacturers. Smirnow filled it with moving images. Smirnow and Romanjuk wish to continue offering their services together in the future: Confire Media supplies the software; Belorg S is responsible for the design and maintenance of the content. And this is just the beginning, as the partners already have Russian and Ukrainian markets in sight for 2011.
Name: Juri Smirnov
Company: Belorg S advertising and publishing agency, Minsk, Belarus
Sector: Advertising industry
Position: Managing Director and owner
Training in Germany: 2 June – 1 July 2009
Training centre: Wirtschaftsakademie Schleswig-Holstein, Kiel
Name: Andrei Romanjuk
Company: Flemart GmbH, Minsk, Belarus
Position: Director and co-owner
Training in Germany: 2 June 2009 – 1 July 2009
Training centre: Wirtschaftsakademie Schleswig-Holstein, Kiel
Ivan Timshin – Career advancement thanks to new management expertise
When Ivan Timshin participated in the “Training for Partnership” programme in Germany in autumn 2007, he was in charge of the legal department of a commercial enterprise that imports agricultural and construction machinery to Belarus.
“First and foremost, the stay motivated me to structure my work differently and to take a bolder approach towards new projects,” the young lawyer says.
So alongside his duties at the commercial enterprise and his freelance work for a law firm, Timshin established his own legal advice service for companies: Erudite. The like-named group of companies, which also includes the Erudite auditing and accounting services, offers national and overseas companies a comprehensive portfolio of services, promising a made-to-measure, optimal solution for each client.
“The BMWi Manager Training Programme allowed me to develop my expertise. The specialist knowledge acquired in company management played a key role,” the successful programme graduate says of the changes in his career and the positive outcomes of the training.
“Interaction with the other programme participants also had a significant influence on my development. New information on different business issues and everyday company life were a great help to me in the development of my own company.”
Today Timshin is working on developing his company further and is looking ahead with optimism. “Our services are not only in demand among existing organisations and companies,” he says. “We also help entrepreneurs to establish, develop and, where necessary, protect their businesses.”
Name: Ivan Timshin
Company: Erudite law firm, Minsk, Belarus
Sector: Legal services
Position: Managing Director
Training in Germany: 6 November – 5 December 2007
Training centre: ARGE Konsortium Neue Bundesländer, Dresden
Natalya Dorokhina – Tuning in Belarus – Establishing company contacts
Natalya Dorokhina is project manager in the accessories, tuning and spare parts department at Atlant-M-Fahrzeughandel, the largest Volkswagen dealer in Belarus. The company belongs to the Atlant-M holding company.
The talented young executive acquired new practical skills and expertise during her one-month stay in Germany. Upon her return, Dorokhina devoted herself to implementing what she had learned, and set about dividing her department into specialist areas and making a specific individual responsible for each of them. The efficiency of work processes and quality control was thereby enhanced.
Although Atlant-M had already worked with German partners for several years, the BMWi Manager Training Programme led to three further contacts – a car accessories supplier from the region of Lippe, a leading provider of accessories for off-road vehicles in the Bavarian town of Fürstenfeldbruck, and a company specialising in the development, manufacture and sale of exclusive vehicles. Expansion of the product range and a new spare parts and accessories warehouse allowed the Belarusian company to expand its workforce and achieve a 250 per cent increase in turnover. In 2007 its products were certified, something in which Natalya Dorokhina played an active role. Inspired by the success of the training scheme, the company sent further employees to Germany.
Dorokhina has the following to say of her trip: “The benefits of the BMWi Manager Training Programme do not cease upon returning home. The experiences and valuable contacts we make stay with us for the rest of our lives and provide an excellent basis for personal and professional development.”
Thanks to her professional experience, excellent business relations and recommendations from German partners, the programme graduate is now in demand as an expert among overseas companies. And Dorokhina is proud of having helped a whole series of German and Swiss companies conclude long-term foreign trade agreements with Belarusian businesses.
Name: Natalya Dorokhina
Company: Аtlant-М, Minsk, Belarus
Sector: Vehicle retail
Position: Project manager in the accessories, tuning and spare parts department
Training in Germany: 12 November – 9 December 2006
Training centre: Bildungszentrum am Müggelsee, Berlin