Michael Rommel, head of DHA Deutsche Handelsallianz
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Michael Rommel, head of DHA Deutsche Handelsallianz GmbH: "We represent interests"

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  • Дата: 15-02-2023, 20:59
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We have known Michael Rommel for several years, and to repeated offers to talk about his company or the brands it represents from the pages of autoExpert magazine he diplomatically dodged the question: no time. Today, the head of DHA Deutsche Handelsallianz GmbH (German Trade Alliance) tells without any bills how his company managed to win the trust of several European companies and dozens of distributors in post-Soviet countries within a few years. Exactly the trust...

Michael Rommel, head of DHA Deutsche Handelsallianz GmbH: "We represent interests"

- Michael, first of all, a few words about yourself.

- I was born and educated in Kiev. The 90s forced me, as many others at that time, to go into business. Among other things, I was "chauffeuring" cars from Poland with my friends. Where there are cars, there are spare parts. I started by working in a store at the car market on Perova Boulevard. That was in 1995, and since then I did nothing else but spare parts. I remember how we "did analytics" - measured bearings with calipers in garages, trying to deduce all their possible uses. There was no Internet yet, so we created our own cross charts and application catalogs. I remember it - I shudder...

When foreign cars arrived en masse, the company I worked for started importing parts. I switched to an office job, for which I was trained as a manager of commercial activities. After a few years I went to another company, already in the position of deputy director, where I only dealt with wholesale and worked with suppliers from abroad.

- A salesman from the car market became a manager of an international company...

- Life taught me to be consistent and persistent. In 2001 I moved to Germany, where I found a job in the same industry, in a small family firm supporting the export of spare parts to the former Soviet Union.

The firm serviced several European brands, and I dealt with all the processes that were associated with export activities: searching for customer-buyers, processing orders, processing shipments and customs documents. I worked with clients by phone, Skype and e-mail. I was in direct contact with them all the time. I also organized participation and represented the company at the Automechanika exhibitions in Frankfurt and Moscow.

- When was the step into your own business taken?

- At some point I realized that the business of exporting spare parts was completely clear to me, I knew the markets and what was going on there and how... But the main thing was that there was a deficit in the competent organization of processes. And in 2014, together with my partner Pascal Lampe, we created the "German Trade Alliance". We decided not to repeat after someone else, but to organize the business in our own way - to put the work to a higher level on a contract basis, to create an alliance of suppliers and clients, and not just to provide services, but to export companies-customers completely.

Michael Rommel, head of DHA Deutsche Handelsallianz GmbH: "We represent interests"

Pascal Lampe is a business partner, the second owner of the company. In the recent past, he worked in the sales department of Siemens AG and for the international organization GIZ as a consultant in Algeria and Indonesia. In recent years, he has held management positions with several large European companies. At DHA Deutsche Handelsallianz he is responsible for the development of business relationships in the European market.

- What is your main difference from other companies that represent brands in our markets?

- We are not a sales representative office. Formally, parts are sold by manufacturers (our customers) to wholesale companies in the former Soviet Union. Our task is to organize the whole export process and ensure it at all levels: orders, documents, product certification, logistics. One of the important tasks is to ensure speed. To do this, each of our suppliers has an employee who is responsible for orders, for the warehouse, for packaging of goods, for claims, for advertising, for accounting. And there is direct contact with the owner everywhere.

- What is the value of cooperation with you for suppliers, why couldn't they arrange deliveries themselves?

- European practice of working with markets has developed the work of field managers. They are not in the office, and often they are not even employees of companies, but private entrepreneurs who receive a percentage of transactions, work from home, move around the country and sell goods. But there everything is simple - the buyer gets an invoice from the supplier and gets the goods, because there are no customs barriers. And certification is common for all EU countries. But in post-Soviet countries (except the Baltics), you have to re-certify all the parts. I have more than ten years of experience in certification of spare parts. We can, for example, quickly make a new EAU certificate in Russia for the Customs Union. Often in a specific situation it's urgent to get that certificate.

So not only do we take on the same function of "field manager", but also all the permissions and customs. And the important thing there is also speed...

- What allows you to have high speed?

- To do all this quickly, you need trust - for example, our European suppliers sign various necessary documents for clients in Russian, especially without even looking at the contents - we do that.

We also have the right to make certain decisions without consulting with suppliers - we have defined the scope of such powers. The supplier doesn't understand a lot of things, and there's often a barrier between him and the customer in another country. Not linguistically-they can speak English, but they cannot reach an agreement. And we do not translate word for word during negotiations. We tell the client and the supplier the essence of the matter and put accents in such a way that they understand, taking into account their mentality. I deliver the message to the supplier so that the word "YES" is heard and the decision is made, if not today, then tomorrow. We need not only quality, but also fast results.

- It is clear that trust is gained through work, but how did you find your first suppliers so that they would trust you?

- When I opened DHA, I already had a certain amount of trust in the industry. They knew me at Maxtrac from my previous job. Some were recommended to me by my colleagues in the German market, and some I met at trade fairs.

Trust is usually built up in the first year. Sometimes suppliers have expectations that do not match reality, and I have to explain that the market in post-Soviet countries is not easy.

For some of our suppliers, who had already started working in these markets, we increased their turnover significantly in the first year of cooperation. Because to understand how to work in these conditions, you need practical experience and knowledge of the markets.

- Are the markets so different?

- As an example, the owner of Maxtrac traveled with me more than once to the former Soviet republics. In the end he simply told me: "I won't set foot there without you. He speaks to people in English, there is no language barrier, but there is a complete lack of what we call understanding.

It is not surprising - the European auto parts market is 100 years old. And the markets in Eastern Europe are a quarter of a century old, and seriously - about 20 years old. It is clear that the world is changing at a different pace than in the last century. But what passes for "post-Soviet" in the market now, in Western Europe all happened in the past generations.

- In the Baltics, is the market European or still different?

- It is not quite the same as in Western Europe. It has its own specifics - the markets are even more complicated than others. After all, they border on Poland, and Polish companies have very strong representations there. Nevertheless, we adapted very well and are successful there as well. We found approaches and conditions we can offer to our clients. And in terms of documentation and certification, of course, everything is easier there - this is the eurozone.

Michael Rommel, head of DHA Deutsche Handelsallianz GmbH: "We represent interests"

- You are building a bridge between suppliers and customers. How does this bridge differ from other working schemes?

- Basically in large companies, though in Europe, though working on Ukrainian or Russian markets, the processes are very ramified, there are a lot of communication channels. There is a brand manager - he works with orders. The analytics department is another person. The logistician is a third person. The customs broker, or someone else, is the fourth person. And so on. The client works with one person on all routine matters, and if any organizational question arises, we deal with it immediately at the highest level. There are no "instances" when working with us.

We build bridges between suppliers and clients, we maintain these bridges so that they don't collapse. So that clients walk and run on both sides, so that everything "glides" smoothly...

- It's a lot of work for a small team. How do you keep up?

- From receiving the order, confirming, packing the goods, documenting and customs clearance to shipping the shipment, there's a lot of work and control at each of these stages. Companies that work with imports from abroad are well aware of this.

Of course, modern information technology helps. In Europe, a lot of people are moving to iCloud - cloud systems. The DHA has its own program, which is located on a server in Germany, which you can work with remotely from anywhere in the world. And our suppliers have their own programs that we have direct access to.

We take care of claim moments within a day. If the person in charge is not there, the next day at the most.

- How, given the time zone difference, to be in touch all the time...

- We've made it so that all of our main active clients know where I am. And they know when I'll be out of reach. When I fly to any country, I immediately get access to the Internet. Naturally, the office is constantly in touch. My colleague manages the entire operational part of the office. By the way, all the employees of the DHA office are Russian-speaking.

I personally have very close contacts with the clients, and they clearly know when I am on vacation and even where I am on vacation. And so we build really open relations.

- How many clients do you have on the customer side?

- There are about three dozen active clients. For some brands there are exclusive distributors in one country.

- Different markets mean different terms of cooperation?

- Yes. We are well adapted to the conditions of different markets. And we offer very flexible and profitable conditions. We have an individual approach to each client, there are non-standard conditions which we agree to and which others do not agree to.

In this case we do not have a single dissatisfied client. There are potential partner firms that do not work with us for one reason or another - they are waiting for the right time, or they are not interested in these products yet.

We are in contact with so many companies. I haven't heard a single negative opinion about us from outside. The market is really "small", although the space is huge. Everyone practically knows everyone. And the bad news travels faster than the good. We are proud that there is no bad news about us, and we're doing everything we can to keep it that way.

- Why do you think you've succeeded in your plan?

- Basically, I consider myself a professional in my business. But not in the sense that I know everything, know how to do everything, have a lot of experience and so on. Markets now and then throw some unforeseen situations to both the customer and the supplier.

Every company manager without exception encounters tasks and situations requiring non-standard solutions. In our age with constantly progressing technologies everything is developing very rapidly, new conditions emerge which have to be reckoned with. A professional is someone who is ready for any situation and solves any problem. We do not have any unresolved issues, we always find a way out. Our company slogan is: "You define the goal - we find ways of solving!"

- Could you describe, please, the brands you represent and your policy of working with them?

- Generally speaking, all our brands in the markets of the countries where we represent them were unknown yesterday. But this is good! A new brand is objectively always out of competition, and it opens new perspectives and horizons.

If a company takes a brand exclusively, we initially do not set the bar on the turnover. The strategy is not to sell, but to work... And this usually means "for a long time". But with the agreed dynamics of brand development, an exclusive distributor will remain exclusive. We work together with him on the brand image, and together we form the advertising budget and invest in advertising.

Michael Rommel, head of DHA Deutsche Handelsallianz GmbH: "We represent interests"

- Sooner or later big companies grow up to the point where they can afford to have their own representative office in each country or small group of countries, and hire local staff ... Are not you afraid of losing suppliers?

- We are legally insured - we have contracts with our suppliers on an exclusive basis. They cannot simply break them, the conditions for breaking them are very strict. In order for them to have that opportunity, we have to do something that we would never do in our sober mind. We are also backed up by the fact that all of our suppliers see and appreciate both our work and our human qualities. In this case it would be appropriate to quote Albert Einstein "Outstanding personalities are formed not by beautiful speeches, but by their own work and its results.

By and large, these people have already put their trust in us, and we have justified that trust.

- But you do realize that suppliers will climb up the needs pyramid and demand more hi-tech, as if not even solutions, but levels of service from you, right? It's going to start: "And give us a deeper market analysis! And give us trainers to teach our product in the field!". Your competitors open bureaus in the countries, maybe not in every country, but in many, they put their employees on the payroll, and they are already working on each client with their feet, consulting, etc. In other words, they get even closer to the market. Do you realize that you're coming to this too?

- Yes, we are well aware that we will come to that as well. We have the idea of creating regional bureaus. By the way, in 2017 we already wanted to open a bureau in Moscow. We talked to each other, looked at it, and thought it was not necessary yet. But everything you have listed, we are already doing and providing. I conduct webinars personally - commercial, not very technical. If you need a technical seminar, next week we take our representative to the company, go to the factory. We have engineers - why else would I make something up. And I repeat - we don't want to repeat something or someone else's! We have our own ideas, vision and goals.

By and large, these people have already put their trust in us, and we have justified that trust.

- How do you introduce the brand to people? Do you conduct seminars and trainings on the clients' territory?

- Seminars at the client site are not our priority. It's very interesting to conduct seminars on-site, where, let's say, the equipment the customer bought is standing. For example, we sold a Motoplat industrial stand for testing generators to a factory in Holland.

And as for getting to know the brand, I am in favor of the "you better come to us" approach. We pick them up at the airport and go to the supplier. In this case, the client sees the company from the inside, gets to know the owners and the staff. He sees where the products come from and begins to understand the work structure. And he establishes personal relations. I attach great importance to the human side of business. Because it is people who do business and these human relationships are very important!

That is why I am in favor of showing Dutch or German hospitality. At the end of the day we establish almost friendly relations with a client. And when he leaves, he has much more impressions and information than if I had come to tell him something.

Michael Rommel, head of DHA Deutsche Handelsallianz GmbH: "We represent interests"

- There's almost no time to live free of work. Isn't it hard psychologically?

- My hobbies help me. I do martial arts and sport shooting. These activities require coordination, patience, endurance, discipline, the ability not to give up and go forward. All these qualities help me in business as well - self-discipline develops.

My second hobby is music. I write lyrics and music, I sing and play. Music helps to harmonize consciousness and mood. I think this gift helps me to be in harmony with clients from any market and with any need.

And in synthesis, my hobbies help me tremendously in my work. I wouldn't even call it work, because since 2014 I've probably started to count myself among those happy people who wake up in the morning and don't think, "Oh, the horror, back to work." I'm doing what I love. And this is not a job. I really get satisfaction from what I do.

Interviewed by Alexander Kelm

Michael Rommel, head of DHA Deutsche Handelsallianz GmbH: "We represent interests"

Теги: DHA, DHA Articles, Germany

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