How was your first year at Gerlach?
Even in my wildest dreams, I would not have predicted the scenario that happened in 2020. I do not even know when 2020 flew by. It was a very intense and unpredictable year.
I spent the beginning traveling around the country, getting to know my employees in different locations, but also my colleagues from other countries. I had the opportunity to visit colleagues in Prague – a great Team of Ludek Prochazka.
Then COVID appeared, which changed my planned activities for a longer period of time. All in all, an intensive year but one of the best in my career. I found myself in a company where wonderful people work. My team of direct reports is very professional. The majority of them have worked in Gerlach for many years – which is the proof that it is really worth working for Gerlach. My colleagues are a wonderful team of supportive experts.
Despite the pandemic and unpredictable costs, we met our budget plan. There were relatively few cases of illnesses in our company. We worked in a hybrid system – some from home some from the office. The biggest challenge was at the border offices where work is done 24/7. There, we were forced to close the office for an hour/half so that people working different shifts would not meet. This minimized the risk of potential COVID infection.
But apart from those challenges I must also admit that the pandemic was a real driver for digitalization for us:
- It proved that working from anywhere is actually possible. It is essential to have trust and have clear communication on expected outcomes
- It shows that it is important to have the daily interaction (also virtual) between employees, customers etc. We humans are social creatures and need the interaction.
- It made us decide on digital projects quickly. For example, for our team it is crucial now to allow more internal knowledge transfer session online. Before, most information and knowledge if new employees joined company where exchanged on personal interaction. Now we also want provide online trainings.
What opportunities and challenges are you facing in the Polish market – customs related?
Poland has a strong economy and will hopefully continue to grow. The Polish economy is expected to grow by 3.3 percent in 2021 according to information of World Trade Bank.
The Polish market is very strong on exporting. We observe more exports going out of Poland than imports coming in. Also, you see that Poland has become an attractive country for companies due to lower labor costs compared to other developed European countries.
What I see is definitely more opportunities than challenges. This is not to say that business will grow without major problems. The biggest challenge that probably all customs agencies are facing at the moment – is the employment of customs agents. Brexit has resulted in customs agents being cleared out of the market. There is even the shortage of those with no experience.
This, in turn, requires the opportunities I see in the market to be carefully analyzed before making a decision.
As for the opportunities: as Gerlach, we have a great chance to become the leader in the European customs market. We are a strong network of customs agencies, the cooperation between Gerlach, the brand of the company – more than 140 years in the market speaks for itself. We do not have to fight for customers – customers come to us by themselves. We can focus to be better and better every day and this is our way to sell services
"... we do not provide just basic services like import, export, etc. but also services related to the whole customs process."
What do you want to drive in the future?
I have been focusing on the quality of service from the very beginning of my professional career. This must go hand in hand with development and evolve faster. One of the ways we ensure quality in Gerlach is the usage of electronic data to avoid manual data entry. In other words data digitization. We are currently investing in digital modern solution. It will have an impact of course on the quality but also on the efficiency. The benefits are on both sides – the customer and Gerlach. Electronic data is gold for companies, but detailed data – e.g. per part number level data is a diamond. Soon we will be able to send such data to customers – as a result of their import and export activities. Such possibilities are only available in Gerlach.
The second very important thing is the pro-client approach. Gerlach in Poland is an agency that is open to customer needs. Within one year we started cooperation with two huge world-famous companies precisely because we do not provide just basic services like import, export, etc. but also services related to the whole customs process. Supply chain analysis e.g. the amount of customs duties paid with feedback to the customer what market instruments are available to minimize the amount of duties paid. We provide this as a one-stop service – from analysis, through the requesting of the relevant permits, to the settlement of such measures and the presentation of the final benefits to the customer.
The third thing is customs simplification – because we have colleagues in other countries, we can offer centralized customs services in one of the EU countries. Not everybody can, not everybody wants to.