MY 20 YEARSOF WORK AT AFINIS Group®Interview with colleague Matej Follrich,who has been working for us for 20 years
AFINIS Group® is a stable company with a long history and recently celebrated its 29th anniversary on the Slovak market. As we well know, behind every successful company are above all smart people. For AFINIS Group®, one of them is Matej Follrich, who has been working there for 20 years.
1. Matej, first of all, tell us how you got into the AFINIS Group® company 20 incredible years ago. What was your story behind finding a place in this company?
“My first contact with the company AFINIS Group® was during my studies, when as a part-time worker I helped it move to new premises on Žitná ulica in Rača, where the company is still based today. So it can be said that I have been associated with the company in its current location since the very beginning.
After my studies, I got a job as a customs broker in an IT company. My father worked as a buyer and had very good relations with AFINIS Group®. At that time, the company was looking for a warehouseman and a customs broker. Since I knew the company and its employees very well, I expressed interest in the position. And so my story began.”
2. Young people usually change jobs. Why did you stay at one company for so incredibly long?
“On the one hand, I am a loyal person, and on the other hand, I was given the opportunity to find myself in the company and at the same time fulfill my ambitions. AFINIS Group® offered me the opportunity to move to new positions and grow. One of the top features of this company is that it gives people the opportunity to find a person’s potential. And it is not an exception. It happens here regularly. I have several such colleagues who moved between departments and grew both professionally and personally. At the same time, I must say that my work is not monotonous, every day is completely different, new challenges come every day, and last but not least, it is definitely the team that keeps me here. We all know each other well and I still feel like I’m in a family business.”
3. Compared to other colleagues, are you the oldest employee or do you have several colleagues in your team who have held their position in AFINIS Group® for approximately the same amount of time as you?
“Besides the manager and the owner, I am the third oldest employee… after two colleagues from the sales department – Richard Huttera, who has been here a year longer than me, and Peter Kaan, who has been here 3 years longer.”
4. You currently work in the Purchasing and Logistics Department. Was it always like that, or did you go through several positions or departments within the company?
“As I mentioned in the beginning, I started as a warehouseman and customs broker. Gradually, I worked my way up to the position of assistant to one of the executives at the time, who was in charge of purchasing, and at the same time had his own customers, so I could get to know both purchasing and business more closely. At the same time, I also helped in the economic department. Later, I became a full-fledged sales representative for several years. After a while, however, I completely “burned out” and my work no longer fulfilled me. As a solution to my situation, the company offered me to transfer to the Purchasing and Logistics Department. In time, I was offered the position of department head, which I took after mutual debate and persuasion.”
5. If you should to compare AFINIS Group® then and now, what has changed over the past 20 years?
“AFINIS Group® has developed over the years into a leading supplier of gaskets and sealing technologies. From my working position today, I can see that suppliers, both from Slovakia and abroad, take us seriously. Manufacturers communicate with us, who were not interested in this in the past, as we were a small company. We are now approaching a medium-sized company, and our turnover is now quite different from what it was at the beginning. When I joined the company, there were up to ten people in it. Today, there are almost 40 of us here. In the beginning, we only operated as a trading company, now we are a manufacturing-trading company, which means that we have significantly changed our character. We are starting to apply on the European market. Despite our growth and change in the nature of the company, its ‘DNA’ has not changed.”
6. In today’s times, the development of technology is unstoppable and advances very quickly. How has your job changed in relation to technological development and progress?
“During those 20 years, my workload has changed significantly. When I remember the beginnings of our work in the department, orders were written by hand in paper binders, which were collected and ordered on a weekly basis. Now, of course, the entire company and our department operate through a common information system. In comparison, nowadays we have significantly more information and decision-making possibilities, and we also have a much greater overview of current events in the company, but also of individual products. I can see the entire history of the given product card, which allows us to work better in pricing and processing offers for the sales department, but also in terms of logistics, to keep the optimal amount of which goods in stock. While in the past we had around 10-20,000 items in stock, today we already have more than 85,000. This year alone, we have added around 7,000 new cards. I estimate that we add an average of 5-10,000 new cards per year. The number of product cards started to grow mainly since 2004, when we started our own custom production of AFINIS EXPRESS® – production of rotary seals and AFINIS GASKET® – production of flat seals. Their launch was a response to the needs of customers and the market, to supply them with a seal in the required size and material design in the shortest possible time, or to custom-make non-standard seals for their applications.”
7. Describe your typical day. What does work in the Purchasing and Logistics Department look like?
“Ordinary day. The beautiful thing is that even an ordinary day is always different. On the other hand, it’s very difficult, because I can’t plan my day in the department, because I don’t know in advance how many inquiries I’ll get that day, but I try to sort the work according to priorities. Inquiries are a priority for us. Once I have them equipped, I process stock orders and create stock cards based on inquiries. I solve long-term tasks when I have time. From the position of head of the Purchasing and Logistics Department, I also have managerial work activities. On a daily basis, I lead a team of colleagues, I provide them with consulting activities in the field of their commodities or work, we discuss together, we have regular meetings and, last but not least, I evaluate purchasing statistics, performance, stock status and the like on a monthly basis.”
8. When you’re in one place for that long, you have to have great motivation to stay. What motivates you at work, what is your driving force?
“I live for this company. I also work during holidays, even when I’m sick, although I don’t make my family happy (smile). Well, what motivates me? Success. I am motivated by a satisfied customer on the one hand and a satisfied sales representative or company owner on the other. And I am satisfied with the growth. That the company is growing and constantly achieving new goals. I think I still know and have something to offer the company. And at the same time, I am very happy to pass on my experience and knowledge to new people. And since we are currently still hiring new people, I dedicate part of my time to them as well. It is knowledge that cannot be imparted in a day, a week, a month, or even a year.”
9. What would you say to your colleagues who are just starting out in the company or have been working in it for a much shorter time?
“I think the key elements are to be patient, empathetic, optimistic, have a goal and learn to like your work and your colleagues.”
10. Over the years, you have to know the company in all its aspects. Is there anything in the past that you would definitely change or do completely differently if it were up to you?
“I remember my beginnings as a buyer or manager. We traveled very little and went abroad to fairs or visited suppliers. We focused too much on events in Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Europe. We could have focused that time and energy on looking for new trends and inspirations abroad earlier. However, this was not possible due to the language skills of the then company management, the team, or their ideas about the future. When, after the change in the management of the company, we came up with small activities, we transferred the gained experience, trends and inspirations from abroad to the company, the company started to progress. If we had done it earlier, we could have been in a completely different position today.”
11. Finally, tell us what you really value about AFINIS Group® and why you are so close to it??
“I appreciate the personal approach to the employee and the company’s help even in the most difficult situations. In addition, I appreciate the possibility of working from home, if the situation requires it. And finally, it is also an opportunity for personal growth.” The company allows me to travel, get to know countries and people, it allows me to do work that I enjoy and in which I see meaning and results.”
Thank you for the interview and we wish you many more years of joint work and success!