architecture : urban : visual culture

The importance of continuous training - Tomas Rosak

Tomas Rosak is the head of the East-European Saint-Gobain for a long time now. He speaks about the effects of the crisis in 2008, his worst and best year, the challenges and the process how they find talents. His and Saint-Gobain's philosophy is the continuous training and education.

Pásztor Erika Katalina (PEK): How long have you been the head of the East-European Saint-Gobain?

Tomas Rosak (TR): I started in 2004 but only for Weber. Since 2008, I am responsible for all 3 businesses in Eastern-Europe, that means Weber, Rigips and Izover. I've been working as the official secretary representative and in this way I became responsible of all businesses of Saint-Gobain in our countries.

PEK: So, we can say that since 2008, you are in charge of the East-European market of the company. What characterized the company when you got there?

TR: Speaking very generally, I would say we had a peak of construction in all region in 2008. At that time, we admit it, there was a need to built up huge amounts of units without the quality's pressure. As a positive effect of the crisis which came hit a lot of countries and causes different debts, we see very strong declines of construction activities slowly coming back. It's a positive draw that the costumers clearly started to demand the quality. Of course it's a draw back of on the way of objects are today constructed, what is requested of architects and technical designers, and finally from constructer companies. They demand much higher than 10 years ago.

PEK: Maybe they want better qualities for less money.

TR: Yes, it's a part of the story. I'm afraid that is very typical for all costumers to demand higher quality for the same or less money. The market is demanding to combine the up to date quality and the comfort of living on a given price, it's a challenge and Saint-Gobain is very good at it.

PEK: What was your worst year?

TR: 2011. Despite of we had a huge production capacity, we didn't have a great product portfolio. In fact, there were just basic products in there. It took some years to improve the production and the efficiency in our plans, so when we finally broke into the market with new systems, with new technologies, it gave us a good feeling. We felt that we are delivering really nice and good products to our costumers and it's also securing our profitability.

PEK: In that year, did you had to reduce your production's capacity?

TR: Yes but I would say, generally in the whole Eastern-Europe, that we are something in between 20-25% lower production than we had in 2011. You must understand, if you want to produce a higher quality, it takes more time, it's very logical. If you want to produce something more complicated, more sophisticated, that is simply more demanding from the production's point of view. So, when it comes to tons, square meters, whatever, than I believe we are minus 25% compare to 2011. On the other hand, if I look today of our plans' utilizations, it's on a very high and good level, despite of the drop of tons or square meters. It's because we produce a different product which are more demanding than the utilization of our plans.

PEK: The fact, that your company is in the world's different regions, kind of an advantage, because the decline comes different times, so there's all moving.

TR: Yes, but basically in Eastern-Europe, it was a question because of the ups and downs. Everywhere we see today, we see a come back. It's not dramatic, it's not an explosion but a steady growth of the construction market.

PEK: Could Saint-Gobain seriously innovate the products in this economic climate?

TR: Yes, if we don't do it, we die. It's very clear. We must innovate, we must collect the resources into innovation.

PEK: What kind of process do you use to find talents, because every innovation needs good talents.

TR: In trainings and recruitments. We very seldom take the expert from outside, simply because they are very expensive and have their own vision and it's rarely fits in our philosophy. So what we prefer and what we offer to our employees is to get a continuous training and education, because we think that getting higher and higer level is quite important. If I take a look on our teams of innovation, all of the people came from different parts, I mean from the production, from the sales, even from the logistics. They are internal people who understand the needs of the costumers, the requests of the market. They put together their knowledge, the technical solutions and the economical aspects of the solutions because we have to know the money in the end... so the majority of our teams dealing with innovation is generally internal teams.

PEK: Do you have fluctuations?

TR: It's very small. 

PEK: So, it seems when someone enters into Saint-Gobain, it dies in there.

TR: No, even in the market, there's a very low unemployment, for example in Czech, we have very slow fluctuation. I have to say when it comes to salaries we are good payers, but we are not the best. We want to be a bit better than the market, for sure.

PEK: What kind of people are you looking for?

TR: People who are able to communicate. We need engineers, physical workers, everyone because we also deal with the beauty. With the portals, the facades, it is a question of beauty, of internal solutions. We are not only a technical group, we would like to have people from different disciplines, from architects even to humanistic education, because they are bringing a different angle, a next idea into the whole process.

PEK: This is quite a big change, I think, it's a paradigm change. I've never heard a leader talking like this.

TR: Yes and we are very much after an age and gender diversity. We are not looking after only young ambitious people, not at all. What we want is to have well stabilized teams, where everybody has its own experience, own vision and we would let them to discuss and find a conlcusion together. This requires a certain profile. The profile is that everybody is ready, eager, willing, increase their skills, and of course respect the others and communicate with them. We are not an american or a german company, that saying it would be like this, this, this, and do it, not at all. We really want the people to get together, influence each other and come up with new ideas. When we are talking about progress we believe in diversity.

PEK: Are you satisfied with your human resources in Eastern-Europe?

TR: I'm not only satisfied, I am extremely proud of all of them. I'm absolutely happy to having such teams. Everything has its own positive sides, the crisis had its positive sides too. It was brutal, it was difficult for the people but at the end, I believe we are leaving the crises much stronger and better than we were before. In particular in Hungary which is one of the countries, where I'm extremely happy what we did. Although the starting point was very difficult, today our businesses are profitable and have wonderful product portfolio. We have a strong position in the market and finally I can say it, that our employees are happy. They are content with their jobs, they are engaged and always come up with new ideas, it's perfect. 

PEK: What are your future plans with Saint-Gobain and with the market?

TR: First acquisition and second – speaking in particular about Hungary – is extending our current capacities. The plan is brilliant, now we working on a completely new type of board, of plastic board, and we believe it basically will change the world and completely replaces the partition walls of the bricks, and our Hungarian plant in Matra is chosen as one of the pilot plans in Europe to develop this board which the guys did in a marvellous way. And it did it much better than France or the UK, even in Czech.

PEK: Are these Hungarian guys a marvellous team?

TR: Yes, absolutely. What they did, the whole activity is completely amazed me, because they're far to compare to other development teams. Basically the first who completely manage this technology, is going to supply whole Europe. But the ambition is completely different, I mean Matra plant should be European source, European production plan for these, for Germany, for Italy, for this part of Europe. So big changes are planned, dramaticaly extend the capacity number of people, and we don't know how it will finish. If it will be as successful as we hope, that we won't need the second plan, and I believe that it can happen, in particular this product.

PEK: Can we know something about this new product or it is top secret?

TR: Well, it's a secret indeed, but I wouldn't say top secret because we already gave some of this products to some applicators to test it, to verify this, but it will be open launch for the general public only in the next year. At the same time we do not hide that we develop this board. We believe that at the end of publishing these kind of walls, the results will be all positive against the brick wall. It's cheaper, lighter, slimmer, better acoustics results, and finally you can hang on it much heavier stuff than on the brick wall.

PEK: Returning back to your own professional carrier, during these 7 years, do you feel that you could achieve the top or you're on the way there?

TR: On the way. In business, you're never on the top. It's a continuous process, you cannot say, I'm here. 

PEK: What do you feel, how much percent of growth are expected from East-European market?

TR: At least 10 %, it's better to say if you want to be rewarded, double the market grow. It's all demand. It means double speed than the market grows. The sells of innovative and new products, of course im not speaking of tons or square meters, Im speaking of turnover, money. Of course we want to achieve this, but we offering innovative products – which are more expensive but giving the costumer much better comfort, and the people want it. Even in East-Europe. I have a lot of positive examples and we can prove it. I hope that today we are able to prove everybody that our technologies are better. And it's not just a promise, so we looking each country – including Hungary – for an example house where we shake the hand in the very early stages of the erection of the building and put inside our technologies. We sponsore it a little to help cover the costs and when the building is finished we measure how the people can live there. What is their acoustic feeling, their termo feeling, their costs of energy, so we can show to everybody that this is not just a saying, just a promise, blabla marketing, instead this is something that we can prove and deliver.

Erika Katalina Pásztor