Advanced training seminar for Vehicle Parts Manager to be
The Vehicle Parts Manager course has already become something of a tradition at Herth+Buss. Every year, a select few employees have the opportunity to participate in the seminar. It is highly regarded in the industry. This year, it was my turn to become a Vehicle Parts Manager. In the second of three groups, I had the chance to learn from the best experts in their respective fields.
The seminar is divided into 3 blocks of 6 days each and is organized by the "Gesamtverband Autoteile-Handel e.V." (General Association for the Car Parts Business, or GVA for short). This is the trade association and political lobby group for independent vehicle parts wholesalers in Germany.
1st week in Rösrath, 5th to 11th March.
The first of the 3 weeks took place in Rösrath. It's just before you get to Cologne when travelling from Frankfurt. After the usual comfortable trip there in what is now my preferred company car, the Mercedes V-Class, I was able to get to know a few of the participants immediately after my arrival at the conference hotel. My first impressions during the fleeting contact in the corridors of the hotel were confirmed during the teaching units over the days that followed. This was a great bunch of people. We enjoyed meeting up in the afternoons for group study or later on in the evenings for a drink at the bar.
The first teaching unit was very close to home for all participants. "Market and Competition"; everyone in attendance had one or two relevant points to share from their own day-to-day experience. The knowledge that the participants brought to the table was reinforced with and related to well-founded facts by the tutor. After well-earned breaks and hearty meals, our tutor Mr Berning was very adept at getting the group focused on the task at hand again. This was partly due to methods which might have appeared unconventional at first glance: this meant that some of the participants not only left the seminar as Vehicle Parts Manager, but also as budding professional jugglers!
A typical Day
The weather was lousy – to put it mildly – and so there weren't many activities left over for us to do together to make appropriate use of our free time each day.
A typical schedule looked something like this: Breakfast - Studying - Coffee break - Studying - Lunch - Studying - Coffee break - Studying - Dinner - Potentially some more studying - Swimming/Gym/Jogging - Watching football and/or evening drinks.
By way of a conclusion for the first teaching unit, we were informed about appropriate eating habits and suitable manners for a business scenario in a very entertaining etiquette course. Alongside exotic dishes such as lobster, an explanation of the correct way of dealing with kebabs and pizza was also given.
The following day, we got to sink our teeth into the second teaching unit on the topic of Logistics. This is a field which is often underestimated to begin with. Yet also fundamentally important to every company, where it separates the successful outfits from the less successful ones. Mr Mau dazzled us with his comprehensive knowledge on the topic and gave us the right information at the right time – and in the right place. After this teaching unit, we had the opportunity to put the most important logistical facts we had picked up into practice.
We commandeered the in-house bowling alley in order to mix up our evening entertainment a little more. In terms of my own performance, this was a rather modest success, although we all thoroughly enjoyed each other's company. A good way of bringing things to a close. A good reason to look forward to the second week in Ludwigsburg.
2nd week in Ludwigsburg, 26th March to 1st April.
The second week didn't hold as many surprises in store as the first. We all recognised the familiar faces from before and knew more or less what to expect. Yet the tension at the start of the 2nd week was palpable; after all, the first item on the weekly seminar programme was an exam on the topic of "Market and Competition". Once this initial exertion had passed, we could all concentrate on our studies again. After a brief coffee break, of course.
The following unit on Business Administration and Marketing, with all its many facets, quickly became a highlight. Not because the topic in itself was so fascinating, but much more because the tutor responsible for the module, Mr Kaapke, is such a unique character. He understood exactly how to impart knowledge on the topics in layman's terms, join the necessary dots and keep students on topic while being authoritative yet light-hearted.
Even Vehicle Parts Manager need a break here and there
Unfortunately, Ludwigsburg offered a little less in the way of appealing activities for the evenings after our studies. On the other hand, the weather this week was miles better than in our first. As a result, we used our time after the teaching units wisely to cool down with a chilled beer in the warm sunshine. We also frequented a nearby shopping centre from time to time – not to mention the pizzeria located within it. One quiet afternoon, I made the short hop to the town of Böblingen. I spent some free time in Motorworld. It's an absolute must-see attraction for any fan of extraordinary vehicles. You won't come across them on the road every day.
While we're on the topic of cars, I have to add a few words concerning the underground car park of the otherwise perfectly tolerable hotel. This time around, I was happy to have been given the somewhat smaller Hyundai i40 to drive instead of the company's V-Class. The car park was so crooked and narrow. One or two uneasy minutes were needed to navigate it – even in an average-sized estate.
This aside, the second week was certainly a little quieter than the first. We used the time in the evenings either for studying or to relax and listen to music in our spacious rooms.
3rd week in Rösrath, 23rd to 29th April.
The 3rd week started with some good news – the V-Class was available again! I set off once more on the relatively short trip towards Cologne. After covering a little under half of the distance, I was given a nasty shock by the fuel tank indicator. I'm so used to being given a company car with a full tank. I normally don't pay too much attention to this corner of the dashboard. At that point, however, the V-Class was running a little low on juice. I was torn as to whether I should take a gamble and try to cover the remaining 100 km without a top-up. I decided to take a slightly more leisurely approach. Therfore I didn't encounter any problems with the recently installed speed cameras on the familiar stretch of road as a result.
Upon arrival at the hotel, I was pleasantly surprised. The room I was booked into turned out to be considerably more comfortable than in week one. Fortunately, the modest Internet connection was still sufficient. It allowed me to watch the first-rate "El Classicó" between Real Madrid and Barcelona on the day I arrived without needing to buffer for too long. The days that followed were then a little less relaxing. Two consecutive exams were first up on the schedule at the start of the next unit. The exam in Business and Marketing was closely followed by a test of the legal knowledge we had previously gained.
You could sense the relief among the participants after completing all of the written exams. The following evening was largely used to pay some due attention to the local eateries. The next day, we had the chance to apply all of our acquired knowledge and shared experiences to a practical scenario. Once more in order to prepare ourselves adequately for the upcoming oral exam.
After overcoming some initial jitters, this was then a minor highlight of the 3rd week for me. The Q&A round in the presence of the tutors was very entertaining at times and strengthened the character of the group even further. After all of the oral exams, the entire cohort could celebrate successful results. We rightly start to call ourselves Vehicle Parts Manager!