I started working at Herth+Buss on 1st April 1993. The Sales Manager gave me and another new Field Service colleague a very warm welcome. After we had been given an introduction to the company, my new colleague asked whether he was allowed to smoke in the office. He was permitted to do so. Although I was a little perplexed as to why he would ask such a question after just 15 minutes. Nowadays, smoking is forbidden across the entire company, which I think is a good thing.
We were placed in various Sales-related departments. The current catalogues were set down in front of me so I could study them and get to know the Herth+Buss product range. “Automotive electrics” was still the strongest range at that time in terms of the sales figures. “Nipparts” was really just getting started. After two days in which I learned a great deal from my colleagues, I got to enter the warehouse to direct an order. The order in question was for a large company from the south of Germany. I was told that work at Herth+Buss was carried out meticulously for small and large customers alike. After the induction week, I was assigned to two “old” colleagues in order to observe the working procedure in the Herth+Buss Field Service.
Working in the Herth+Buss Field Service
The first colleague was in Bavaria, where I was able to gain very interesting and personal experience. The second one was travelling around the Ruhr district – and was a true all-rounder himself. Picking up goods here and taking them to the next customer there. Herth+Buss wasn’t able to supply them at that time. In an emergency, orders were even scribbled down on the palm of your hand if you didn’t have an order slip on you.
After this phase, I was assigned to my predecessor, who was shortly about to retire. This particular colleague, who had been at the company for a great many years, passed all his customers on to me. He was very good at his job. This was a hugely important step for me; it gave me initial contact with my new customers. We assembled our sales documentation from the paper catalogues so that we were able to go to the customer with a huge folder and present our products to them. I developed a comprehensive knowledge of our products while visiting my customers.
Many years – many Changes!
Nowadays, many products are provided in the form of an electronic catalogue. One or two people still need to adapt to this new format. At the time, it was very important to write out the orders from our customers, be they workshops, vehicle electricians, jobbers, vehicle manufacturers or wholesale distributors. These orders were then sealed in an envelope the same evening and sent back to our headquarters in Heusenstamm. Fax technology arrived later on. This allowed orders to reach Heusenstamm even quicker, meaning that our customers received their goods sooner as well.
Products were subjected to increased scrutiny, meaning that various items were dropped from the different assortments over time, beginning with spare parts for starters and alternators. Car lighting was included later. New products were added, thereby bringing the product ranges into line with current requirements. The assortment now known as Jakoparts was expanded to such an extent that the two ranges (Elparts/Jakoparts) are equally strong today.
At the end of 1997, I was informed by my colleague in the office that we only intended to supply large wholesalers from that point on. This seemed like a very unusual decision at the time, though it was definitely the right one with the benefit of hindsight.
Technical process arrives!
After several years, the electronic VIS system was introduced to provide sales information. The whole thing was laptop-based, which was a real highlight back then. However, Herth+Buss has always been very innovative. The system was advanced and expanded very effectively: today, its operation is based on SAP.
Whilst it was previously crucial to write out orders by hand, our “modus operandi” today has come a long way. Online sales now make up almost 90 per cent of my turnover. Many factors are crucial to our work today: providing quotations or information about new products, undertaking stock clearances, providing our premium customers and authorised dealers with training and local support, gathering information on markets and customers, expanding our relationship management and reaching out to the right contacts.
The customer landscape has also changed dramatically. Many mergers and takeovers have taken place. Many customers are switching to corporate groups. Pure Bosch wholesalers and factory representatives no longer exist. What’s more, new partnerships such as Global One or AAG/AAS are emerging.
Today, I am retiring and passing my customers on to my successor in the role. I wish him and the whole of Herth+Buss every success and hope they continue to keep one eye on the future.
Herth+Buss is a wonderful company that is well worth working for – it has given me a lot over the years.