Published

Bjarne Skjelmose

Reputation is everything!

Position: Export Manager, Denmark
Employed since: 11 November 1976
Education: Engineer

On 11 November 2016, Bjarne Skjelmose celebrated his 40th anniversary of being a KC employee. Bjarne is loved by everyone and known for bringing expertise, experience and professionalism to the table. He's got a knack for culture and manages to always do and say the right thing - much to his younger colleagues' amazement. On the occasion of his anniversary, an interview was conducted with Bjarne trusting that with his forty years of experience in Kosan Crisplant, he would be able to give a profound answer to the question on everybody's lips: Why would one still want to be at the same company after 40 years? Keep on reading to learn what the ride has been like for the well-respected Export Manager and long-time role model.

How did your career at Kosan Crisplant progress?

I have had three different positions during my 40 years in KC. For those who know me only as a sales person, it may be a surprise to learn that I have no history in sales. I'm a trained engineer and for the first five years in this company, I worked as a supervisor installing carrousels all over the world. I was away from the office - and from home - hundreds of days a year, much to my girlfriend's regret.

After my first five years as a busy supervisor, I had still managed to have children and get married and that started a whole new chapter in my career. I was done travelling and wanted to be more at home so when a position as Head of the Documentation and Service Department appeared, I jumped at it. The job consisted of making documentation for our equipment and to teach our customers everything they needed to know about LPG as they entered the LPG business.

15 years later, a sales person covering the Far East retired, and I was offered his job. This was the job I had always really wanted! I love the culture and the people in the Far East. I already knew a lot of people in the region due to the training I had with them. But sales? Sales I didn’t know at all! However, I quickly gained the customers' trust and taught them how to start up their business in the most profitable way. Here, my background from technical documentation and as an installer paid off. I knew all the equipment by heart and that gave me a lot of credibility with the customers - they trusted me to know what was best for them.

What made you stay so long?

Well, no one threw me out! I think it's a very interesting and stimulating company. We are blessed with markets and customers that develop constantly - they always have - and that makes every day interesting. In addition, our company really is a great place to work: Employees are treated fairly, we enjoy a lot of freedom in our jobs and we have a large say in how we structure our everyday. KC expects us to take responsibility for our jobs and that creates a great sense of ownership - in both good times and bad, and I like that. I have always experienced great support from the management and with that a lot of freedom.

What piece of advice would you give to yourself forty years ago - what would you wish you knew back then?

You have to act decently and credibly and you need to be accountable for what you do. I have never wanted to cheat or deceive anyone when making a sale. All the agreements I have entered have been for the long-haul and they have been good deals for the customers as well. Credibility cannot be bought and in a small industry like ours, people talk and you keep bumping in to the same people in new positions or companies. It is very easy to ruin your reputation if you cheat your customers and make bad solutions for them - they will not forget if you have let them down once and they are certainly not going to do business with you again. References are everything in this business and if you manage to keep your customers happy, they will generate new customers for you. Having a good reputation and a deep knowledge is much more important than having low prices.

I have learned a lot about culture and about the importance of understanding and embracing other cultures in order to communicate effectively with the people in it. I have learned that grey hair is a good thing in the Far East. It represents experience and knowledge, and it inspires respect. Experience is much more appreciated and valued in that part of the world, and I like that! Especially after I have gone completely white myself!

What is the biggest high of your career?

The biggest high of my career is having been able to be at the right place at the right time. And we really have been in Indonesia and Bangladesh. We were able to predict the market and be ready - just like in a game of chess when you try to predict the next 3-4 moves. It is the same thing trying to predict the direction of a market. And we have managed to be one step ahead of the competition.