Lead story 01/19
The special thing about the Rhenus Group is that it follows the principle that an entrepreneurial spirit is not just something found at management level, but is present in each individual employee. As the logistics specialist is organised in local units, entrepreneurial thinking, innovative ideas and personal initiative find a particularly sympathetic ear there. “We’re not just a number in a multinational company, but are perceived as a member of the family,” says Nicolas Rottmann, the long-standing Managing Director of Rhenus Home Delivery, confirming this fact.
“As entrepreneurs within the company, our operations are very closely tied to our customers and employees. The local structures also promote flat hierarchies and quick decision processes.”Hugo Geerts, Managing Director of Rhenus Commodity Logistics Europe, can only endorse this. “By regularly exchanging ideas with colleagues, we can also learn a great deal from each other and introduce positive elements within other units too."
Having the courage to make a fresh start
The founding of Rhenus Commodity Logistics in Duisburg in February 2017 was based on positive experiences that had been gained earlier in Belgium. The Rhenus subsidiary has been making available international drop shipments for specific industries like steel, chemicals, agriculture or even building materials for more than two years now. Within a very short time, a new company had been established in Serbia and other firms based in Belgium, Poland, Austria, Romania and Slovenia were integrated into Rhenus Commodity Logistics.
Rhenus Commodity Logistics not only handles complete transport operations across several countries with different modes of transport, but also supports its customers with IT solutions and value-added processes like customs and fiscal services. “We’re aiming to achieve joint growth in long-term partnerships with our customers,” Hugo Geerts says.
This is a successful recipe. Rhenus Commodity Logistics has been organising regular steel transport operations from Russia to the port of Antwerp by ship and then on to Germany by inland waterway vessel for more than two years. The materials are stored there and distributed to final customers when required. Other projects even involve Asia. Machines and building materials were loaded on board inland waterway vessels in Austria and transported to a European seaport; the parts were then shipped to the Philippine capital, Manila, for the construction of an airport there.
“Having an entrepreneurial spirit includes being prepared to take calculable risks and it provides the motivation for permanently developing the company.”
Demonstrating an entrepreneurial spirit in everyday operations
However, how does Rhenus demonstrate its entrepreneurial spirit in its everyday business? Hugo Geerts reveals the secret. “By means of transparency and consistency. We don’t make any empty promises to our customers, but discuss both the potential and the risks with them. We then consistently implement any decisions that have been made. For example, customers affected by the low water levels in the river Rhine were informed about the problems at an early stage and offered alternatives; however, we also discussed the changes to prices that were necessary.”
Nicolas Rottmann primarily associates an entrepreneurial spirit with enjoying his work and dealing with employees and the Board in a relationship of trust. “I’m able to pursue my passionate interest and my visions – and I also have the opportunity to act quickly if it’s necessary,” he says, summarising matters.
His unit, Rhenus Home Delivery, has continued to grow strongly ever since the Rhenus Group entered the market for making deliveries to final customers about eleven years ago. The business unit has gradually entered the European market too. “This was necessary because of the customer and competitive situation as well as the changes to the market in Germany, but it also involved certain risks,” Rottmann explains.
“We first entered the markets in countries that were particularly relevant for our customers. We launched our business in Austria, Switzerland and the Czech Republic in 2010.” This was followed by other Eastern European countries, but also Italy and the Benelux region. The company finally acquired Network4Home in Great Britain in 2017 and opened up the Spanish market at the end of the year. “Although the general conditions, the transport infrastructure and the shortage of drivers have all worsened during the last few years, we’ve still managed to expand our market share in Europe and significantly enhance our customer base,” says Rottmann, summing up the situation.
The Rhenus subsidiary now has operations in more than ten European countries. This growth also means that Rhenus Home Delivery has increased the number of people that it employs. “Qualifications are important. But it’s even more important for us to know that employees fit into the team as people and show some team spirit,” he emphasises.
“An entrepreneurial spirit means growing with our customers in a transparent way.”
The internal innovation offensive known as RHEVO clearly demonstrated the potential that lies dormant in more than 29,000 employees who work within the Rhenus world. It gave birth to RHEGREEN, a free service provided by Rhenus Air Freight, and it has been available as a new feature since this year. It provides a tool that can calculate the CO2 emissions for flights and thereby create greater savings.
RHEGREEN is not a compensation, but a reduction programme. It makes use of a system that calculates rankings for airlines by taking into consideration aircraft types, fuel efficiency and the distance involved. This is based on which airline and which aircraft are the most efficient in terms of CO2 emissions on a particular route. The externally validated calculation enables reductions of between 10 and 40 percent in carbon dioxide emissions. Tobias Bartz, a Member of the Rhenus Board and a member of the RHEVO jury, knows just how important it is to foster an entrepreneurial spirit in employees. “Encouraging an entrepreneurial spirit and giving support to employees are very closely linked to each other and are some of the most important values that we practise at Rhenus.”
“If employees have the freedom to introduce their own ideas, the initiatives taken as a whole will always help us move forward as a company. This is why the logistics specialist encourages those employees who initiate products and take on responsibility,” Tobias Bartz affirms. “We’re happy to live with the entrepreneurial risk so that personal initiative can develop in order to achieve an increase in energy and performance for ourselves and for our customers.”
“An error culture is part and parcel of delegating responsibility and we need to practise this together.”