Interview with Hartmut Pirker: 25 years of work, talent and passion

Hartmut Pirker, Export Manager at Montbel, is celebrating 25 years of esteemed service. This is an important milestone for the whole company and a good example of how important the solidity of the Montbel “family” is for its success; it represents a wealth of know-how, ideas, relationship-building skills, determination and mutual trust. The Montbel Team’s strength is also in low turnover that distinguishes the Company. A high-added-value of which Hartmut is a proud testimony.

What does working for Montbel for 25 years mean to you?
I am proud to have been part of such a qualified and high-profile company for 25 years. Montbel has contributed significantly to my professional growth over the years. After such a long time, my relationship with the owners is very close and it is like being part of their family. Working for a company for so many years has also allowed me to establish a strong relationship with many of our clients and local agents.

Tell us a bit about the role of Export Manager. What are your duties?
The main goal of the Export Manager is to drive expansion in foreign markets and guarantee a higher turnover, new customers and new partnerships that help the company grow in the long term.
You are responsible for building the sales force (agents), for managing and motivating them, finding new sales channels, training the sales force and clients, monitoring the set sales goals and correcting them if necessary.
You must analyse the country where you wish to expand to understand if there are the economic conditions to invest. And plan an appropriate marketing strategy.
You must also determine which companies are fine to cooperate with and which companies are competitors. You must have knowledge of the different trends in the countries, as well as being familiar with the history and culture of the foreign country.

What is the hardest part of this job and what are its most interesting or rewarding aspects?
If somebody is looking for a job with relatively regular working hours, then do not consider the job of an Export Manager. This kind of job takes up a lot of time during the day and even more when travelling abroad. One difficulty at the moment is finding good local agents in different countries, as there is a scarcity of young people willing to work as agents and they are often lacking in professionalism. On the other hand, as Export Manager you get the chance to meet a lot of people of different cultures, you learn a lot of different ways of working through your clients and every day you have different problems to solve. You never get bored. Only at the end would I say that an Export Manager is lucky to see a lot of different places around the world (even though very often in a bit of a rush).

How did you become the Export Manager of Montbel?
I was born in Austria. While I was studying mechanical engineering in Vienna in 1994 I met an Italian girl. For one year I travelled back and forth by train every weekend from Vienna to Udine to see my girlfriend. This life was getting so stressful that I decided to quit university and emigrate to Italy. In 1995 I got married and had to find a job. I saw an ad in the local newspaper for a company that was looking for a native speaker of German. Three weeks later I decided to answer the ad. It was Montbel. My wife and I then had a meeting with Manuela Montina, the President of the company today. At that time my Italian was quite basic but my English and French were already very good. So I started in the company on 26th March 1996, where I got experience of nearly all the positions from accounting, purchasing, production preparation to sales. At the end of 1999 Montbel decided to abandon custom production and launch a collection of chairs for the contract market, selling it under its own brand. This was the beginning of my career as Export Manager; I started setting up the sales network in many countries around the world and over the years, thanks to the support and investments of the owners, was instrumental in establishing Montbel as a well-known company on the international contract market.

What do you think people around the world appreciate most of Italian design?

Refined style
Innovation
Attention to detail
Creativity
The quality of the materials used for the products
Imagination when finding solutions
Ability to last over time

Lastly, what advice would you give to anyone hoping to become an Export Manager?
Invest in different languages. English is a must but it is very helpful to know at least one or two other languages. Languages are the basis of a good relationship with your client because it is a matter of understanding each other. Listen to your clients and your Area Managers, understand their problems and find ad hoc solutions for them. Selling products from catalogues is not very difficult but finding solutions to their problems makes the difference in this business.

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