Interview with two Store Managers about professional teamwork

Career or team spirit?

“With good friends and a great team, anything is possible”, even a career path from apprentice to store operations manager! Is ambition a bigger success factor than friendship? We asked two young Store Managers who have known each other since their apprenticeships about their views on career and team spirit. 

How did you find your way to HOFER?

Manuel: I already knew in school that I wanted to work at HOFER one day. I was impressed with the career prospects and the great apprenticeship.

Oliver: I took a look at different companies and considered a variety of apprenticeship options such as electrician or refrigeration technician. My brother ultimately advised me to take a look at HOFER. No other company offers comparable career prospects for people without a school-leaving certificate. I haven’t regretted my choice!

What can you tell us about your career?

Manuel: I started with a three-year apprenticeship and then worked as Assistant Store Manager for two years. After that, I had the opportunity to step up to Store Manager.

Oliver: I also started with an apprenticeship. I was responsible for packing shelves in the first apprenticeship year, worked the till in the second year, with initial training in management skills, and was asked to take over in the absence of the Store Manager in my third year. After completing my apprenticeship, I was Assistant Store Manager for one year and two months until I was promoted to Store Manager. The potential to become Store Manager is decided based on your work record in the store and your school marks. I particularly like that our company offers a chance to gradually grow into the role instead of being thrown in at the deep end, as it used to be.

How did you meet?

Manuel: We sat next to each other on the first day of vocational school and liked each other right away. We just clicked. :) In time, we started meeting up for drinks or other shared activities.

Oliver: In vocational school! Both of us were very clear that we wanted to become Store Managers. In boarding school in Gmunden, we always supported each other to complement our strengths. Both of us got perfect marks.

What is your best memory of your apprenticeship time?

Manuel: My personal highlight was the graduation ceremony. I was so proud to have earned perfect marks. Our class was a great team. I really liked that all of us were apprentices at HOFER!

Oliver: To me, a special feature of our apprenticeship was that the training was custom-tailored for working at HOFER. Special memories include product sampling, the many practical hours in the store, helpful lessons for working with customers, our participation in the Sales Championship and our sales training.

What do you particularly appreciate about HOFER?

Manuel: The great career opportunities and the fair treatment of employees, both by the leadership and within the team. I definitely don’t want to work anywhere else!

Oliver: There’s no denying it, I like the excellent pay. ;) I also enjoy the work-life balance and the fact that I can change things in the store and have the freedom to make my own decisions. That allows me to be a better manager and to establish priorities in the store that are relevant to me. In addition, I like to know that my hard work is appreciated.

What was the largest challenge you have encountered in your time working at HOFER?

Manuel: I was an apprentice in the Lentia store and also became Store Manager there. That meant taking over the supervision of staff members who had originally been my trainers. I had to earn their respect and grow into my role. Today I oversee a team of 30 people and everything is working extremely well.

Oliver: I became a Store Manager 1.5 years ago. During that time, I have been involved in a store closure, a re-opening and a new opening. Those were completely new experiences for me. You only have a very small time window, in which everything has to happen: The store furnishings are rearranged, products are shipped elsewhere before the store is closed and you need to reorder everything for the new store. Tasks also include legal reviews and training new employees. I learned a great deal about myself in this process and became a better manager.

What was the best thing about your apprenticeship?

Manuel: I loved attending vocational school. The weeks we spent at the Corporate Office with trainers, personal coaching and seminars for personality development were particularly enjoyable.

Oliver: The variety of tasks on the job. Time always passed so quickly and I never felt bored. We always had a ton of fun at vocational school and at work. It was a perfect mix of learning and working. The weeks we spent at the Corporate Office were a particular highlight. We visited different departments. For example, we saw how fruit is ordered in Corporate Sourcing, we learned where individual products come from, got an overview of accounting and visited the chocolate factory.

What would be your advice for your 16-year-old self prior to starting the apprenticeship?

Manuel: Never give up, always stay motivated, enjoy going to work and work on your own attitude.

Oliver: Set a goal and put your full effort into achieving it – it’s worth it. My goal was to become a Store Manager from the very start. Here’s a funny story about that: I mentioned my goal to a lady who had been with HOFER for 30 years, on my first apprenticeship day. She told me she had never heard that from an apprentice before.

What do you like best about your current job as a Store Manager?

Manuel: Motivating my team and keeping high standards in the store. In addition, the work is always varied and never boring.

Oliver: The scheduling flexibility. I can design my own work schedule as I need it. To me, it is particularly enjoyable to train new staff members and to observe their development and to continuously optimise the store. I especially like the respect we have for one another and the pleasant working environment.

What is your favourite benefit at HOFER?

Manuel: Ongoing training for professional advancement and team events. The company gives us EUR 50 per employee for events, which means we can organise private events for the whole team. Those are a lot of fun!

Oliver: The team events are particularly important for team building. This year, we're going to play paintball – I’m already looking forward to that! The programme for Store Managers is super helpful. We have a Store Manager training week every year to learn more and to share experiences with other Store Managers. I find that especially helpful because I hear about other approaches and get ideas for potential improvements in our store.

What do you consider relevant for working in a team?

Manuel: Collaboration and united effort.

Oliver: Respect and working as one team without smaller cliques. I also want every employee to enjoy their work, for all of us to pull together as a team without bickering.

Can you share a special customer experience?

Manuel: I once received a written recommendation from the regional office because a customer was so pleased with the easy process of returning a lawnmower. I even got praise from the Area Manager. A funny thing happened in my first year as an apprentice, when I still had longer hair: I was standing by the refrigerator cases, and a lady kept calling “Miss, Miss!”. When I finally turned around, I realised she was looking at me. I told her that I was not a girl, but would be happy to help her. My shift ended at 3pm that day, and at 4pm I was at the hairdresser! :)

Oliver: I once received praise from customer service because I helped a customer resolve a return in which everything had gone wrong. I was very pleased about that.

If you had to choose, what would be more important for your work? A: friendly co-workers B: fast promotion

Manuel: No doubt, colleagues! It takes a strong team to make it to the top.

Oliver: I already reached my goal of becoming Store Manager. My team is my highest priority.

Thank you for sharing your valuable insights in your apprenticeship and your work as Store Manager . We wish you both all the best for the future and your friendship!