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INTERVIEW: BOJAN SIMOVIĆ, DIRECTOR OF HÖRMANN SERBIA

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Hörmann, a German company, being the world’s top manufacturer of garage and industrial doors, has for more than half a century been synonymous with quality and is the undisputed leader in the field of construction.

Thanks to decades of constant growth marked by innovation, today the company offers its customers on all meridians a rich product range which, aside from all-purpose doors, also includes engines and accessories, as Hörmann is Europe’s No. 1 supplier in that area as well.

The activities of the company’s representative offices in Europe, USA, Asia and Africa have certainly contributed to the process of building trust and developing a close relationship with clients.

The Serbian subsidiary of Hörmann has existed for ten years, and it has recently got itself a new showroom and a warehouse with a surface area of more than 1,000m2 in the industrial area near Belgrade, right next to the Belgrade–Šid motorway.

Bojan Simović, director of the Hörmann Serbia subsidiary, talks about Hörmann and its activities in Serbia for PROFIT magazine.

1 Mr Simović, tell us more about yourself – where were you born and what has your career been like so far?

It may be said that the fact that I work for a German company is no coincidence. I was born and grew up in the south of Germany. I was educated partly in Serbia. As for my education, I completed my graduate studies in technical sciences.

My career path was influenced by the fact that in the early 1990s I was engaged in the family business, an import/export company, and by the age of 25 I had already obtained some good work experience, as well as dozens of colleagues and business associates all over Europe. I was getting my formal education and work experience at the same time, so once I got my bachelor’s degree, I started working for a large German construction company, and after that I was a manager in an Austrian interior design company. I have been the director of Hörmann Serbia d.o.o. since January 1, 2011.

As for my personal life, I often travel with my family and I like to play sports. Although our company is a sponsor of the Serbian national football team, I personally prefer individual sports. I used to practice taekwondo, and nowadays I practice archery. Since I’m actively seeking new challenges, in mid-September I participated in the Stockholm Half Marathon.

2 How would you rate your company’s business in Serbia?

Hörmann products have been present on the Serbian market for a long time, but sales and distribution have greatly improved with the opening of the representative office, and I also believe there are many more satisfied citizens who have purchased our products. The move to a new and larger space was absolutely necessary so that we could meet the needs of all our associates, from the dealer network, architects, construction engineers, all the way to end customers.

3 Most of Hörmann production plants are located in Germany. Can a buyer from Serbia purchase the exact same doors as the ones sold in Germany?

Of course. At our production plants, there is no difference between the products sold in Germany, Western Europe, or here in Serbia. All products are of the same quality and are manufactured in accordance with strict European standards. Sales are handled exclusively by distributors. These may be companies that manufacture and assemble woodwork and may need doors in addition to their own products so that their offer is complete, as well as construction material depots. We are continually working on expanding our distribution network in order to reach our customers more easily. Hörmann Serbia sees itself as a service to its distributors – we promote the products, provide training for assemblymen, provide them with catalogues and all the required technical information, samples for their showrooms, we take them to seminars, and offer them an opportunity to visit our production plants in Germany. Collaboration with distributors is crucial for us, which is why we provide them with our unconditional support. I often tell my colleagues that we are only as strong as our distributors. And our distributors are very well informed when it comes to technical matters and are familiar with our products, which is a precondition for successful sales. When talking to a potential customer, they are able to make them choose our product over a competitor’s product using solid arguments.

4 Given the fact that your company is present throughout Europe, what are business operations like on the Serbian market compared to the European market?

First of all, people in Europe have a completely different culture when it comes to their homes. You cannot build a house and not complete the facade for 30 years. While we try to make our house bigger than our neighbor's, people in Europe try to have the prettiest gardens and backyards. And this attitude also translates to garage doors, since they are usually facing the street, as well as house doors, because they leave an impression on anyone visiting your home.

When it comes to the industrial segment, the amount of investment into the construction of new, or the renovation of old facilities, is simply unimaginable to us.

When Europe is mentioned in the context of business, what first comes to mind are the norms and standards followed by everyone, which means that my colleague could only have a competitor in a company that also has industrial production. When calling to inquire about price, our customers usually compare the price of our doors with the price of doors manufactured in some other workshop using parts that are not compatible with one another, bought wherever they were cheapest at that given point. Since Hörmann has patented some garage and industrial door constructions, at some point those patents became European norms. Thus, when we are forced to compare our doors to those of other manufacturers, we try to explain that it’s impossible for us to “strip down our product” in order to make it cheaper. Image a luxury car manufacturer having to take out the seats of their car, in order to bring the price down to match a much lower quality car brand. Something like that just can’t be done.

5 You have also mentioned collaboration with architects. Tell us more about that collaboration.

Our company has been presented, on multiple occasions, with the most prestigious award, Architects Partner Award, given by German architects to the best in the industry in the category of “Interior doors and garage doors”. Architects from all over Germany vote in a survey which does not offer any choices, but the architects themselves list companies that they collaborate well with, and whose products are in line with their criteria.

6 Is your quality recognized by local project engineers as well? What is the collaboration with local architects like?

At the end of last year, Hörmann opened a new architect counseling department in Germany in order to improve collaboration with architects and project engineers, thus increasing customer satisfaction. Architects also contact us to obtain professional information and technical details regarding our products, necessary for the further design process. Needless to say, architects may also visit our facilities and obtain information that will make their work easier. In addition, our website has an online Architects’ Program offering a quick and easy way to create projects using several hundred Hörmann products, all with just a few clicks. The Architects’ Program is, of course, free to use and download.

7 Hörmann entered the market with garage doors. Are they still the highlight of your product range?

Garage doors are just one of our trademark products. We manufacture multiple types of garage doors, house and entrance doors, interior doors, several kinds of industrial doors and reloading equipment in 34 specialized factories, but we are also active in the field of interior design. Some years ago, we purchased Germany’s No. 1 wooden door manufacturing company. These doors come in four different design lines: decorated, veneered, varnished in thirteen different colors, and doors with steel components and glazing. We offer twenty different wood textures, while our technologists guarantee wear- and high temperature-resistance. Aesthetics really matter to us, which is why our offer also includes a large number of doorknobs, roses and hinges. This makes it possible for you to take an active role in designing your new door. Our new interior door decor offers new possibilities when it comes to interior design.

8 This month you launched a free promotional activity – measuring garage door closing force. Tell us more about this promotional activity.

To put it simply – it’s about safety. Unfortunately, we have witnessed, read and heard about numerous situations in which people were injured by massive doors, such as garage doors, due to malfunctions. These types of injuries, caused by garage door malfunctions, are so common that some lawyers in the USA specialize in those specific kinds of injuries. According to data from the American National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), two thousand cases of garage doors falling and causing injury are reported on average each year. And we are all familiar with the feeling of slight panic, fearing that a massive door – garage or elevator door – will crush us the moment we poke our heads out. Garage door replacement is rarely on top of our list of planned repairs, although they should be tested at least once a year. That’s why we decided to organize a free garage door closing force measurement in collaboration with our local distributors, in order to test garage door safety.

9 At the same time, you offer garage and entrance doors at special lower prices.

A safe door is a great investment, and prices are now up to 30% lower. For the past couple of years, Hörmann has organized the “Europapromotion” promotional activity across Europe, which allows our customers to buy sectional garage doors with a motor, house and apartment doors, or gate motors at a significantly lower price.

10 What sales scope and increase did Hörmann achieve in the previous year?

In the previous year, we achieved a 21% sales increase compared to 2016. The indicators for this current year are good and we are expecting such growth in 2018 as well. I am glad that this growth is in relation to everyday sales, which means that business will be steady, even if there are no large projects that make up a big chunk of the turnover.

11 What are the business plans of your company in the coming period? What are your long-term, primary, and strategic goals and expectations?

Our goal is to introduce customers all over Serbia to our products, which is why we are actively working on expanding our distribution network. We are trying to provide quality training to our long-term, and especially new partners, so that they are able to recognize customer needs and offer them the right product, provide training for their assemblymen so that they can assemble the products properly, and provide support in all marketing activities. As our slogan points out – “A good name has to be earned”. Our work in a particular city is done as soon as we no longer receive calls from that city inquiring about the prices of doors, which then have to be redirected to a local distributor, but when everyone knows that there is some company “X” in their city that has the reputation of a reliable distributor of Hörmann products.

We came to the Serbian market with the intention of staying.

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The beginnings of the Hörmann era

Today, the Hörmann Group is run by the third and fourth generation, i.e. the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of company founder, August Hörmann. Thomas J. Hörmann, Martin J. Hörmann, and Christoph Hörmann are the personally liable general partners. The foundation for today's company was laid in the 1950s when Hörmann started manufacturing a new type of up-and-over garage door: the so-called “Berry door” named after the American who offered his patent to many door manufacturers in Germany, but August was the only visionary among them who knew what to do with it. In the 1960s, space-saving, vertically opening sectional doors for garages, as well as for industrial and commercial buildings, initiated development with a promising future. Since then, the product range has constantly been expanded upon. Today, Hörmann has 38 factories across Europe, North America and Asia, as well as more than 100 representative offices in over 40 countries and partners in 50 more countries, with an annual turnover of more than EUR 1 billion.

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Test the safety of your garage door.

Sign up for a free measurement of your garage door closing force by sending your contact details to the following address: info@horman.rs.


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