Er vi der?
Working for a big international fashion company like Bestseller means that your day will be anything but ordinary. Designing new collections, meeting with customers and suppliers, organizing photoshoots, planning campaigns and trying on samples are just a part of the fun activities you’ll be having as an IBT. But not if you work in finance. Then you are just a lonely, boring guy sitting in a quiet room, looking at the numbers the entire day and missing all the fun. Well, this is not entirely true…
The essence of the game
As one of the 22 IBTs for 2016, I got the chance to work as a Business Controller in the Chain Controlling department which is part of the Business Performance in Bestseller. Sounds confusing? It definitely does! Well let me simplify things a little bit. The business of Bestseller A/S can be divided into 3 parts: wholesale, retail and e-commerce. Hence, Chain Controlling is mainly responsible for the retail part. However, it won’t take a long time for one to find out that the organizational set-up in Bestseller is quite decentralized and complicated which makes it difficult to give an end-to-end view on the business as a whole. So, this is where the cool kids from Chain Controlling come in. Our ultimate goal is to become a trusted partner so that the management board, the brands and the country management can rely on. I am sure that by now you noticed the description “business” instead of a “finance” controller. This means that if we want to succeed in being a strategic business partner, we need to focus not only on the numbers, but as well as on the company’s processes, products and services. Sounds pretty important, right? 🙂
A place under the sun
So how as an IBT can you fit into the whole story? First things first. Yes, you have the background and the knowledge within finance. But the exciting part is that the IBT programme will constantly challenge you to engage into activities outside your comfort zone. A month before you sit in that nice, comfortable chair in your department, you will have a great training ride across Bestseller’s value chain. I know I had. One day I was a mystery shopper in several Bestseller’s stores in Århus. The next day I was a shop manager where in a team of 4 I was competing for running the most profitable “virtual” store in a unique game developed by the company. On all the other days I was learning about the business in general, having the opportunity to meet the managers from almost all Bestseller’s brands (including the big boss himself!). And just before I thought I had enough, I found myself driving to Germany to work in a store for a week. Yes, a finance guy, trying to sell women’s clothes in a Vero Moda store, in the middle of Berlin. Quite exciting, isn’t it!? 🙂
If you think that by working in finance you shouldn’t be involved in other activities, like for example sales, then you are wrong. Remember what I wrote about my department being more business oriented? Well, with the experience I got from the training period I definitely had the business mindset when I stepped into the office for the first time. It is a great advantage to have a first-hand experience from the front-line of the retail business (a.k.a the store). It gives you a better understanding of the everyday challenges that employees in the store face, and many of your non-IBT colleagues will envy you for that. But just because I had a fancy training doesn’t mean that I know everything. I still have a lot to learn. Luckily, I have a team of 10 colleagues that have a black belt in Business Controlling, and they are quite good at it. In this team you are not treated like a trainee at all. From the first day, I got the responsibility to control my own retail markets, so it was time to roll up my sleeves.
Oh…and by the way, I cannot complain about the workload when I have an office-view like that!
Work hard, play hard(er)
If I mention that I am the only foreigner in the team, I am sure you wonder how the hell am I able to socialize with my Danish colleagues. Well I don’t. I am sitting alone in the corner during lunch break and I hope somebody talks to me…juuuust kidding 🙂 . Normally, they speak Danish between themselves, but when a foreigner is present they will gladly switch to English (well most of the time). And they really do know how to party! I consider myself as a competitive person, but these guys bring the competitiveness to a whole different level. When we go out (that actually do happens) then you need to be prepared to win in almost everything: playing pool, drinking games (tænkeboks), disco-dancing, eating stegt flæsk (fried bacon), and even a 100 meter run (OK, we haven’t tried the last one…yet). All in all, we are characterized with a great team spirit accompanied with a strong desire to win.
Beyond the numbers
To put it in a nutshell, I cannot really say that being a Business Controller is easy or difficult. Instead, I would say it is interesting. We are converting those “boring” numbers into a useful tool that makes the decision process across the whole value chain much easier: what are we doing good; what are we doing bad; how can we improve? Everyday the fast-fashion business faces many uncertanies. But everyday we use our skills and competences to conquer them, together as one team, one family. Er vi der? Ja!*
*Chain Controlling Dictionary: At the end of each monthly department meeting our manager Jacob shouts “Er vi der?” meaning “Are we physically and mentally prepared and ready?” after which the team responds with “Ja!” (a perfect answer to almost everything)
Stay tuned for more posts after we get back from the Christmas Holidays!