How we work at Closelink – Interview with Hapag-Lloyd

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Our Head of Marketing and Design Frank Alexander Szyperrek had the chance to talk to Elena Frisen (Digital Business & Transformation) from Hapag-Lloyd about how digitisation and the working world of tomorrow could look like.

Learn more about how we are empowering a pleasant working culture. We highlighted some of the most important parts of the interview in this news article. Enjoy the read!

Elena Frisen:
Do you maintain a start-up culture? Can you describe it? What does your working environment look like?

Frank Alexander Szyperrek:
Maintaining a culture means that you first of all have to create one. Building one in the early phases of our start-up with everyone contributing to it gave us a clear direction. Besides a purpose, vision and mission, a culture must contain certain core values. These values are helping current and future employees to bond with the company. As the company grows, values have to adapt and echo the working environment of the current state.

One of our company values is called Seize your Liberties. This means, we’re valuing a working culture that promotes flexibility, creativity and joy. Clearly spoken, employees can decide freely on where to work from, when to take a break or holidays and when to start and stop working every day. We focus on results and commonly agreed objectives rather than tracking hours spent in front of a computer.

Another value says Embrace Diversity. We’re not ignoring or undermining other opinions and arguments. We look for pluralism and inclusiveness to achieve extraordinary results.

If you want to learn more about our company culture, have a look at our vision and values: here.

Elena Frisen:
What do you think is the working world of tomorrow?

Frank Alexander Szyperrek:
Nature of work is changing rapidly and it’s one of the biggest challenges most companies have to face these days. One major driver for productivity and success is the individual contributor. Collaboration, communication, creativity, joy and openness are trapped in old-fashioned organizational structures which are dominated by chains of command and top-down mentalities. We need to fundamentally rethink the way of working by being employee-centric. Our goal should be to unleash the potential of every individual by creating space and ways of contribution. After all it’s beneficial for the employee and the company.

At Closelink we started with a small detail. We got rid of our internal job titles. This created a flat collaboration level promoting trust, enhancing transparency and empowering contribution. Every employee has the right to express her/his opinion without fear of being exposed. Each employee is taking ownership of various projects on behalf of their interests and skills. This doesn’t have to happen at a fixed desk in our office, but this can happen from anywhere around the globe. We insist on flexibility and freedom of choice. This openness to new working ideas is fueling our growth and embodies our company evolvement.

Elena Frisen:
What do you think long-established traditional firms can learn from you?

Frank Alexander Szyperrek:
We think nobody should be afraid of change. To the contrary, we use it for making bold decisions and drive innovation. Agility is probably something that big, established firms can learn from smaller companies and start-ups. Allowing employees to make own decisions. Also, establish a working culture where people are motivated to challenge and re-invent. Both on a small process level or even business models for entire divisions. Another aspect is to provide the space to make mistakes and the chance to try by error. The idea of perfection sometimes prevents innovation.

Elena Frisen:
And vice versa, are there also things Closelink can learn from big corporates?

Frank Alexander Szyperrek:
There are definitely a number of things that Closelink and other young companies can learn from established corporations. Once is to establish a long-term view on business apart from the fast moving daily development. Start-ups sometimes develop at such a speed that it becomes a challenge to stay on course.

Elena Frisen:
Which technologies do you think will be of main relevance in the near future (e.g. Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR))? Do you see Closelink incorporating any of these?

Frank Alexander Szyperrek:
Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence are emerging topics. You can’t really avoid reading or hearing about it. And it’s true – every business should consider it in their digital strategies and review options to improve processes. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that every business is going to need the mentioned technology to remain relevant in the future. These technologies need to be understood as enabler to reach higher goals, among which are transparency, security, work-life balance, continuous growth etc. Reaching a stage at which data from different sources communicates among each other in order to automate re-occuring processes and to identify deviations is about to become the standard in the near future. Building on that, artificial intelligence or machine learning helps to further reduce the necessity of manual input. The goal is to achieve a better, more reliable outcome by applying less manual input.

At Closelink, we’re carefully reviewing and evaluating new technologies to decide whether they make sense and help our business to evolve. As an example, we currently work on a project that incorporates Machine Learning. We review historic data, define algorithms based on the finding to be applied on future metrics and variables. In that way, future developments, for instance a specific luboil demand, can be predicted and actions can be assigned.

Elena Frisen:
In your opinion, why is the digitization process so slow in traditional companies?

Frank Alexander Szyperrek:
Our everyday lives are heavily affected by digital achievements. It’s hard to overlook the impact that smartphones and tablets have on us. Booking our next vacation accommodation on Bali, buying birthday gifts at the last second or booking a ride to a desired destination. As an end user, this is easy. The user receives the benefit. In companies that implement digital tools and processes, this is not always the case. The one that needs to adapt to a change might not directly benefit from it, only on the long run. From our own experiences a lot of issues are created by vague definitions or a false understanding of what digital really means. It’s often viewed as an extended IT infrastructure or the shift of sales and marketing processes. But there is way more to it. As mentioned before we undergo a massive change of behavior and usage. That means connecting data and using it in the right environment could enhance analytics and automation of processes as well as decision making. It creates huge opportunities for new business strategies and models.

Digitizing means project management and management of change. Traditional companies should not fear this change. They should rather define clear objectives and understand digital tools as enabler to reach these clearly defined objectives. And they should not be driven by buzz words only. Blockchain and artificial intelligence are not pre-defined answers to every critical situation.