Nineteen years in one company is quite a long time. Mr. Wolfgang is not only a monumental figure of the Bertrand company, but also a man who knows our company's products perfectly. We talked about what distinguishes the Bertrand brand on the market, but also about how this adventure with sales and exports began for our interlocutor. And everything had a rather unusual beginning... We invite you to read the interview!
Do you remember your first contact with Bertrand?
I remember, I remember. It actually happened twenty-four, twenty-five years ago. Then I met Mr. Jacek Bertrand, who was learning German with me. At that time he was a very talented student. To this day, it is difficult to find a person who would have such a willingness and ambition to learn. I remember that Mr. Jacek impressed me very much with his determination. However, before I started working at Bertrand, five or six years earlier, I actually got to know the company, I knew what it produced and how it operated. I had a good job, even a very good one, because I worked in a language school with a network all over the world. But one day, Mr. Jacek asked me directly: would I like to work in his company? I started checking and wondering what her philosophy was and what her products were. I had to carefully analyze whether I could be behind it and whether I would feel good in this company and in the new role. I finally agreed and I've been here for nineteen years.
Have these nineteen years passed quickly?
Too fast. Once, when I was a younger person, when I heard my grandmother or grandfather say: "How time flies", I thought to myself: "What are they saying?" There are twenty-four hours in a day, each hour sixty minutes and each minute sixty seconds. After all, time cannot flow faster or slower. That's what I thought then. And today I understand these words perfectly.
In what role did you start working at Betrand?
First as a cost estimator for the German market. Already then, Mr. Jacek probably had some plans for me and expansion into this country in general, because I was the second person in the company employed in this role. The other person doesn't work here anymore, I stayed. Quite quickly, I began to be responsible for the entire German market. And practically, looking through the prism of my duties, not much has changed here. However, our export department has changed and expanded, because today - in addition to the German market - we also operate in other markets: English, Italian, we are also in Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and so on. It would be difficult if only one person had to deal with it. And besides... my English is good enough, that is, enough to order a beer in a restaurant. Of course, I `m joking. However, I would not feel able to conduct business conversations in this language, so I pointed to other people who could do it better and more effectively.
What is it like to work here?
How? All right. Otherwise I wouldn't be here for so long.
Why do you think the Bertrand brand is unique?
This is a very difficult and complex question. Let me explain. Windows? Big, really big companies are present on the market. Those that make really good products and those that make slightly worse ones. But it's very easy and virtually everywhere to find a company from which you can buy windows. The competition is huge and you need to stand out. We work on profiles that we buy from suppliers, so - de facto - we rely on the same as the competition. In the window industry, individual products are difficult to distinguish from the competition at first glance.
So why do customers choose the Bertrand brand and not others?
There are several reasons, but I'll start from the beginning. From the first moment we started to develop our exports, I tried to ensure that our clients could reach an agreement with their representatives abroad. I took into account Poles who could not only speak German, but would also think in German. They knew the market, they knew how business was done there and so on. What is very important, I referred clients to people who lived in a specific region of Germany - for the client it was a fairy tale, because they understood each other just like they would with their own people. Because it's just like in Poland, when we compare the mentality of people living in Pomerania with those, for example, from Zakopane, we will notice significant differences. It is no different in Germany. Sometimes, when a person called from Dortmund and the phone was answered by an employee who knew the realities in Bavaria, where life was different and slower, it was really difficult for them to communicate. The one from Dortmund would be nervous. Therefore, when selecting people to cooperate with, we paid attention to such details, namely that our representatives were divided into regions that they know, as well as the mentality of the people living there. We had service fully tailored to the client and that was a great, great advantage. It happened that something didn't quite work, or we were more expensive than others, but regular customers still bought from us precisely because of the people who served them. This is a very important issue, because if we have similar products in terms of quality or price, the customer who is about to make a purchase often decides to buy precisely because of the person who offers the product to him in everyday and frequent contact.
Bertrand boasts of the high quality of its products. For customers, when everyone looks at price, does it still matter?
Yes, the quality of our products is of great importance, I will explain why in a moment. As an interesting fact, I would like to add that once the chief German technician of the company, Gealan, who had the opportunity to meet many companies operating on the market, because many companies in the industry buy their products, told me directly that he does not know any other company that welds so thoroughly profiles and which makes such good windows from their profiles, just like Bertrand. These are very nice and valuable words, because they confirm our quality. There is another thing.
Equally important, we have never "slimmed down" our profiles. The customer cannot see what is inside the window, so it is a great temptation to save money in this area, especially in the event of a crisis or when looking for greater savings. Instead of a closed profile, give an open one, or instead of two millimeters thick, give 1.8, 1.5 or even 1.2 mm. The temptation is huge, because - as I mentioned - the end customer will not notice the difference with the naked eye, they look like any other windows to him. But if the window is suddenly slimmed down at important points that the customer will not notice, it will cause big problems later.
Correct. Because later the intermediary will have to go to his final customer, who received a worse quality and perishable product, to adjust his wings, and we know that this is nerves and the intermediary loses credibility. Our great advantage is that when customers bought Bertrand windows, they later said that all they had to do was install them, adjust them and forget about the construction. This is a very big compliment and always nice to hear. Because even if theoretically we are a bit more expensive for the customer, it still benefits the customer later, because after installation he has peace of mind.
What else, in your opinion, distinguishes the Bertrand brand?
Dealers and architects expect various products for their clients. We are one of those few companies where the customer can buy almost everything from us. We have a full range of products, windows and doors, facades, we produce everything ourselves. Thanks to this, our client does not have to have contacts with several different companies from which he will order, but can immediately buy from us virtually everything that interests him.
We always try to move towards premium, so we try to further improve the products we receive from system providers or profilers. Example? Low threshold in Gealan - it is not possible to install hidden hinges. We had a large customer in Austria who wanted products with a low threshold, with hidden hinges. We managed to find a threshold from another company, with similar parameters to Gealan, in which it is possible to install hidden hinges. This shows that we have solutions for our clients that they will not find anywhere else - and even if they do, it will be very difficult for them.
Or painting windows - in the past, customers often asked about this. We had to reject these inquiries because there was no paint on the market that would stick to plastic. We had to say no. However, we finally found a good paint supplier, and at the same time technology has advanced so much that we can now guarantee that the color will be clear and durable after our painting. A customer can order twenty different windows in twenty colors and the cost is not as high as if he wanted to foil them.
Sometimes customers want to have different films on their windows. We had a case where the client wanted foil in the typical color DB 703, i.e. gray. He wanted foil because - in his opinion - it gave a better effect, but the profiler did not want to do it, offering another, alternative color. Finally, Bertrand purchased a foiling machine, so we are one of the few companies on the market that foils profiles ourselves. Thanks to this, we sold a lot of products for very large objects in the colors that our customers wanted. Our strength is that we often offer the client an opportunity that he cannot get anywhere else. We try to fulfill every wish, even the most sophisticated ones. The fact that we are often able to meet various expectations makes us stand out on the market. But I would like to tell you one more thing, if I may.
Looking at the German market, where there are more and more residential burglaries, the issue of security is very important. Since I have been working here, almost nineteen years, we have always used closed steel of appropriate thickness in our PVC windows. Closed – this is very important. Even profilers predict an open U profile, where the U is always open towards the wing. Anti-burglary catches are always tightened at this point. As standard, almost every company installs steel where these catches are screwed into the window. They are open, which means that each hook is tightened to the PVC by approximately 3 millimeters. It's easy, even with a pen, to pry off such a hook. However, there is an important difference in our products.
Please tell me about her.
We have closed steel. This means that in our products every single hook is twisted to steel. Try to balance it? No way. And we also have four of these hooks as standard, while other companies provide one, sometimes two. And there are four of us, additionally bolted to steel.
Recently, one of my clients told me that in one window there were twenty-eight points at which burglars tried to defeat the security. Twenty eight! They must have had a lot of time and patience. And what happened? This wing had already become such a "banana", through this opening it was possible to see what was inside the apartment. But they failed to break the wing. Our standard, in which the hooks are screwed into steel, provides a huge guarantee of safety. And it's not even a higher standard!
Recently I read that Bertrand windows are praised and recommended by the German police.
Exactly! Although, more specifically, they are praised by the Policemen's Association in Germany, in German they are called Gewerkschaft der Polizei. Customers themselves sometimes write that the police praised our products.
How did the Police Association come to recommend Bertrand products?
Once in Berlin, in cooperation with one of the dealers, we made windows for the German police. After some time, the police asked Bertrand directly if we wanted to be included in their guide, which every citizen interested in home security receives. In Germany, when someone is building or renovating, you can call the police station for advice. Then such a policeman comes to the house and gives valuable tips on what to pay attention to when it comes to safety.
Once a year, the Police Association in Germany publishes a special newspaper in which they present a few companies whose products provide such a guarantee of safety. A few years ago, they contacted us and since then, our company has been presented in this newspaper every year. In all these years, only one Polish company, apart from Bertrand, managed to "land" in this newspaper. They were only there for a year and then not anymore. And Bertrand has been there for several years.
It's a big success.
That's true. Especially since the German police cannot allow them to officially recommend a company if it later turns out that its products are not as safe as they were described. They take it very seriously and strictly. Let me give you an example. When there are any fairs in Germany, representatives of the Police Association are obligatory to attend them. It's usually two guys in a suit and tie who ask very carefully about the product and its safety parameters. I had the pleasure of having such a conversation once. I said at the end that I was very surprised, even shocked, by their knowledge. Then one of them took out his ID card, introducing himself as both of them from the Police Association. They will even check everything. There was once an opinion in Germany that windows from Poland were cheap and of poor quality. But it was enough that we appeared in this newspaper for customers to see that we were there. That's a completely different conversation and a completely different opinion.