It is now ten years since Lars Lemche launched his fledgling company, Teamwork International Moving, from a small office in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Despite his Danish roots, Lars had spent most of his working life in Brazil’s international moving industry and risen through the ranks to sales director of one of the country’s major players.
“There were changes happening in my old company and I decided the time was right for me to move on,” said Lars. “Things were pretty good at that time in Brazil and I figured it was a good time to start something new and different.”
As a European, Lars had always been frustrated by the way business was conducted in South America and deplored what he described as the ‘mañana, mañana’ attitude that prevailed in many organisations at that time. “I had always been taught to be pro-active and to keep to timetables and I was determined to run the new business in that way,” he said.
“We rented a small office in Sao Paulo; all we had were a couple of laptop computers, some second-hand office furniture, a telephone line and two mobile phones. I remember turning to my assistant and saying, ‘What now?’ It was an exciting but at the same time frightening moment.”
Lars spent the next few weeks travelling the world visiting his former corporate clients and partners and asking them for their business. “I’d built up a lot of air travel, hotel and rental car points over the years and decided to use them to re-establish contact with some of my old friends that I’d done business with in the past. That was how we got the business started, but it was three months before we signed our first customer.”
Lars’ initial vision to change the mentality and work ethic of the stereotypical Brazilian worker was a major factor in getting the business off the ground. “Right from the start we trained our people to keep customers informed at every stage of their move – there were no excuses,” said Lars.
To begin with, Teamwork had no vehicles or warehousing and used other moving companies to undertake the physical work, while concentrating on developing its sales and operations personnel and creating its own move management software. Lars explained, “We wanted a system that would make it easy for our people to keep customers informed without having to manually send e-mails to keep them in the loop. The software we devised still works well today, although we are continually upgrading it as the business evolves – it’s what we call here in South America ‘a never ending bag’.”
One milestone moment came only a few months after Teamwork started trading when Lars cold called Citibank in Sao Paulo and was summoned to the office the following day. “To say the least I was surprised. My appointment was for 10:00AM and it was a two-hour drive. I set off at 6:00 and arrived at 8:00 just to make sure I wasn’t late!” The meeting was successful and marked the start of a business relationship that has continued to this day.
Lars believes that personal contact of building friendships is the best way doing business, which is why he is now a director of PAIMA and also a member of IAM and FIDI.
Since those early days Teamwork International Movers has grown beyond all recognition and now has offices in both São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro with 11,000 sq m of warehousing, 120 personnel and nine vehicles.
In the middle of last year Teamwork needed more control over the company and decided to implement SAP for the Accounting, Purchase, Human Resources and Controlling. This is another challenging task, as you must have all in place before starting.
So what will the next ten years bring? “Things here in Brazil are not as favourable as they were back in 2006 when we started, but Teamwork is in good shape and I’m optimistic about the future,” said Lars. “Over the next few years we’ll be carefully controlling our costs, but at the same time investing in and developing our people. I believe our customers value our family spirit and work ethic and know they can rely on us to get things right.”