Celebrating 15 years of Teamwork International Moving in Brazil, reproduced with the kind permission of the Brazilian Review, official magazine for the Danish-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce.
It has now been 15 years since Lars Lemche launched his fledgling company Teamwork International Moving from a small office in São Paulo, Brazil. Despite his Danish roots, Lars has spent most of his working life in Brazil's international moving industry, rising 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've always been taught to be proactive 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 São Paulo and 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 for their business.
“I 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 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 São Paulo and was summoned to the office the following day. “To say the least I was surprised,” said Lars. “My appointment was for 10:00 AM, and it was a two-hour drive. I set off at 6:00 AM and arrived at 8:00 AM 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 and building friendships is the best way of doing business which is why he is now president 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 square metres of warehousing, 120 people and nine vehicles. Five years ago Teamwork implemented SAP accounting, purchasing, human resource and control functions to provide better business control.
So, what will the next 10 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 will 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.”
Recently Lars received the Silver Medal for his contribution to and support of the Scandinavian Society and Feira Escandinava. Jens Olesen from the organisation commented: “Lars Lemche has made his teamwork facilities available many times for the Danish community as well as the Scandinavian club ‘Nordlyset’. Lars’ contributions and help are valuable and we thank him.” Jens said that without Lars’ support the Feira Escandinava would not be possible.
Feira Escandinavia (Scandinavian Fair)
The Scandinavian Fair, organised by the Nordlyset Scandinavian Beneficent Association, has been held for over five decades and is a tradition in the calendar of charity events in the city of São Paulo. It has the help of the embassies and consulates of the Nordic countries and also the sponsorship of transport, communication, dissemination, assembly services and dozens of Brazilian and Scandinavian companies. All income is used to finance Brazilian social projects including providing shelter, education, food and comfort to thousands of needy children and teenagers.
Copyright authorized by Brazilian Review – official magazine for the Danish-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce, May/September 2021 edition.
Photo: Lars Lemche.