Thursday, June 26, 2014

A business day in Prague...visits to T-Mobile and Avast (Wednesday, June 25)

It was a busy day and early morning for our first full day in Prague! We left the hotel to head to T-Mobile Czech Republic (CZ) just after 8:00 a.m. The weather in Prague today was a bit overcast and a few degrees colder than the weather we've been used to on this trip. We rode the underground and switched lines before arriving at T-Mobile. The building was beautiful and in what appears to be a newer area where many multinational companies are located. 

While at T-Mobile, we quickly checked in and were given our guest passes and escorted to the training room. Our first speaker was Martina, the Corporate Communications Strategist and spokesperson for T-Mobile Czech Republic. She discussed the business model, business challenges, and internal and external challenges. T-Mobile CZ is the leading telecommunications company in the CZ with nearly 3,300 employees. It's part of the larger Deutsche Telecom Group. In the CZ, T-Mobile has gone through two mergers and integration's within the last year and with all telecommunications companies, the environment is ever changing. Within the last few years, T-Mobile CZ has shifted its focus more on customer care and being the leading data provider. A common theme we've heard from all our business visits is the regulatory environment which makes it much more challenging to do business in Central/Eastern Europe. 

Next, T-Mobile CZ CEO, Milan Vasina spoke to the students on his leadership philosophies and managing in a changing environment. The presentation was excellent! Mr. Vasina started his career in Proctor & Gamble and also worked for R.G. Reynolds. He first became the CEO of a company at age 37. Now 45, Mr. Vasina talked about changing the company culture and managing through the quickly changing environment. A few key takeaways from his presentation (some of which are very similar to what US CEO's do) include:

  • At T-Mobile CZ, employees have a 3-month trial period. At the end of the 3 months, both the employee and manager decide if it is a good fit for the employee to continue on. Mr. Vasina meet with each new employee somewhere between their 4-month to one year of employment to get their feedback.
  • Vasina spends one Friday afternoon per month for open appointments where any employee can schedule 30 minutes with him. 
  • As T-Mobile acquires new companies, Vasina focuses on showing the data and being upfront from the beginning letting employees know how this impacts business, including layoffs, etc. COMMUNICATION IS KEY!
  •  Celebrate and boost confidence for success - when T-Mobile CZ hit its 3 targets, each employee was given a tablet or laptop.
  • To change the culture at the company, Vasina had each division come up with a mission. From there, employees voted to come up with the final mission statement the company uses.
  • The evaluation system has recently changed and now employees evaluate mangers in addition to managers evaluating employees. Managers at T-Mobile only stay in their position for 5 years. At that time, they are rotated to another division with hopes of making each manager more well-rounded and knowledgeable about all divisions of the company.
  • The company hosts events similar to those we see in the US - bring your kids to work, holiday gatherings, etc.
We ended our visit to T-Mobile by getting a picture with Mr. Vasina and eating the great snacks the company provided. As I've stated a few times, this group LOVES TO EAT! I think all the sandwiches, cakes, and drinks were gone quickly!

Ashley C. and I dressed in T-Mobile colors (this wasn't planned)

T-Mobile CEO Milan Vasina

group photo at T-Mobile

Following the morning visit, we had a few hours of free time. It appears the girls made the most of this time to shop! Almost all of them came back with a few bags of clothes. I grabbed some lunch and began the hunt to figure out a location to watch the USA vs. Germany World Cup game on Thursday.

About 10 minutes before we were to meet for the afternoon visit, it started raining very hard. Most of us took the underground so we weren't wet. However, a few students got stuck in line at a Starbucks and were soaked with they arrived at our meeting point.

Next, we headed to AVAST. AVAST is the world's leading anti-virus software company. This company is headquartered in Prague and was awarded the 2013 "Best Company to Work For." When we arrived, we saw a few employees playing pool and having a good time. It reminded me of my visit to Zappos a few years ago. We waiting in the conference room for Milos, our speaker. As Milos started, he talked briefly about AVAST and then asked what we had done/where we had been in Europe. Next came a great attention-getter for our students - he flashed up a picture of about 8 of the students from a nightclub in Vienna. He knew most of the students by name, including their work history, etc. just from the picture. I think this was probably quite a good learning lesson for our students about how easily things can be found once you put them online, etc. We teach this in class, but this method was very powerful! Milos was energetic, showed his personality, and was quite humorous while delivering the company history, how things are done in AVAST, and how the company makes its money, etc. I think it was very interesting for me and the students to hear that AVAST spends nearly $0 on marketing and advertising. Instead, it relies on users to tell their story online through public forums, etc. While telling the T-Mobile CEO we were headed to AVAST in the afternoon, he said, "AVAST is a model company in the CZ. It has the potential to impact the CZ economy more than any other business."  To end the visit, Milos answered our questions, posed for a picture, and told the students they needed to eat all the food...not a problem for this group!

Milos from AVAST speaking to students

group picture at AVAST

After the visit, we went back to the hotel and the rest of the evening was free for dinner and exploration. Teri and I headed out with Taylor to work on a location where all of us could watch the World Cup game. I didn’t think this would be a difficult task but boy was I wrong! We walked and walked and finally found a location we thought would be great! It even had a non-smoking floor which is a rarity in Europe and especially the CZ. We quickly found out the restaurant was full at the time we wanted to go. Teri and I called all over the place with no luck. About 11:30, I checked online at the restaurant we stopped at and found tables available through online reservation. It should be a great time!

While on our walk looking for a location, we walked through an area that was roped off for cars. As we walked, we saw trailers that said wardrobe, make up, producers, directors, etc. We asked a man directing traffic and found out that the Three Musketeers is being filmed in Prague just off the Old Town Square.

It was a great day and the students seemed to really enjoy today’s business visits. Our time in Prague seems to be flying by! Thanks for following along!


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