We take the current year as a challenge, reflecting on what else can we upgrade and improve in the future!
This year has been full of challenges and different contents for many companies. The search for new synergies, solutions, strategic approaches has led many to different business results. It was also necessary to change the way we work and adapt to the conditions dictated by the ever-changing market. All in the wake of the fact that Slovenia and the rest of the world were hit by a pandemic in 2020. The company Unior Hand Tools has adapted very well to the situation, taken a number of measures and set the guidelines for 2021 with full momentum. We talked about all of this with the Head of the Commercial Department of Unior - Hand Tools, Klavdija Kojc.
This year has been a year full of challenges and different goals for many companies. The pandemic has changed both the business cycle and the way companies operate. What changes in the way you work have you implemented at your department of Hand Tools?
"It's true, this year has been different in many ways, from years past and the way of work we've been used to so far. As soon as the first wave of the pandemic was declared, we had to take responsible action, as we definitely put the health and safety of our employees first. In order to prevent the spread of infection, we started with the implementation of measures related to entering the protected area of Unior d. d., then we continued with measures related to the workplace, common areas, lunch break and measures related to exiting the protected area. The basic measures we implemented were: measuring body temperature, disinfecting hands and work surfaces, using masks, respecting the safety distance of 2 m, staying of maximum three people in common areas at the same time, preventive testing with rapid tests, etc. The fact that we did not record any infections within our company in the first wave also proved that appropriate measures were implemented."
Could you say that this year, given the challenges it posed to us, was also a year of new, more daring thinking? It is necessary to adapt to customers, to look for new and innovative ways of reaching them. Have you made any progress here?
"Absolutely. The current situation has required us to focus on the digitalization of the sales process itself. It is important to get closer to the customer and provide them with information 24/7. Thus, this year we introduced the B2B platform for the sale of hand tools to legal entities and we now are also introducing the B2C platform for the sale to natural persons. By the end of the year, we will also launch educational video contents categorized by tool groups as well as safety instruction handbooks for tools. Meanwhile, we must not forget about our workshop drawing software with our modular workbenches or metal packaging. We have made great progress in the field of digital content, which we have developed in accordance with the needs, requirements and wishes of our customers and business partners. In the future, we will increasingly focus all marketing on digital content, review of existing online content and more."
Basically all companies in Slovenia had a drop in business performance. How did the corona crisis, as many call it, show in your company?
"Of course, we, like other companies in Slovenia and abroad, have suffered a drop in business performance. The biggest drop in sales was in April 2020, as most of the industry and craftsmen did not conduct business in that month and therefore the consumption of hand tools dropped. Of course, the market began to open up fairly quickly and the situation slowly returned back to normal. This way, we were able to restart our business with full momentum."
What about foreign markets? What is the impact on business and the way you work there?
"In foreign markets our approaches have changed a bit during this time. In the past, such arrangements were largely based on a personal approach, but now video conferencing is used in most cases. This way, we still stayed in touch with our customers, monitored their developments and upgraded our business relationships. Foreign markets are now gradually stabilizing and losses in certain markets are being compensated by acquiring new customers in selected market segments and niches. At the same time, it is necessary to point out that we have extremely loyal, long-term customers in our company who believe in the Unior brand. That is why cooperation, sales and the creation of new strategies do not cause us any major problems even when conducted remotely."
But what is the vision for 2021 given this year's experience? Have you made any changes to the way you do business?
"We have adapted to this way of business from several points of view (automation - digitization of processes, human resources, modifications - improvements to hand tools), all with the aim of increasing our business efficiency and offering the customer quality sales service and after-sales service. The year 2021 will be dedicated to the digitalization of production processes, as this is the only way will we be able to offer tools with even greater added value to the market. We are looking towards the future with a clear vision and bold approaches. And we are aware that the current year can only be viewed as a challenge and a model of what we can upgrade and improve in the future."
We could also touch on innovation. The year 2020 and the time of the crisis have been used by many for new ideas, innovation, the development of something different. Will you also be offering anything new to the market? Maybe any type of a new tool, service, etc.
"It's true, we haven't fallen "asleep" in this area either, but were constantly looking for new solutions and ideas. Thus we will soon be able to offer a new line of trolleys and a new portable workbench to the market. In the bike tools segment, we launched a new electric bicycle stand, which represents a real revolution in the market. This was certainly influenced by the excellent calendar results of our Slovenian athletes and the current situation in the market, which has increasingly "driven" people in the development of hiking, cycling, running, etc. We are also developing new tools for electric and hybrid vehicles designed for e-mobility in workshops and in the field. There are quite a few innovations, so we are already looking forward to 2021 and the response of customers and business partners in the field."