The recipe for remaining great colleagues for four decades is relatively simple: it takes a healthy dose of mutual respect for each other's differences, as well as a shared passion for staying at the top of one's game. And in this case, a common interest in cars helps too.
That's how Poul E. Pedersen, Sales Manager Denmark, Sales & Offer Management, Liquid & Powder Technologies, 70 years old, and Poul Vadstrup, Sales Group Manager - Vibration Conveying & Sifting, Liquid & Powder Technologies, 63 years old, put it, when asked to describe their longstanding collaboration as colleagues.
Since June 1980, they have worked at the same vibration equipment factory in Svendborg, Denmark. Poul E. Pedersen (Poul P) began his career at Scan-Vibro in May 1976, and Poul Vadstrup (Poul V) joined the company in June 1980.
"We've been based at the same building in Svendborg for our entire time as colleagues. Shortly after I joined the company, we started collaborating on different projects, and that became the start of our productive teamwork that continues to inspire," says Poul Vadstrup.
Connected by a strong work ethic
When asked to describe his colleague for 40 years, Poul V praises Poul P for his loyalty and talent for new ideas:
"He's really an excellent sparring partner – always full of good ideas. Our ideas tend to complement each other in a good way. And then he's simply a good person. I trust him completely."
Poul P adds that they both share a sense of humility about their work that's important if you want to succeed in a job with regular customer contact:
We're very focused on the customers' needs and we agree that's the only way forward.
"We always look at ways to optimize things for the customers. We of course have different ideas, but always manage to reach a compromise."
When they first started working together in 1980, Poul V was managing the engineering design team while Poul P was in the sales team. The sales team talked to customers to identify their needs for vibration technology equipment and when requests turned into orders, the design team developed the drawings. It turned out that they not only had a name in common, but also the same strong work ethic.
"We think very much alike in terms of putting in a lot of hard work to achieve our goals, and we have often worked long hours to complete projects. We are also both somewhat perfectionistic when it comes to designing and constructing customers' machines," says Poul V and Poul P adds:
I think our commitment to work is what connects us the most.
Back then, Poul P would often stay late at Scan-Vibro, disassembling vibration equipment in order to understand exactly how it worked, so he was as well informed as possible when meeting customers.
"I learned that no two machines are alike – and that type of knowledge only comes from getting into the nuts and bolts of things. You can't learn that just by reading about it," he says.
All the late hours and hard work paid off as today Poul P and Poul V are described as the two colleagues at GEA who know most about vibration technology. Colleagues from all over the world call them regularly to ask for advice – and Poul V and Poul P regularly travel to different GEA locations to give seminars on the topic, although not currently due to COVID-19.
When asked about professional highlights from the last 40 years, they both bring up their many travels to customer sites:
"I was thrown into it – my first business trip was to South Korea where I visited a customer that had an issue with vibration equipment at their cornflakes plant. I came back with calculations and ideas on how to solve the issue. Since then I've traveled all over the world to talk to customers," says Poul V, and Poul P adds:
"I can honestly say that no two days have ever been the same for me. One day, I'm driving to a customer's pharmaceutical plant to talk about what vibration technology we can offer, and the next day I'm standing in a gravel pit to talk about the same topic but in a completely different setting."
On a similar path
Poul P and Poul V are both mechanical engineers by education – and both graduated from Odense Technical College in Denmark. Today, they both live on Funen, Denmark's third largest island, although not in the same city. Their paths through life have many similarities, and they both agree that they also share a few personality traits.
"We've had plenty of work-related challenges, but we never had any conflict. I think that's thanks to our personalities," Poul V says:
We talk things through and keep our eyes on the goal – in that way we always find common ground.
In their free time, they have both been active golfers and share a passion for cars.
"It's the design, quality and functionality of cars that interests us. Poul has had a Mercedes for many years, and I recently bought one as well," Poul P says, and adds that the passion for great design is linked to their professional lives. Poul V agrees and says:
"When we develop machines at work, the design needs to be top-notch and highly functional. I guess this interest shines through in other areas of our lives as well."
When asked if their 40 years as colleagues has turned into a friendship, they say it has – but highlight that it's a friendship that's centered on work. They have met in private, but only occasionally:
"We've been invited to each other's homes for dinner and met each other's families, but we try not to overdo it. It's enough that we see each other every day at work," Poul P concludes with a laugh.