In this period, in our Inspiring Conversations series, we are talking to leaders on how they handle Remote Working and how they enable their teams to stay connected, creative and healthy.
We had the pleasure of speaking with Dirk Hardt (CEO, Quantum) a highly agile and innovative energy trader in the German market. Dirk told us about the Cultural journey of Quantum, his purpose and sources of inspiration as a leader, and the experiences of handling remote working.
Dirk, what is your purpose in life?
Well, I think my purpose is to make life better for other people. And before you can help others to help themselves, you need to take care of yourself. This started when I was very young. I was born into a highly religious environment, stimulated to be curious about the meaning of life and how to help others to be the best version of themselves.
How did you instil your curiosity?
I started reading a lot. I’ve read over fifty religious’ books. Ranging from many different Bibles, the Quran, the Thora and books on Hinduism, Buddhism and other life guides. I like to understand why we do what we do and how we can best help each other. I started taking responsibility in church on a voluntary basis as a teenager, trying to guide people in need. Starting my professional career, I found the business world was as well the environment and place for me to make the life of others better. It is my strong belief, that apart from best efforts in the economy, technology, innovation and sustainability, business success is also defined by resilience and satisfaction of human needs. I like the interaction and the dialogue that you can have within your team. The way you work together gives meaning to both the individuals in the team and the company as a whole. I passionately believe that a Companies’ culture is at least its competitive advantage, or maybe even the decisive one.
How did the Cultural journey of Quantum look like?
We did become highly agile over the years through two major important moments in time. The first was more than six years ago, where I was super busy with a merger and did not have the time that I wanted for the organization. The great thing was, that the organization was fully capable of managing itself, without me. Maybe it even went a little better without me being involved too much. The second moment was a couple of years later: we went through a tough period as a company. We had to increase our performance with far less staff. Not nice. The only way to manage that goal was by digitalizing all our processes and work agile to the max. There simply was no other option. And those two decisive moments turned out to be the start of our success as Quantum.
How did your customers profit from your effort in Culture?
Because we were 100% digital and because we were so mature as a group, a very large part of our organisation was now able to spend a substantial amount of their time on having customer contact. And that allowed us to ingrain the customer’s opinion in each and every business decision we took. Partnering up with our customers, instead of having a classic customer-supplier relationship, like we used to have. We became one. One with the customer. And that improved our offering and customer happiness.
And how did COVID affect your company?
Luckily enough, it did not affect the Energy industry negatively. The only thing we had to manage was the move to Mobile-Working at home, to complete the digitalisation of our processes and the customer interface. However, since we already were highly digital and agile, we were able to flip the switch from the office to our homes within a day, without any big issues. In the following four weeks, we digitalised our physical team and scrum boards. As it seems today, we will keep most of them in the digital version for good, as this provides us with much more flexibility in working together and multi-access from any location. And, how could you work on a physical board with twenty people at the same time, without stepping on each other's toe?
How does Quantum try to stay connected, creative and healthy while working remotely?
Staying healthy is our weakest point of the three. It is so hard to get out of the chair and so tempting to have back-to-back videos. So, we try to help people with a good set up, like using office chairs at home, and we try to stimulate each other to have walking meetings. However, the downside of an enormous passionate and engaged group is that we are all in it all the way, maybe more than is healthy.
We constantly experiment with new ways of staying connected. We finish our Open Friday sessions having a drink together. We also had people showing the rest of the company around their houses and we recently had a Refrigerator contest, where we all uploaded a picture of our fridge and then we had to guess which fridge belongs to whom. We also once send a wine and snack package around for a little online winetasting. That was really nice.
Creativity is our middle name. You could say, we might even be too creative in the eyes of some of our partners. We love to try out new things all the time. We obviously keep on experimenting with new tools and a combination of tools. Having great experiences with the classics as well like Zoom, Trello, Miro, Mentimeter etc. Our biggest achievement of the last month was to join forces with some other companies in combining our networks, getting to a super interactive digital conference with over 400 accredited participants. It’s amazing how easy it is to interact with so many people in a structured, effective and fun way with the latest large scale conferencing software.
Last but not least, I want and must say: all of it is the people! The success of Quantum is the success of a great team. Individuals work together and form competitive teams with a strong customer focus. Every single person and team take entrepreneurial responsibility and identify themselves with the bigger group of the whole company. Thank you very much Quantum Team!