Interview with Alexandru Vidu
- Written by Lavinia Iancu
Service quality, key driver in times of crisis
The Bureau Veritas Group, world leader in certification of various management systems, with offices in more than 140 countries and more than 100,000 certificates issued, has been present in Romania since 1930. Bureau Veritas Certification completed the world’s first certification of a company, in accordance with the requirements of the ISO 50001 Standard for Energy Management, being accredited by DAKKS Germany. It also completed the first certification of a Romanian company in accordance with the requirements of the SA 8000 Standard for Social Responsibility.
What strategic development plan does the group have in our country, which areas have potential for growth, but also why the accredited certifications are important – to all these questions answered Alexandru Vidu, CEO of Bureau Veritas Romania.
Mr. Director, how did you get started? What skills and knowledge achieved in college helped you most in your career?
I started my activity right after graduating from the Faculty of Geology and Geophysics with the Bucharest University, being employed by the Atlas GIP SA Ploiesti as Logging Engineer. This experience helped me a lot in the future career, as I faced taking decisions in the very first days, in an environment where time was not on my side. The Atlas GIP team was made up of extraordinary people, real professionals, alongside whom I learned what it means to work in a team.
The knowledge achieved in faculty provides the basis, the entrance ticket to what the true training as a professional represents. In my opinion, it depends very much on the working environment you start your career in and your individual choices for development.
Ambition is essential and the fact that you always want to take a new step in your professional life can lead you to a successful career.
Although you have a long experience in the oil and gas sector, you refocused your career to the field of inspections & certifications. What made you take this turn?
I worked for 14 years in the Oil & Gas sector, going through several positions, operations and sales, and then I decided I needed a change.
As I have said before, you always have to try new things if you want to evolve. The step I made was rather brave, since the move was aimed at a field about which I did not have lots of knowledge, but I was attracted by a very complex field of activity of Testing, Inspections and Certification (TIC).
How is Bureau Veritas positioned worldwide and in the region and how do you promote your services in Romania? Which are the company’s main strengths?
At global and regional level, Bureau Veritas is the undisputed leader in TIC services.
In Romania, we are in the resetting process and we aim the top position through sustained efforts in all directions: by dedicated campaigns on target markets, participating to events, seminars, proving credibility, international recognition, diversity of services, by the auditors’ professionalism.
Unfortunately, the culture in our field of activity is very low on the Romanian market, few companies being aware of the true benefits of a properly implemented management system. This has led to the fact that top global TIC firms have only about 10% of the market.
What does the Bureau Veritas services offer include and what are the specific energy/oil and gas schemes? Specifically, how do the Bureau Veritas specialists and the certification process contribute to increasing the profits?
Bureau Veritas offers certifications for the entire range of standards specific to the various existing management systems, including ISO 29001, ISO 50001, ISO 15900, ISO 55001. The main tools are the growth in customer confidence, organizational know-how, the optimization and streamlining of processes, increasing efficiency and constant improvement. A properly conducted certification process brings, first of all, cost reductions by avoiding the problems related to the quality of services and products. Not many companies take into account the losses that can be generated by quality problems versus the cost of certification with a reputable company. In general, decisions are made on commercial criteria, consequently leading to much higher losses than the savings achieved by choosing a cheaper service provider.
Besides the challenges arising from going through one of the most volatile periods, the oil and gas companies need to ensure the quality of services while cutting the costs. What solutions do we have over the medium and long term?
The most important issues to be considered in such periods relate to maintaining the employees’ confidence and the motivational policies, to evaluating and re-evaluating the suppliers, to outsource the procurement services.
The co-opting of a trusted partner, who, in addition to being aware of the organization’s problems during the audit, can provide a global experience in solving them, is one of the major benefits that a company can have over the long term.
We all know that the main costs of a company are related to the staff. Many firms risk falling into the trap of cutting the costs through layoffs. This move makes these firms end up by being unable to deliver services to the desired quality due to the lack of staff. In order to maintain the quality of services at high level, we must remember that the most important assets of a company are its employees.
Given the increased labour market dynamics and the higher competition to attract employees, what services does Bureau Veritas provide to improve their skills and abilities?
In early 2016, we set up a training department within Bureau Veritas Romania to address the issues outlined above. Currently, we have an improved service offer for training and professional improvement through ‘open’ or ‘in house’ sessions tailored to the clients’ profile and needs. Training courses with trained instructors having international experience are an added value for those who choose our services.Unfortunately, I believe that due to the high demand on the labour market, many prefer to ignore the benefit of having quality training, believing this is not necessary at the stage of candidates’ selection.
Certifications are an additional guarantee of professional safety and competence. Considering that, as you have recently said, more than half of the ISO certifications in Romania are issued by apartment firms, what measures can be taken to work out this situation?
I go back to what I have mentioned above, market culture, first of all, plays a decisive role. In this respect, world-class TIC companies should make a concerted effort to try to change this situation through intensive marketing campaigns for better awareness about quality services.
Increasing the RENAR exigency and the involvement of the national accreditation body in the monitoring of the certification bodies market is, at the same time, essential. Also, the exclusive recognition of accredited certifications is imperative.
As CEO, how do you define risk situations, what does a proper management involve and which is the secret of setting up a productive team?
A risk situation involves exposing the company and its employees to issues that could damage the capital and the image. Considering that independence is the great asset of TIC companies, the major risk is related to it. Risks exist every day, but if managed correctly they can be minimized. Ideal is not to be taken by surprise by the things that can harm the company. When you are aware about the risks, you can cope with them much easier.
A productive team is a united team. There must be professionalism, but also a little bit of pleasure in what we do, otherwise everything becomes routine and the employees reach their limits. Their results depend on the working environment, and here a leader plays a very important role in motivating the team and sending the right messages. Communication is essential. I have seen many teams of highly experienced professionals which, due to faulty communication between the members, failed to perform.
How does a working day look like at Bureau Veritas?
Very short... I do not know when it’s morning and when it’s evening. When I joined the Bureau Veritas team, I did not expect such an effervescent activity. Due to the vast range of services we provide, the dynamics is incredible.
Which are the most enjoyable aspects of your job, and the most demanding ones?
The most pleasant aspects are related to the fact that I am part of a team of extraordinary people, real professionals. We have made many organizational changes over the past two years in Bureau Veritas Romania, so we have now managed to get to what I would call a strengthened team.
At the same time, it is very demanding because, when the company is in a high growth process, you must be careful not to lose control. Growth is generated either by the increasing market share on existing services or by the introducing new services, and the most demanding aspect is related to discovering the right human resources to deliver high quality service. Accelerated growth must also be solid growth.
Which directions does the Bureau Veritas Group’s strategic local and regional development plan include for the future? What fields have growth potential in your view?
The development plan was launched in early 2016 by opening a new office in Cluj. At the moment, we want to expand our area of activity in Transylvania by opening a new office in Timisoara and by ‘attacking’ Republic of Moldova through an office most likely to be set up in Iasi.
The market has changed radically if we look at what happened in 2016 and at the performing areas of activity now. Services related to the Oil & Gas industry, which went well in 2016, are currently stagnating, not only in Romania but also at European level. Instead, the construction market is on the rise and, due to the fact that we managed to create a complete portfolio of services in 2016 to address this sector, we are now in the position to conclude successful contracts with some of the largest players on the market. Growth potential is also foreseeable in the area of HSE services, where many businesses choose outsourcing or a better awareness in caring about employees and environment.
Overall, Bureau Veritas Romania had a 31% increase in 2016, mainly driven by services for the construction market, with 49% growth in this segment in 2016, and by the certification services with an increase of 40%. In early 2017 started the process of integrating Inspect Balkan company, a group acquisition, which will lead to a budgeted growth of 53% at the end of the year.