Our sales rep Greg, who is originally from Canada, takes care of our English-speaking clients from all over the world. Sounds like a demanding task? It truly is. If you want to know how difficult it is to organize time, how Greg actually got to Prague or what is the difference in the work environment in the Czech Republic and Canada, read the following interview.
I think this is your first interview since you started work for eWay-CRM?
Yes, that’s true.
How long have been with eWay-CRM?
I joined the team 2 years ago in September.
How long have you been in the Czech Republic?
It will be 3 years as of August.
How did you get to Prague actually?
My girlfriend and I met in Canada, we worked together at one of my sales jobs. She is Czech and was there on work visa. When her work visa expired, we thought we had nothing significant tying us down in Toronto, so we decided to give the Czech Republic a try. I visited Prague a year before we moved, so I had a better idea of what I was getting myself into. That winter was grey and without snow, which has also become, sadly, more common in southern Ontario these last few years.
What was your first impression?
When I first got here, I had a very North American stereotype ingrained of what it would be like. In general, we don’t have a clue about anything east of Germany, so when I came here, we went downtown by train and we passed by some buildings that were just a wreck and falling apart and that is often the image portrayed – in at least some older films – of what you might see in “Eastern Europe” and everything gets lumped together. People ask, “You’re in Czechoslovakia? - No, it’s The Czech Republic, now” or “Isn’t that really close to Yugoslavia?”. And then you need to take a step back and realize that was twenty years ago, things have changed, and we are just oblivious. I remember growing up and hearing about Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Kosovo. I had no idea where these places were or how things were resolved. They just faded from the public conscience once the news stopped covering them.
I think in American context everything in Europe is relatively close. So, I cannot blame you.
That’s true. Here, when you drive for 4 hours in any direction, there’s a good chance you might be in another country, whereas back home a 4 hour drive might just get you to the next major city – or if you’re in rush hour traffic in Toronto, 4 hours just gets you across the GTA. The first major road trip I did was from Toronto to a town in Quebec – the French part of Canada – just a few hours from the capitol, Ottawa, which took around 12 hours.
How did you get to eWay-CRM?
Aside from my sales experience, I previously did some graphic design. So, when I started job hunting, most people I would have been working with spoke only Czech or limited English. They also wanted me to work as a contractor, whereas I needed to have a proper job, because of insurance, extending my visa, etc. Since I had a background in sales, I started looking in this area and after about a month, I found the vacancy where they were looking for a sales manager with fluent English, did not require Czech and in the technology sector. With this being right up my alley, I decided to apply and see if it works.
You have just mentioned your history in sales. What did you do back in Canada?
I probably have around 15 years of experience in sales. I’ve done everything from retail, like clothing and pet stores, tele-sales, door-to-door – not to mention trying to bid on design jobs when I was freelancing. I’ve worked in all types of sales environment.
Gregory Nakashima, eWay-CRM Sales Manager
What do you think about working with the Czech company? Is there any difference when you compare it to your previous jobs in Canada?
The work atmosphere is very different. In most of the companies that I worked at there was a high expectation on certain things and it was often in a negative way.
Was it pressure?
I don’t have problem with pressure - you’re going to have pressure in any job, especially sales. It was often a bad management or the over-all work culture. Things that would bother me was the notion you should come to work every day with a smile on your face and exude positivity. I’m not saying that you should be a grump coming in, but you are going to have certain days when you just can’t bring in that level of energy and may want to keep to yourself and focus on the task at hand. Then, just do what it takes to turn it around for the next day. In my experience, if you went to work in Canada or the US, and don’t have a smile on your face, don’t be surprised when people come up to you, asking what’s wrong or if you’re okay. And I think for many of us, that just makes it worse because you just want them to leave you be. I know this sounds petty, but I think it just comes to mind because in North America, the job mentality has become rather mechanical, or its encouraged to put up this facade, which I do not agree with. One thing that I like here is, I have a bit more autonomy. They don’t always tell you “this has to be done, exactly this way and follow these steps” which happens a lot in Canadian environment. “How close are you to having done this? Are you close to the target?”. That is why I attribute this with the work culture in many places because when your company trusts you, confident in your abilities, and know that they have trained you to do your job well, this is unnecessary. So, when managers are compelled to micro-manage their staff, it speaks to the contrary. They don’t have faith in their staff. They don’t seem secure and confident enough in their employee’s abilities, which kills motivation and productivity, so management concludes that you are simply a bad employee. The reality of it is, it starts with the management. When you have strong management and leadership setting a great example, and an environment to teach people how to do their job and you trust them you are going to get much more out of them. When a sports team is under-performing, they don’t fire the team, they fire the coach.
Do you feel that our company has more trust in you? Do you feel more free?
I think so. I manage both our American clients and our English-speaking clients across the globe.
That is really very interesting about your job. You work with clients from New Zealand to Hawaii. How do you cope with this ‘time zone’?
It’s not the easiest. With the door-to-door sales job I was meeting people after their work. I didn’t start before 4pm. And I was working till 9 or 10pm. So, I’m used to working later hours. It frankly means I must manage my time more effectively. With Australia and New Zealand a lot of e-mails and scheduling appointments in a row for a particular day to get things sorted out – the UK is close, so that one is okay.
What about North America? That’s our main focus.
The east coast is manageable because there is not such a big time-difference. By the time their day is done, it is 11 or 12am here. I aim to schedule as much as I can if I’m dealing with clients on the west coast. New Zealand is 12-hour difference, but Australia is challenging because they are 8 hours ahead with several time zones, so again, many emails.
That means that you have very irregular working hours and you have to schedule them.
I’m trying to keep the same schedule as if I worked from 9 to 5 in the US, but shifting from a day to day is tricky. I have days where I’m getting up at 10 or 11 am after going to bed at 3 or 4am. This job comes with more challenges than if I was working your typical 9 to 5. It does require a lot of flexibility and time management.
What about your private life? Can you schedule that? Do your work and private life balance?
Frankly speaking, no. As I’ve said it comes with challenges. I cannot simply say, “Let’s go out for dinner or a drink”, spur of the moment.
But you cannot go for breakfast either…
No, because my girlfriend has a regular 9 to 5 job. However, there are certain days when I’m focused with Europe and I can make time in the evening. Or I just might take a 4-hour gap and continue work afterwards. That is one of the things I like here. Because I know that with many American companies, they might just say “keep going” and that can take its toll after a while. If I want to go out, I need to know at least two days in advance, so I don’t schedule any appointments for that time.
You must be a good planner.
No, I’m terrible. I certainly don’t have the luxury of doing the last-minute things like I did when I was younger. I not always the most organized person, but this has pushed me to grow and develop myself for the better.
Which reminds me of Fridays. Everybody is looking forward to the weekend, but you are still working, aren’t you?
Typically, yes. I really appreciate that I have some clients with whom I deal on a regular basis and they know I work in the Czech Republic. They are accommodating and will schedule our appointments for 6 or 7 am their time, which makes a world of difference for me. And this is essential in order to work with clients in the west coast and even Hawaii.
Taking into account that you deal with our English-speaking clients, what areas of business do they come from?
They come from all walks of life. We have our single users who might be a consultant or new business owner to larger organizations, like accounting or legal firms, landscapers, manufacturers and distributors, contractors. Aside from wanting to work within Outlook, most of my clients don’t have too much in common with each other, especially when it comes to how they use eWay-CRM, in the grand scheme of things, so it’s nice being able to sit down with them, go over their requirements and vision and show them how they can build a system that is tailored to their needs.