Leadership is the achievement of a goal through the direction of human aides. The person who successfully marshals his/her supporters to achieve particular ends is a leader. An inﬂuential leader is one who can do so persistently, and year after year, in a wide variety of circumstances. One such business leader is Marko Podgornik, Partner and CEO of Mikro+Polo, who is bringing music and dance to the serious laboratory business.
Marko started working at the company Mikro+Polo, owned and directed by his uncle – ﬁrst, as a child, later as a student and employee. But he wanted to prove himself elsewhere ﬁrst, so he went to work at IKEA Graz Austria and took over the re-organization of their sale to B2B customers. In a year, he introduced the same model to all IKEA Austria and was consequently offered a position at IKEA Vienna. At the same time his uncle asked him to take over the family company due to his health problems and he agreed.
In 2006, Marko started working as a CEO (at 32 years). Since then he developed his leadership in the direction of inclusive, family, employees, and pets-friendly company with human touch. He strongly agrees with Richard Branson: if the company takes good care of its employees, they will take excellent care of company’s customers.
“Our vision is to become our customers’ ﬁrst choice and remain a leading player in the Slovenian market”
“I myself as a leader developed with every step the company successfully implemented. I started being a ‘classical’ white collar manager, but I today operate at a completely different level, being able to combine my personal lifestyle and wellbeing with being a leader.” says Marko.
The company has more than 100 employees who make sure that the link between more than 4000 buyers on the one hand and 300 suppliers on the other hand is a successful one. A high level of professional competence is achieved by employing 25 sales agents, each of them having a university degree in various ﬁelds: chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology, health care, pharmacy, etc., who make over 9000 sales visits per year. The product line contains more than 500,000 products; most of them are represented and made available in the ﬁrst Slovenian online application (market.mikro-polo.si).
Marko asserts “We take particular pride in our own brand of laboratory furniture LAB INTERIOR with which we have equipped 1000 laboratories in Slovenia and other countries around the globe.”
Below are the highlights of the interview conducted between Insights Success and Marko:
Introduce us to your company and its solutions which address the needs of your customers and make you a prominent market player.
In the last 14 years under my leadership Mikro+Polo developed into No 1 wholesaler for everything needed in laboratory environment with 30 % market share in Slovenia and 100+ employees. Our slogan is Your Partner for Laboratory.
We established a daughter company in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2009, introduced our own label of laboratory furniture Lab Interior in 2015, which is sold globally to more than 20 countries, and in 2018 we invested in new production line. In 2008 we implemented SAP ERP, which almost completely automatized our sales process document ﬂow from order to delivery and shortened our delivery time.
In 2011 we developed own online store – Mikro Polo Market, a sales channel which today represents 40 % of our sales.
In 2012, we introduced a CRM System. We keep doing things our own way and are a leader in innovative practices and original business initiatives with a strong company culture of commitment, self-initiative, fault tolerance and responsibility by every employee. We also nurture relaxed working climate and openness to all kinds of diversity. In 2016 we presented our “behind the scenes” practices to our customers with a promo video. It went viral (300.000+ views) and since then we do not have problems with recruiting new employees. We regularly present our good practices at different business events.
In 2019, we won European Business Award for the development of workplace and employees. We are a holder of AAA Gold Credit Rating for a second year in a row, ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 17025 certiﬁed, a certiﬁed Family Friendly Company, LGBT and seniors friendly company.
Provide us with a little insight into your philosophy of impactful leadership and how you implement that philosophy within your organization.
In my opinion an impactful leadership means understanding people you work with, giving them voice, but also knowing your priorities, being able to focus on them and remain strategic-oriented. A leader should always be aware that the needs of the company come ﬁrst. If not, company cannot take care of its employees and their well-being. That includes personal needs of CEO, who has to remain humble and in touch with people (s) he works with.
What are some of the vital attributes, in your opinion, that every leader should possess?
Ability to focus, to prioritize, to think strategically and out of the box, to take good decisions based on incomplete data, to remain authentic and above all – to remain human.
As a business leader, what challenges have you faced with an unforeseen pandemic? And how do you envision on sustaining your organization’s competency post the pandemic?
Our company has so far had “sweet worries” in terms of dealing with the pandemic. We operate in the sector that has enlarged needs – health system, laboratories, etc. Our main challenge was how to organize work to be able to fulﬁll these needs during the time of lock-down. Over the weekend 70% of the employees started to work from home. It was a big test and we passed it with excellence.
Nevertheless, it is possible that the recession which would most probably follow the pandemic, will affect our customers and consequently our company as well. I believe that the good work during the lock-down and the constant investment in our people, their skills and personal growth will support our existence and development under these circumstances as well.
What would be your advice to the next generation of entrepreneurs and business leaders?
First and foremost – be human, stay human and bear in mind that the employees are the biggest asset of the company – their knowledge, their skills and their attitude. Treat them just, and they will be loyal, committed and take good care of your customers. Invest in your own personal growth, stay open to new ideas and challenges. Do not be afraid to stay loyal to yourself and your personal values.
What are your company’s future aspirations? What strategies are you undertaking to achieve those goals?
Our vision is to become our customers’ ﬁrst choice and remain a leading player in the Slovenian market. In the ﬁeld of laboratory furniture, we want to be one of TOP 5 players in the global market. In order to achieve that we invest in ICT and people’s skills, we develop top services to our customers at all levels and we plan to build new production facilities to be able to address larger demand.
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