“It’s all about asking the right questions”
Thomas Hansen, Vice President Sales at the Northern Europe head office of Pandora jewellery, takes the club! questionnaire.
How many people work for your company in Hamburg and worldwide?
We are 70 people in our Hamburg office, which is the main office for Northern Europe. In total we are more than 1,200 employees in Germany as most of our concept stores are owned and operated. Worldwide, Pandora employs more than 27,700 people of whom more than 14,000 are located in Thailand, where we manufacture our jewellery.
Are there any technological developments that will have a particular influence on your business development?
Digitalization and the general consumer shift to online over the last years has changed the way we work at Pandora. We are experiencing how the consumers’ preferences of where to interact with us as a brand are changing and also their preferences of where, when and how to shop our products. In the retail industry today it’s essential to deliver the same great consumer experience regardless of where the consumer chooses to shop your brand – that is something we are working hard on improving every day.
What did you want to become when you were a child? How do you get into your current career path?
I always knew that I would like to work in the corporate world, so my path has been pretty straight forward. I studied at Copenhagen Business School and, after finishing my Master, I started at Deloitte Consulting as a consultant. It was actually via a project as consultant that I got into Pandora – and I haven’t left since.
Which characteristic do you value most in your employees?
That is without any doubt their passion for working with our product and Pandora as a brand. Actually the words that our employees most often use to describe Pandora are “family” and “glamorous”. Those are not the worst things to be associated with as an employer, I think.
Which principles, management tools or methods have you found useful for your work?
Pandora’s former CEO Allan Leighton writes in his book “On Leadership “about the importance of “listening to the operators”, which I completely agree with. I always ask lots of questions when I’m visiting stores and every week we spend time capturing feedback from our stores, how the business has progressed, and why. The best ideas we are getting come from our stores so I’m finding it super important to ensure we have a culture, where people feel their ideas and feedback are valued and important.
What was the last business achievement of you and your team that still makes you proud?
Luckily there are many, so it is hard to choose. If I had to pick one it would be in 2015, when we opened more than 100 new Pandora concept stores within ten months. That is one of the largest retail expansions in Europe in the last years and it was only possible to achieve this because we approached the project as one team.
Where do you consider home?
Copenhagen is still what feels most like home for me. Hamburg is where we live, but home is still in Denmark.
What’s your favourite spot and favourite restaurant in Hamburg?
Hamburg has so many lovely spots, but my favourite must be the Alster Lakes. My favourite restaurant is Trattoria da Enzo Due on Grossneumarkt. They serve great Italian food and we enjoy going there in the summer where you can sit outside all night long.
When friends visit you in Hamburg, where do you like to take them?
It depends on the time of year. At Christmas time I find it great to go to the various Christmas markets and get a few cups of Glühwein. In the summer I have often taken our guests to Altes Mädchen to taste their great selection of different beers or to the rooftop bar at “Tanzende Türme” where you have the best view of the city.
Any recommendations for people embarking on a career while in their twenties?
Work hard if you want to succeed. Funnily enough, it is most often the people that are most determined and go the extra mile who achieve their targets… And remember to travel as much as possible before you start your career, because you certainly won’t have the time later on.
Your job is very time-consuming … What is your idea of a perfect weekend without work?
That would involve me spending quality time with my girlfriend Vivian. We would probably spend the Saturday with some of our good friends. I love to cook on the weekend so we would make a nice dinner at our apartment and enjoy one or several bottles of fine red wine together. On Sunday we would take a long walk at the Alster while we enjoy a coffee-to-go from Elbgold. In the evening we would watch Netflix on the sofa to recharge our batteries before the new week starts.
Are there any differences for you between working life between Germany and in your home country? Was there anything that struck you immediately after arrival in Germany?
When I moved to Hamburg from Denmark I was amazed to see what long hours everyone worked. I find that employees at all levels in Germany are more committed to their work compared to Denmark, where private life often has a higher priority. Now after five years in Germany, I don’t really notice the differences any more.
Did you have a mentor who helped you in your career? What benefits did having a mentor have for your personal development?
I was fortunate to participate in the Pandora Global Leadership Program in 2017. As part of this I worked with an executive business coach for the full year to help me develop as a leader. I learned so much from her – especially how powerful it is to use coaching as part of your way of leading and making people realize that they have the answers themselves to most of their questions. It’s all about asking the right questions and listening.
Danish-born Hansen attended Copenhagen Business School and gained a Master’s degree from Macquarie University. Hansen was a consultant with Deloitte for three years before joining the Danish jewellery brand Pandora, Since 2016, he has been Vice President Sales at the company’s Northern Europe office in Hamburg.