Interview in VDMA Magazine

In an interview with the VDMA Magazine / April 2020 issue, Managing Director Anna Lena Blanke talks about the work and strategy of TIA Wastewater Technologies.


Mrs. Blanke, TIA is a comparatively small, family-run company with international sales. What does this mean for the international distribution?

In contrast to larger competitors, we have no offshoots in the target countries. We are dependent to find suitable local partners. In addition comes: We have quite a lot of effort in the pre-sales area. Our systems are mostly individually designed. There is much to discuss until closure's coming. You have to be organized and work with local

partners cooperate.


How do you find these partners?

We have tried out different ways, have gone to trade fairs, have exhibitions in the target countries or contacted the chambers of foreign trade. Often new interesting contacts arise via already existing contacts. Networking is important.


Your company puts a focus on the North African and Arabic regions.

What challenges do you face there as a German plant manufacturer?

We are noticing that competitors from Asia are increasingly entering the market.

This is of course a challenge, because price is an important factor.

The label "Made in Germany" still counts - in some countries more, in others less. In North Africa goods from Europe are still considered to be of higher value. But it is also clear that In the end, it's usually about the price. And then you have to see what

you can score.


And what do you score with?

First and foremost, experience. There are no blanket solutions in the industrial wastewater sector. We rely on new and on proven developments, to enable us to differ

from competitors, for example ARS biology or digital operational monitoring. Based on our know-how we can offer the customer solutions that satisfy him in the longer term.


You therefore advocate focussing on the core competencies in international sales in order to be able to compete in the marketplace?

That's right. In our case, it's industrial wastewater treatment. Not many companies have so much experience with this very demanding subject. We have to focus on those issues we are really strong in.


But you said yourself: In the end often it is about the price.

In fact, each company must consider how to find a way out of this dilemma. For us, the local partners also play a role here. Sometimes a cost-effective cooperation with local craftsmen is constructive, so that we can agree with the customer on a special price.


You are now following in your father's footsteps and as a young woman in her early 30s Managing director in one of men dominated the industry. Do you feel reservations?

Actually, no, however we have a double-header. Of course, up to now I haven't the authority and my father's experience. That's why I'm going to get him on board if it makes sense that he could play to those very strengths. Overall, the reactions to the generation change are positive. I think some people are concerned, others not. This has often a cultural background.


Are these cultural differences in North African or in Arabic counties easily to handle for you?

In some countries it is unthinkable that a young woman alone appears at a business meeting. You have to be prepared for. In such situations I have a male colleague with me. And I don't take it personally, when I realize that my counterpart would rather talk to a man than with me.


So it happens that you are ignored when you are actually the negotiator?

Usually the dialogue partners are very polite. But often actually the man is the first to be addressed. Of course, sometimes just appearances have tob e kept up. If one

knows each other, and when it is clear that I am the one who designed the system,

that changes.


Keyword shortage of skilled workers: how acute is this topic for international sales in your company?

This is indeed a problem. We install our systems on site, and therefore the employees have to spend some time abroad. Many are no longer willing to travel to North Africa or Arab countries. In general, I have the impression that joy of foreign assignments has diminished.


How do you deal with the shortage of skilled workers in the destination countries? You can't fly in a technician every time, when something breaks on one of your machines.

Which is most likely to break, are machines. Our suppliers often have branches in the

region. If the customer reports a problem, we contact the respective supplier and ask him to send a technician who will take a look at the plant.


So even in such cases it depends on a good network

Definitely. That's what it keeps running on.




Anna Lena Blanke

since December 2019 Managing Director of TIA Technologies for industrial waste water treatment GmbH in Breitenfelde / Germany. She manages the

company together with her father. Since 2013 the 32-year-old has been working

at TIA as sales engineer in the international business.