Introducing the BEC partners: Speaking with Atlas Copco

Pavel Šustek founded one of the largest shared services centres in Brno. Formerly known as Edwards Services, they became part of Atlas Copco, the world leader in compressor and vacuum business: “Brno is extremely competitive: for the salary employees get, they can enjoy a higher quality of life than in any other city in the Central and Eastern Europe,” Pavel says.

How would you describe the business Atlas Copco does worldwide to someone without a clue?

Atlas Copco is a 145 years old Stockholm headquartered company that originally started in the mining business but over the time has evolved into other business areas such as industrial tooling, compressors and vacuum pumps.

And what gets done in Brno, specifically?

In Brno, we have a finance shared services centre. We support the whole Western hemisphere: from the USA and Canada, through Europe to Israel. About half of our employees work with the compressor side of the business and the other half is involved with vacuum.

If I worked for Atlas Copco what would my day look like?

A workday at Atlas Copco is full of interactions and communication; a little bit of stress, but a lot of development, too. The work itself is a combination of the traditional data processing and engineering: employees are either processing invoices, making journals, or preparing financial statements. However, we also expect our employees to participate on making the company more efficient: they are required to improve the work processes, suggest what to do differently or what not to do at all. We believe that decisions should be made where the business is made.

How many people work for Atlas Copco in Brno?

We have about 50,000 employees working for Atlas Copco worldwide, and there are roughly 350 staff members employed in Brno; the bigger half of them being women.

How international is your workforce here?

Very: a large portion of our staff are Slovaks because of the proximity to Slovakia (sometimes it almost seems like our official language is Slovak) but on top of that, we have some 20 other nationalities working in our team: from Americans, Cubans and Mexicans, to a scope of European nationalities.

How easy is it for you to attract talents to Brno?

It is relatively easy to identify talents and then create the willingness and excitement for them to come and work here. The not so positive side of having foreigner employees from outside of the European Union is the difficulty of arranging all of the work permits.

Do you feel there is a competition between Brno’s many shared services centres for talented employees?

As a matter of fact, yes. Until recently, all shared services cooperated under standard circumstances: some employees were swapping between companies but all the universities based here or in Slovakia were generating a sufficient amount of talent to fill the vacant positions.

However, recently, there were some entrances to the Brno market with a strategy of starting quickly and not looking at the salaries. As a result, we see some competitors distorting the shared services labour market – and quite significantly. Such short-sighted competition can lead to a price war between shared services here: and that would make it difficult to protect the competitiveness of Brno’s market worldwide. There are two main reasons why Brno is so popular now: the high-quality service and the cost. Once we become too expensive, the shareholders of these companies will simply decide to move their service centres elsewhere.

What do you think attracts people to Brno?

It’s a vibrant city which offers safety and an excellent infrastructure, as well: and by infrastructure, I don’t mean only public transport and traffic, but also great health care, child care, and schooling including universities.

It is an affordable place to live, although the cost of living is increasing fast in Brno (especially the cost of housing) – but that is happening everywhere. One thing is to compare where we were and where we are now. However, one could also look at where we could be if we were Prague or Bratislava or Krakow.

What could be improved?

What the foreign employees and their families miss the most is schooling. The education here is of high quality, but most schools require Czech language fluency.

Another issue is the Brno airport connectivity to the outside world. Getting to Brno is a nightmare. When people need to come to Brno for a half-day meeting, it takes two days of travelling. If we figured out how to get the senior management to Brno easily, there would be no limit in how much business we can get done in Brno.

What skills are you looking for when hiring right now?

There is a balance of two things that we look for in our potential employees. We look for the technical element, the qualification, but also we search for people who are highly motivated in changing their lives and the work they do. We look for the willingness, the ability, and the drive to change. As we like to say, there is always a better way, and we look for that drive and willingness in our new potential employees to find it.

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