Choosing to spend the first half of our spring break in a conference room to kick off a 10-week consulting project might seem like a curious decision for a group of first-year Tuck students. Tuckies have amazing options for spring break; organized trips with classmates, international travel with professors on school-led Global Insight Expeditions (GIXs), spending time at home with family, or catching up on activities in the Upper Valley that we missed during the busy winter term. But when the conference room in question is at the global headquarters outside of Munich at PERI, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of scaffolding and formwork, and we have been challenged with a task by managing director Alexander Schwörer T’02, the opportunity to sit in that conference room is truly exciting. My team and I knew that by working with Alex we would have the opportunity to help shape the growth of a $1.3 billion company. A diverse group of Tuckies came together to confront this challenge.
As part of the First-Year Project (FYPGO) curriculum, two student teams spent a week at PERI in its beautiful headquarters facility in Weissenhorn, Germany. PERI gave us access to the resources we needed to understand the dynamics of its highly competitive business and allowed us to tour its state-of-the-art production facility. Working with regional sales and marketing leaders, we knew our work would be important to the staff who could be implementing our project’s recommendations within the year.
Our days were filled with back-to-back meetings with leaders of PERI’s business functions who shared their knowledge and challenged our early assumptions about the company and market. The PERI staff was highly organized, smart, and committed to the company, and quickly made it clear that they expected the same from us. We worked hard during our week on site at PERI to learn, document, and contextualize everything we could absorb for use back at school.
While PERI made us feel welcome in its office in Weissenhorn, Alex opened the doors to his home city of Ulm. We were treated to dinners while we learned about the path Alex has taken as he helped build the family company into a global presence, and the high standards he holds both his production and business operations staff to. Alex showed us first-hand the fast pace and level of dedication required to lead a company, and the importance of balancing work with goals in our personal lives as well. A highlight of the week was the walking tour that Alex led us on around Ulm, giving up his Sunday to spend the day showing us the sites of his home town. It was a powerful moment when we stopped to remember that we were walking around in the rain with the head of a global company as he recounted the history of the town he loves and still calls home.
The next nine weeks of our project will require hard work but we are excited to have the opportunity to confront this important real-world question. Ultimately, we will deliver our recommendations to Alex in person here at Tuck, and virtually to his staff in Germany. We know that expectations from both Tuck and PERI are high, and we are looking forward to the challenge.