At the entrance of the adidas World of Sports in Herzogenaurach, 30 days ago. Time to become a member of the adidas tribe. Even though I’ve worked for a couple of companies before, these are my first ‘real’ steps in corporate life. I’m confident I prepared as best as possible for today. I soaked up the stories on the adidas Group blog and corporate website and I studied the annual report. Still, I’m curious to find out what working here will be like. What’s the peoples’ spirit? Are there any unwritten rules to follow? This is an attempt to summarize the many impressions I’ve had during my first 30 days. “No suit and tie on the first day”. This is what everybody I’ve met and who I happened to deal with at adidas told me. But do they really know? I chose a sporty sweater and a pair of new adidas Boost running shoes in black but I have to admit I was a bit worried I might be underdressed on my first day at work. After all, the adidas Group is a huge public company with over 50,000 employees all over the world. In some ways it must be a bit ‘corporate’, formal and conservative. Luckily, I was wrong on this one and on my first day did not see even a single suit.
Forget about suit and tie
Looking back, I can tell you that I really had no clue. What I experienced during the first few days was nothing less than a cultural shock.
During my previous work assignments I experienced that you address people by their last name when you meet them for the first time – especially in Germany. “Hey Flo, how are you?” These were the first words at the adidas Group if I remember correctly. I have to admit it took me several days to get used to the casual tone of voice at the adidas Group but now it already feels normal and I meanwhile wonder why somebody should ever call me Mr. Zimmermann. I realize it’s perfectly possible to have a respectful relationship without formalities. At the adidas Group I have the impression so far that this might be related to everybody’s passion for sport, which keeps the mentality more matey and less formal.
Team up for top results
In my perception there are lots of similarities between a sports team and the way how people at the adidas Group work together. When lots of strong minds team up you can achieve some really great results. Collaboration is key. People openly share their knowledge. Cross-functional networking is just a genuine part of the culture. Inspirational lunches, speaker series, all-employee meetings, there are so many opportunities to learn and grow and meet leaders and employees from all levels.
The work style is fast, open and performance-driven. Everything is moving. People play to win. It feels very good to be a part of it.Florian Zimmermann, Social Media Manager, adidas Group
When new to a company, it’s important to meet the right people to learn more about the organization and to understand the overall picture. I totally got the opportunities to do so. Everybody was very open, catching up and giving me his/her perspective on things. Another good example is ‘lunch roulette’. Employees can sign up via the social intranet and the system schedules you a lunch date with colleagues from totally different departments and functions. People you have probably never met before. It is not only a lot of fun but also helps to build your own network.
Running 10 kilometers during lunch break on the tartan track
That said, you might find it confusing when I tell you that my first attempt to schedule a lunch date with a colleague failed. When I asked him if we could catch up over lunch at noon for the upcoming day, he just declined and answered: “No, sorry, I don’t have time.” When he added the reason right after though, it totally changed the situation: “I always run my 10k on the tartan track during that time. Would an hour later be fine? Or do you want to join me?”
That’s something I had not experienced before. Colleagues integrate sports in their everyday routine – whenever it works out best for them. A brand-new GYM, showers, locker rooms, everything is there. To find time for sports in-between emails, meetings and calls really helps to recharge and to re-focus on things.
In general, sport seems to unite the teams here and bring colleagues closer together in competition or workout sessions. Everything here is influenced by sports. The campus offers facilities for basketball, football, tennis and beach volleyball. There is even a climbing tower. Still a bit cold in winter though. I can’t wait for summertime to come and everybody will be doing sports together outside.
Play to win … the game goes on
Is the adidas Group a top-down or bottom-up company? What makes it strong and motivates the people to work for and live the brand? I hesitate to provide an answer to all this because, don’t forget, I’ve been working here for just 30 days. There is so much to learn and so much to discover. I will certainly keep you updated.