John Stech, 46
President, Volvo Cars Russia
Family: Wife, Lela; daughter, Karina, 13; son, Gerrit, 11
Born: Frankenthal, Germany
Languages: English, German, basic Russian
Education: MBA, University of New Hampshire, Durham, New Hampshire, USA; Bachelor’s degree in chemistry and German, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, USA
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
I started as a business manager for interior trim components at Textron Automotive Company. Cars have fascinated me since I was a small boy. Working in the industry has not lost its novelty in the last 20 years.
In 2007 I finished the carve-out of Chrysler Russia from DaimlerChrysler Automotive Russia. My management team had until that moment been second or third line managers within DCAR and now they were responsible for the company. Over a period of five years they grew to be world-class managers. The Russian crisis in 2009 was a "sink or swim" learning environment that the team navigated professionally. My greatest personal achievement is to have such a challenging career while still making the time to see my wife and two children every day and having a close relationship with them. And best of all, they share my enthusiasm when I bring different vehicles home for testing.
Biggest failure and what it taught you?
Early in my career I had to launch a new initiative in the market. It would have a big impact on the dealer network. I made the mistake of thinking that I knew what the dealer network would accept without even asking them. When it was announced the dealers were dissatisfied and blocked the effort. I learned at that time to better canvass all stakeholders in a new initiative so that they all had buy-in before the general announcement.
What is your current challenge at work?
The Russian market is feeling a lot of insecurity at this time, even though economic indicators are positive. The Volvo Cars Russia team needs to deliver tactical messages to the market with strong calls to action and to get dealers to support and close the sale. With fewer customers in the showroom, each contact with a customer must count more.
What about the auto industry surprises you?
The constant changes. One would not imagine that a 100-year-old industry could be so dynamic. This is especially true in Russia, where every day seems to bring a change in laws, customs regulations, customer needs or currency rates.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
"Never step on any toes. They may be attached to a butt you have to kiss one day."
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
First I ask, "Do you love cars?" It's the passion for cars that can keep you going during the industry's ups and downs. Try some different areas in the business so that you can keep fresh and gain a holistic view of the industry.
If you were CEO of a company what would you do first?
I am now on my third role as the leader of a company, each time in a culture not my own. First, I listen and observe how the organization already works. Then I focus on optimization of the company and align the management to the joint goals. It is very important to nurture pride in the company and products and to have fun doing it. Nothing beats enthusiasm as a tool for success.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
I really enjoy being head of a national sales company. In the future I would like to take the skills I have developed to a larger organization in the auto industry.
What do you do to relax?
Music relaxes me. I try to get to know the local music scene and have collected quite a bit of Russian rock music. My motto is "Live global, rock local." Creative writing is another way to relax. I have written some short stories about Russia and some adventures for my kids.
A 1978 VW Scirocco with a four-speed manual transmission. I bought it for $2,000 with 120,000km and reached 277,000km. It's a good thing I only had 80 hp or I would have had a lot more tickets.
A flamenco red Volvo XC70. It's easy to find in Moscow, where most other cars are black.
Jan. 2013-present: President, Volvo Cars Russia, Moscow
2007-2012: CEO, Chrysler Russia, Moscow
2006-2007: CEO and managing director, DaimlerChrysler Egypt, Cairo, Egypt
2002-2006: Senior manager, volume planning and distribution, DaimlerChrysler International, Auburn Hills, Michigan, USA
2001-2002: Department manager, strategic volume planning, Mercedes-Benz USA, Montvale, New Jersey, USA
2000-2001: Department manager, commercial sales, Mercedes-Benz USA, Montvale, New Jersey
1998-2000: Product manager, light trucks, Mercedes-Benz USA, Montvale, New Jersey
1996-1998: Assistant product manager, M class, Mercedes-Benz USA, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA