A good understanding of human nature – and being comfortable with friction

A wide range of duties and an unusual CV: Udo Höfer has been with METRO for 30 years and has managed the Krefeld store since 2010. He believes in honesty, reliability and discipline, as well as clear, comprehensible decisions.

Udo Höfer

Qualified engineer, military service, then a move into the food sector, joining METRO in 1992. METRO Kazakhstan is another unusual highlight on his CV. Udo Höfer has managed the Krefeld METRO wholesale store since 2010. What kind of a person is this man from Thuringia? And what does his job entail?

Udo, what skills does a store manager need to have? And what does he or she need to be passionate about? 
The most important quality is a good understanding of human nature. You have to deal with lots of different characters every day and not be afraid of the friction that occasionally arises – whether it be with customers or employees. Openness towards change processes and active engagement are also significant aspects of the role. And of course you have to love the products.

From mechanical engineer to the METRO wholesale store – a rather unusual career path.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the end of the GDR, I was faced with a new professional challenge and a change of direction in my personal life. Prior to that I had been working very intensively with people and that was something I wanted to continue. METRO gave me the opportunity to do that. I love working with our customers and employees and I have been able to explore all aspects of the wholesale trade. I have also been lucky in always working with bosses who have guided and encouraged me but also challenged me.

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During your 30-year career with METRO, you even spent a year in Kazakhstan. How did that come about?
I always wanted to work abroad and pass on my experience in the wholesale industry, but also get to know new countries and cultures and expand my personal horizons. So I jumped at the opportunity when it was offered after discussing it with my family.

Were there any particular challenges?
Yes, minus 40 degrees can be very cold for a central European! (Laughs.) But seriously, I found it very exciting and inspiring to be part of METRO’s launch in a new country and to help open the first store there as a store manager. 

What brought you to Krefeld in 2010?
I have moved eight times within METRO so far, always going wherever I was needed. After several years in Bavaria, the relocation to the beautiful Lower Rhine region was an absolute stroke of luck for me, both professionally and personally. I really love it here!

How have your past experiences helped you in your current role?
My parents taught me values such as honesty, reliability, discipline and the importance of clear and comprehensible decisions. I firmly believe that simply issuing ‘orders’ is not the way to effect change and gain acceptance from your team. The only way to achieve that is by taking your staff with you and making them part of the change processes. You need to show that you trust your colleagues and that you are a role model for the values.

Udo Höfer

About ... Udo Höfer

Udo Höfer has been Manager of the METRO wholesale store in Krefeld since 2010. The store covers an area of 14,500 square metres and currently employs 170 staff. He has also been a member of the METRO AG Supervisory Board since 2020. Born in the Thuringian town of Heiligenstadt  in 1965, Udo wanted to be a pilot when he was a child – but ‘at some point just became too tall for the cockpit’. So he completed an apprenticeship as a mechanical engineer and studied at the Officers' College, graduating with a degree in electrical engineering/electronics. From 1988 to 1990 he was an officer in the German air force and moved into the food sector in 1991. In 1992, he became an operations manager at METRO, then sales manager in 1998, and worked as store manager at various stores in Germany from 2000 onwards. In mid-2009, Udo Höfer opened the first METRO store in Astana in Kazakhstan as the store manager.

What is your main responsibility in your current role?
The implementation of our METRO sCore strategy and all its constituent parts by 2030. That means expanding market shares, further increasing our delivery sales, aligning our wholesale stores even more closely with the needs of our HoReCa customers and pushing ahead with digital solutions. Our employees are essential for this – whether in the delivery depot, in the sales force or in the store. My task is to make sure they are all ready to face the future challenges.

Do you also have direct contact with customers?
Yes, of course. There’s nothing I like more than dealing with customers directly. It doesn’t matter whether they are existing delivery customers, potential customers or new ones. I spend three or four days every month out and about with our sales force. This active contact, whether it’s in the store or at the customer’s business, is also the basis of our sCore strategy. We gather regular feedback to measure and improve customer satisfaction and this helps us to become even better and more effective. 

Do store managers share information and experience with one another?
We have very good, constructive discussions, both at the regular regional meetings and with colleagues from all over Germany. After having to do lots of things online during the pandemic, it was wonderful to see everyone in person when we were finally able to meet face-to-face again at our head office in Düsseldorf. And we benefit and learn from successes in other METRO countries, especially with regard to the implementation of sCore. I have also stayed in contact with my colleagues in Kazakhstan but unfortunately I haven’t been able to visit again yet. It’s on my to-do list though!

What else are you thinking about a lot at the moment?
The whole geopolitical situation, of course, and matters such as price rises. It is important to me that we actively help customers in this situation. And even if we can’t help directly, active listening can often do a lot of good. I guess we are all in a similar position.

Duties of a store manager

Store managers have a high level of responsibility for running ‘their’ METRO wholesale store and they work with their teams to ensure a positive shopping experience for customers. They are responsible for the commercial success of their store and for implementing and monitoring the success of the local marketing campaigns. Their remit also includes motivating and developing employees. They are the direct point of contact for their store’s most important customers and form a powerful team with their colleagues in sales and delivery.
Would you enjoy the responsibility of running a METRO store? Take a look at our careers page here: karriere.metro.de 

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