VANtastic!

VANtastic!

From a weekend floor assistant at Edgars to a Jill of all trades and, ultimately, a master of star-emblazoned vans … Life has certainly been a fantastic journey for Nicolette Lambrechts, brand manager of Mercedes-Benz Vans

Lambrechts’s working life started during her student days as she took the role of floor assistant at Edgars, on weekends and during holidays, while completing a B.Com. Marketing degree at the University of Pretoria. She then attained a B.Com. Honours degree while holding a position as junior lecturer in economics at the university.

After completing her studies, Lambrechts spent a year and a half on the Isle of Wight – located in the English Channel – working in a hotel. Here she did everything from cleaning rooms to being a receptionist, barmaid and waitress. “It was a great working experience that taught me different skills and exposed me to different cultures,” Lambrechts relates.

From there she returned to South Africa and started her career as a “roving accountant” at Tiger Wheel and Tyre in Pretoria, where she worked for two years. She then received a job offer from Simba where she worked as an accounts payable supervisor. “I spent two years at the company before moving to Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA),” Lambrechts points out.

This stellar move happened per chance. Well, a chance that Lambrechts took. “I heard that Mercedes-Benz was looking for graduate trainees. I took a chance and submitted my CV and was invited for an interview, and the rest is history …” A fantastic (or VANtastic, as Lambrechts says when asked what word would summarise her career with Mercedes-Benz) 12-year history that is still going strong.

“I started as a graduate trainee in the supply chain department during July 2001,” says Lambrechts. “I was appointed as the sales planner for ChryslerJeep, in September 2002, where I was responsible for the market analysis, forecasting, market review, reporting and planning for the ChryslerJeep product range.”

Then Lambrechts was promoted to distribution manager of Commercial Vehicles in August 2003. “I was responsible for all distribution and logistics functions for all commercial vehicles: including MB Truck, MB Bus, MB Vans, Freightliner, Fuso and Western Star,” she explains.

In January 2008 the dedicated van division was formed and Lambrechts was appointed as the national sales manager for Mercedes-Benz Vans. “In March 2011, I was promoted to brand manager of the division,” she adds.

So Lambrechts has come a long way from her floor assistant days during varsity, climbing the corporate ladder at an impressive rate … And throughout these 12 years, the industry has also been moving at a fast pace.

“The industry has seen a number of new entrants into the market, changing the dynamics of the competition in the marketplace,” Lambrechts points out. “Customers’ needs and expectations are constantly changing and the challenge is for original equipment manufacturers to change at the same speed as our clients’ needs.”

But Mercedes-Benz has kept pace – not only in terms of its products, but also its processes and its way of doing business. Lambrechts says: “We always try and take it to the next level, striving to be better at what we do.” She adds that the company has streamlined its business and operations around its customers.

This has hit the nail straight on the head, as Lambrechts explains: “More and more of our customers are moving towards a value chain and total cost of ownership approach. As Mercedes-Benz Vans and Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicles we have the full value chain to offer our customers – CharterWay, FleetBoard, TruckStore, Financial Services, service and parts.”

The company is also updating its product offering and launched the new Mercedes-Benz Sprinter at this year’s Johannesburg International Motor Show. “We are all looking forward to the performance of the new Sprinter,” Lambrechts relates. “It is a fantastic product that never fails to surpass expectation, regardless how high we set the bar.”

And the bar keeps on rising, both for MBSA and Lambrechts. “At Mercedes-Benz you are challenged to be innovative and creative, and to see opportunities in everything around you. I feel so honoured to work for Mercedes-Benz and have learnt so much in the 12 years that I have been with this amazing company.”

But Lambrechts hasn’t only been challenged in a business sense, but personally as well. “You push yourself to new heights year after year to be the best and to offer your customers the best,” Lambrechts concludes.

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