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Leading with Commitment & Determination | Berno Stoffel

Berno Stoffel

CEO

The above words are etched in Berno Stoffel’s office as a poster. These words perfectly describe Berno’s nature—100% solution-oriented and forward-thinking, always keeping the big picture in mind, always acting in the interest of the cause. Berno is a rare combination of unshakable optimism – the glass is never only half full, but always complete – the will to make and create something, to achieve goals, and the willingness to go the extra mile, always to give total commitment. In difficulties and crises, he unfolds his full strength. He always goes “ALL IN”; tasks are solved fully and never half-heartedly. This also includes the courage to leave gaps and the ability to make and admit mistakes. The focus is always on the possibilities and the capabilities, never the problems. He leads people accordingly; he makes the goal and the opportunities palatable to them and does not waste any energy inhibiting sensitivities discussions. Berno’s foreign words are procrastinating, hesitating, complaining, scheming, or even resigning. His philosophy is: If you can dream it, you can do that! We can do it! That’s good for all! The demand for performance and the will to serve are remarkable.

Berno is the leader of Seilbahnen Schweiz (SBS), the Swiss cable car industry association. It is a full member of around 350 of the approximately 500 cable car companies from all regions of the country, including all large and medium-sized companies and many smaller railways. Seilbahnen Schweiz, therefore, sees itself as a comprehensive industry representative. This is underlined by the fact that around 120 industrial companies from the ropeway construction sector also belong to the association as “friendly members” with the numbers rising every day.

Seilbahnen Schweiz’s purpose is to represent its members’ common concerns and interests and promote their cooperation. This results in various activities, ranging from representation vis-à-vis authorities to member advice, public relations and training being provided every team member.

Seilbahnen Schweiz is based in Bern, where the office is also located. SBS also operates a training centre, the AZ SBS, in Meiringen in the Bernese Oberland. In its course centre, it organises inter-company courses for apprentices in the professions of ropeway operator and ropeway mechatronics technician. In addition, the AZ SBS ensures training and further education for the slope and rescue service specialists and other industry-relevant areas.

Compared to many representatives in the ropeway industry, Berno does not have a technical background. He originally studied theology and earned a PhD in sociology of religion on the role of shamanism in South Korea during economic crises. But his grit guides him to take the association to greater heights.

Support System

Berno integrates young people quickly into exciting and challenging projects, immediately giving them responsibility for more significant tasks. His experience is that young people are willing to perform and grow strongly with commitment. A culture of making mistakes is crucial here. The young employees know that he supports them in difficult situations and allows them to make mistakes. The problematic experiences are analyzed together, and the findings and further goals are defined.

Regular joint analysis of the professional path helps you to become aware of the development and to strengthen professional, social, and personal skills. In doing so, “Strengthen the strengths” is central for Berno. Promoting the potential of human development in all its dimensions is extremely exciting for him.

“Walk the Talk” – Berno lives this principle through and through. He leads the way, gets stuck in, thinks ahead, provides support for employees, never complains, but works persistently step by step. Berno works night shifts and extra hours for the association when other managers have long since gone to sleep or turned to their issues.

“Gouverner c’est prévoir” Berno always has a plan, a vision of where the journey will go. He is animated by the will to shape and improve the organisation and its infrastructure. He counts on his team, places trust in them, and demands commitment and performance from everyone. At the same time, he lets everyone have his place and his role.

Unlike most managers:

  • He doesn’t have to shine in public.
  • It’s not about his state of mind.
  • It’s always about the cause, the big picture, and the opportunities.

And it’s all about people: Berno listens and learns. He sometimes allows himself to be convinced of an ‘even better solution’ or that his schedule is too ambitious. He prefers ten goals and accepts if two are not achieved, then three goals with a 100 percent achievement.

Success & Leadership

The steadfast leader focuses on people and their strengths, not on company employees and their weaknesses. Berno knows himself, trusts in himself and his abilities, and is, therefore, able to trust his team. And to challenge it. He is leading with goals and clear targets and staying human. He is never concerned with his ego, with being the boss in the sun, and he leads with example that exemplifies his actions and hardwork. He contributes to this and, at the same time, knows what part the people around him have to play. Berno laughs a lot and likes to laugh – also about himself. He knows his weaknesses and concentrates on his many strengths. Optimism and pragmatism characterize him.

“Success is linked to hard and consistent work. Rome was not built in one day: One should set oneself ambitious and numerous goals and not let oneself be diverted from the path, even if it is sometimes rocky,” says Berno. “You have to be able to endure something. You have to learn not to always take yourself too seriously as a person, but to take a back seat for the cause; especially when leading an organisation since you are the guide for everyone. For your team, you have to radiate confidence and when problems arise, your door and your ear should always be open.”

The pioneering leader states that one has to be able to put aside their natural preference for “comfortable variants” or too many quick wins. “You have to learn to move outside of your comfort zone. You will always make mistakes, but you should not be afraid of them. Because mistakes are part of the game and, in retrospect, they are always opportunities,” explains Berno. “As a leader, you can make a lot of things happen, you are responsible for the values, the mood, the commitment of the entire team, because you are the head of the team. This should not only manifest itself in the form of an individual office or a company car, but in the form of human integrity and greatness as well as professional competence. You should always be able to stop, take a deep breath and think about yourself, continuously evaluate oneself, the organsation and also what is your role in it and how you are working towards enhancing the same.”

The quality and power of an association become apparent in times of crisis. Under the leadership of Berno, the association has succeeded in uniting its members behind it and “speaking with one voice” as an industry association. As a result, Switzerland Cablecar Association became the most successful lobbyist in the tourism industry. Specifically: In contrast to the European Alpine arc, where politics had imposed the lockdown on ski resorts, the Swiss skied in the winter of 2020/21. Switzerland was also spared from the restrictions (vaccination certificates), which significantly limited the European ski resorts in the second Covid-crises winter, thanks to skillful and coordinated association lobbying work. Hence, why Swiss ski resorts gained 6 percent of the European market share during the Covid crisis, and most of Switzerland’s cable car companies achieved record results the same year. In addition, the skilfully tactical association ensured that its members received financial support from the federal government and the regional authorities – in the region of a three-digit million contribution – for sales losses resulting from the pandemic the past year.

In addition to the very successful crisis management, the association also managed to develop a new strategy, to launch the topics of sustainability and energy supply within the industry, and to digitize and professionalize data collection with a “benchmark”. In addition, under Berno, the association managed to restructure its finances, form a team with human integrity, motivation, and competence, restore the industry’s confidence, and generally perceive change as an opportunity rather than a threat.

Creating An Experience

After the Covid pandemic, the cable car industry in Europe is already facing the next challenge. Rising electricity costs and the impending power shortage due to the Ukraine War endanger a carefree start to the winter. But the industry is “crisis-resistant” and has taken precautions. The industry is ready to contribute and has developed a simulation tool with over 90 measures. With this tool, each company can define and measure its measures to save electricity. At the same time, the association has concrete figures on the savings potential of the industry and on the measures taken. It can be seen that the cable cars have already done a lot to optimise energy in recent years. “The mountain railways are the economic engine in the mountain regions, because every fourth person in the mountain region works directly or indirectly for tourism. Without mountain railways there is no tourism, without tourism there is no life in the mountain regions. In this respect, winter tourism contributes to economic sustainability.” Switzerland is and remains a top-rated tourist destination.

" For your team, you have to radiate confidence and when problems arise, your door and your ear should always be open "

Berno Stoffel

CEO

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