Since January 2023, Linda Schulte is Sofis’ new Commercial Director. With a long track record in sales and marketing in both industrial as well as consumer markets, she is determined to put Sofis’ customers first.
Back in 2022, Linda was approached on LinkedIn by recruitment specialist SolutionsDriven, who introduced her to the vacant position at Sofis. “I’d never heard of Sofis before”, she says. “But Sofis appealed to me very much. The industry was totally new to me, and I appreciated the international character of the company. Working for a mid-size company like Sofis also means being involved in a lot of processes.” After meeting Henry Langston (CEO) and his colleagues, she was triggered. “The strategic direction of Sofis attracted me, as well as its dynamics, the challenges that the company is facing, and the enthusiasm of Sofis staff.”
The representative of all Sofis customers
Before starting at Sofis, Linda had already gained ample experience as a commercial director, in previous functions, for different companies. “I was looking for a more international playground, something I was used to during the beginning of my career”, she explains. She started her career in sales, selling robust handhelds to automate the outside workforce. “Today, these devices are commonly used of course, but back then, we were forced to focus on selling the concept and potential ROI, rather than just the product itself”, Linda points out. What really triggered me, was how to engage with our customers.” From product management, she quickly moved on to marketing management. In different roles, each focused on a variety of markets. Linda: “This really helped me to broaden my knowledge of customer behavior and sharpen my marketing skills. Having worked in different industries allows me to bring in knowledge with a fresh perspective.” To Linda, the key benefit she brings in, however, is customer centricity. “I’m a real advocate of putting the customer central, at all times, and I regard it as my main responsibility to advocate customer centricity in the boardroom. I think that’s what I’m hired for; being the representative of all Sofis customers on the board.”
Deliver solutions, not products
Linda strongly feels that customers buy solutions, not products. “We should always be aware of what we are doing for our customers. What problem are we solving? How can we help our customers to protect their people, their production, the environment, or their profit? This should always be on everyone’s mind in the company. Bringing the customers’ voice inside the company can be done in a lot of different ways, for example by using narrowcasting and other forms of internal communications, sharing customer feedback, and research with everyone. In the end, we should always ask ourselves how our decisions are benefiting our customers.” To make it easy is it for our customers to work with Sofis, Linda plans to set up regular customer journey sessions. “These sessions help us to find out how customers experience us, where we can add more value for them, and where the changes are needed to improve their total experience with Sofis.”
After spending the first months understanding the processes and the products of Sofis, Linda now plans to focus on integrating customer experience opportunities into processes. “Visiting our customers and talking to them about their current and future wishes will be my focus to make sure we do the right things. This will also enable me to kickstart all our customer-centric initiatives”, she explains. “These initiatives are integrated into our strategic planning and will be integrated into Sofis’ way of working. So, I hope that in a few months, we have already made some steps to become even more customer-centric.”
Sofis has been delivering process safety and efficiency solutions for over 30 years. Linda is convinced that Sofis can play an important role in helping companies deliver the energy transition and decarbonize, without compromising safety or efficiency. “It would be great to develop new products and solutions that can help companies to meet today’s sustainability challenges. For that to happen, our challenge will be to get involved in the early stage of the buying process. Talking with our customers about new innovations and product developments helps us to get customer needs to be integrated into our company roadmap.
Developing the strategy
Sofis is in a great position to diversify and focus more on renewable energy initiatives and companies. “The adoption level of our solutions differs from region to region”, she explains. “That’s why we have to make sure that we reach out to our customers worldwide with the right approach, and the right products, allowing us to better align with the ‘maturity’ of customers in the various regions.” Linda is particularly positive about the way in which everybody is involved in the strategy of the company. “I have a strong belief that if you build a powerful organization, where everyone is taking a ‘piece of the pie’ to deliver the strategy, you get more involvement”, she says. “Otherwise, strategy is just ‘other people doing that’. In our planning, everybody has a role in delivering our strategy. Sofis really tries to invite everybody to take part. I believe employee happiness comes when you can add value and that’s very powerful at Sofis.”
Valve operations expert
Strategic planning allows Sofis to focus on the right activities, enabling the company to manage resources and make the right choices. “Sofis is the valve operations expert in the market”, she points out. “Our involvement goes way beyond hardware, and our expertise, consultancy, and service are highly valued. Our application notes and case studies show how we help our customers to solve problems related to safe, efficient, and sustainable valve operations.” For Linda, creating more awareness about Sofis’ expertise and solutions is a big challenge. “We are the established global leader in valve operations solutions, but not yet all our potential customers have heard from us or benefited from our expertise. Let’s make sure to get that message across!”
“Sofis is a group of smart people”, Linda explains when asked what she thinks of Sofis staff. “What triggers me is that everybody is very cooperative, working together to deliver great outcomes for our customers. Of course, we operate worldwide, and we must make sure that we stay connected, and that we are one team. We have over 13 different nationalities working for Sofis, and they are all people with the right attitude of wanting to go forward. I think that’s really cool and inspiring.”
When not working for Sofis, Linda loves traveling, sports, and walking her dog. She tries to pick up painting, and she reads a lot. She also wrote a book with a friend, published in 2021. “It’s a fun book about having structured evaluations between you and your partner, just like you would have an evaluation with your boss at regular times. The talks will make your relationship better. “It was fun to do, and maybe there will be a second book as well, on how to have structured conversations with your child. My kids told me it was a good idea, so I should maybe take up on this hint and listen to ‘my customers’ at home as well”, she says with a big smile.
Linda has a Master’s degree in communication science and a Bachelor of Business Administration(BBA) in marketing.