Milan Grujić, ZF Serbia Managing Director – Commercial: Leadership Challenges in Fast Moving Times – Business Unusual

ZF is a global technology company that supplies systems for passenger cars, commercial vehicles, and industrial technology, enabling the next generation of mobility. ZF allows vehicles to see, think and act

We have a special opportunity to talk with Mr. Milan Grujić, one of the two Managing Directors of ZF Serbia, responsible for all commercial aspects of this important ZF project that in every facet represents and underlines corporate strategy.

MILAN GRUJIĆ, ZF Serbia Managing Director– Commercial (Foto: ZF)

Milan Grujić has built his successful career in ZF group, working for the company for almost 20 years – starting at sales representative office of Aftermarket division which he and his team developed into a fast-growing distribution network and highly productive regional office. His local knowledge, results, education, experience, and skills recommended him for a leading position in the newest project at Division E-Mobility. His confidence, agility, contacts network, and problem-solving abilities secured his indispensable position at Pančevo Plant from the start of the project in Serbia. His contribution and dedication in this 160 million EURO valued investment project, which is of great importance for the ZF company, city of Pančevo, Vojvodina, and Serbia, has been recognized across the business community and awarded with special honors – first with the title of Honorary Citizen of Pančevo in 2019 and also as the recipient of special Sretenje Medal of Merit received in 2020. from President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić.

Two years after the start of ZF Serbia project, marked with speed boat progress and now running production operation, during COVID-19 crisis that is transforming the world and business as we know it, we talk to Milan about everyday leadership challenges and rapid changes that shape and drive company business and decision-making process.

You are one of the key people responsible for this great and important project. We have all seen the timely and impressive results of the investment so far, but at the moment when your operation was to express the full potential, the world was interrupted by a specific crisis that is still lasting. How do you manage to stay on track and confidently move forward as circumstances change and we can only rely on existing realities and must consider future uncertainties?

Yes, we all found ourselves at the moment when the world and the businesses, and each of us individually, are reacting to a new reality. I would say that the world is updating and we are all slowly accepting and understanding how to keep up.  As a leader, with responsibility for your team and people, besides personal concerns and care regarding your own family, there is considerable pressure on making the right move. You first need to ensure the safety and well-being of all employees, then think about how to manage the company’s survival and then concentrate on the future where you still envision only success and desired results.

What is significant is that ZF Group is, and has always been, a company lead by innovation and future thinking.

In that way, we can say that we were seeing, thinking, and acting ahead of time and we now come prepared. We stay with our vision of next-generation mobility and zero emissions, committed to our decisions just flexible with our approach.

All our goals and values, and our management system are rooted in sustainable and long term development of new mobility that is driven and excepted at an increasing pace, as technology is changing the way we live and work.

We are aware of global digital acceleration and determined, together with our customers and suppliers to rethink our business processes so we can remain relevant and stay on top.

It is definitely too early for prognoses, but what are you noticing and considering as assumptions regarding the scope of globally proclaimed economical crises? Can this challenge be handled with existing methods, skills, and experiences? How will you combat with all occurrences?

 What we see is that the world’s economy is in a free-falling mode. It is already clear that the business map of the world will radically change. Experts around the world are addressing this same question wondering about the survival of their businesses and categories and trying to figure out how they will react, turning to proven methods and previous experiences. On one hand, we all know that changes and crises are a part of everyday business, but on the other, we must see this is different.

We are facing something quite new. It affects world globally, our civilization is shaken in every aspect of life and business, each individual is personally affected in everyday life and most important thing we need to acknowledge is that this is an open-ended situation – we do not know how long it can last and what other surprises it will bring on us.

My first instinct was to recognize specifics and name the change, and for me this time the challenge is business unusual.

What I mean by this is there is no instruction manual to deal with this type of crisis so to manage it you need to rely on your existing skills and experience, but more on instinct and personality traits. You need to stay objective and rational. Through this process, I am trying to avoid predictable moves and scenarios and learn through it, think, and feel as the circumstances develop. The world is moving so quickly right now, there is no time for a controlled step by step uncompromising approach.

I think that the way to go about business is to become more agile, work quickly, and take smaller steps and changes and confidently make decisions while getting instant feedback to adjust along the way.

Resilience and open mindedness are what we all need to emerge from this situation stronger and with the long lasting positive impact in our lives and our businesses.

ZF, which acquired WABCO Holdings Inc. on May 29, 2020, now has 160,000 employees worldwide with approximately 260 locations in 41 countries. In 2019, the two then-independent companies achieved sales of €36.5 billion (ZF) and $3.4 billion (WABCO).  The combination of these two successful enterprises will bring a new dimension of innovation and capability for commercial vehicle systems technology. Thanks to the perfectly complementary portfolios and competencies, ZF is able to offer unprecedented solutions and services for manufacturers and fleets globally. In this way, the company is actively shaping the future of the changing transportation industry.

MILAN GRUJIĆ, ZF Serbia Managing Director– Commercial (Foto: ZF)

It is clear to us that, regardless of the change of circumstances,  ZF Serbia project is on the way to success and that we can expect results that are so important for this partnership your company has ventured into with Serbia, benefiting the local community and the whole country. We are excited and impatient for all news from the company as we follow you and your colleagues in this pioneer undertaking. What would you name as the crucial factor for success, what is it you count on, rely on and could not grow without?

Commitment to people is one of ZF company values. We support and encourage our employees in the fulfillment of their duties and responsibilities and in return, we expect their commitment and performance.

During two years on this project we have been growing our team and today we count 650 people actively working in Pančevo Plant. Their dedication and engagement is an essential part of overall project success. As we speak we are working on extending the team with more than 50 new specialists and experts to make our business ready R&D center fully operational.

If I would have to name one key factor that will not be changed by circumstances and is going to be long term company’s dedication those are people.

We are committed to keep with the people – support and build up each individual, promote behaviors and values to set an organizational culture that will ensure we can move forward together and overcome challenges. Only people, motivated and equipped with the right attitude can stimulate innovation and growth and support the ambition of our business.

In the four technology domains Vehicle Motion Control, Integrated Safety, Automated Driving, and Electric Mobility, ZF offers comprehensive solutions for established vehicle manufacturers and newly emerging transport and mobility service providers. ZF electrifies different kinds of vehicles. With its products, the company contributes to reducing emissions and protecting the climate.




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