In 2010, Torgeir Bye went to Brazil to deliver Axess’ services in a burning hot market. Together with his wife and two children, he packed the bags and went to a completely different work culture, to cover Axess international client’s need. With them on the bandwagon, they also had a hearty dose of adventure.
Torgeir Bye lived three years in Botswana as a child. His father was engaged in NORAD and was tasked to develop the road network in the developing country in Southern Africa. This has given him a foundation that would not be without, and has given him some values and experiences that he wanted his family to get.
– As a child, I missed the children show Pompel and Pilt in Norway, and I still do not understand why Norwegians laugh when they see this. But I got other experiences in Africa. I wanted my kids and wife to experience some of the same and find that the vast majority do not have the same benefits as us. When Axess gave me the opportunity to contribute to the development of the business in Brazil, we were not in doubt, says Torgeir, who was responsible for delivering Axess Integrity management services in Rio de Janeiro.
Jan Ramberg in Axess was responsible for developing the business and office in Brazil, while Torgeir was the first who went down to deliver services. He would start from scratch both at work and adapt to a new culture with his family in one of the more hectic metropolis in South America.
– The background for Axess in Brazil was that Sevan and Seadrill were established in this area. The market was promising and we hit well with the timing. We got off to a flying start in the market, and eventually several other Norwegian players came. But they met more closed doors than we did when we arrived. In the initial phase, Axess ran heavily on marketing and sales, and I came down to deliver the goods. We got up on our feet pretty quickly and hired skilled local staff, who knew the culture of Brazil and the unwritten rules that exists. Cooperation between local knowledge and Norwegian expertise has been a key to success, says Bye.
He and his family traveled extensively throughout Brazil, but not to the popular tourist destinations. They went on either climbing or cycling adventures in the area and stayed at the homes of local families to get closer to everyday life in Brazil.
– We did not go down to lie on a tourist beach. We should get closer to the culture and meet other people than tanning tourists. It would also help me in my work. The cultural differences are enormous and we communicate differently. The leadership culture in Brazil is significantly different than in Norway. When we establish ourselves in new locations we must be very aware of how we communicate. If we think in Norwegian and write in English, we can quickly blow it. Norwegians are often impolite in written form. One must make sure not to be too Norwegian, says Bye.
He believes that it might be the Norwegians that are different and not the rest of the world. It is certainly not the Norwegian way to do things that is the correct. In Brazil, the traditional leadership role is more distinct and more like Sweden and the United States. He believes that a good knowledge of intercultural communication is a necessity for success.
– Our clients are International and want to speak the same language and set demands to quality and delivery time. I learned quickly that it’s not given that you get this from local suppliers in Brazil. We established ourselves in Brazil to give our customers predictability, speak the same language and be close from an early stage. We understand their issues and can pack up services that add value for the customer, says Bye.
Engineers in coveralls
He points out that Axess quickly was trusted in the Brazilian market since Axess supplies engineers in coveralls. The engineers were working closely with rig management, they dared to ask questions and suggest improvements. Other actors delivered technicians to do the job and others to control it.
– This was unusual for our local staff in Brazil. They had to adapt our thinking and our way of working. Here, employees are not only a supplier but also an advisor who takes part in processes, says Bye.
In the two years Bye and family lived in Rio, Axess increased its workforce rapidly to 35 people. Today, there are about 60 who have Rio as their main base, of which there are about ten who are not Brazilian. The location in Rio made Axess come closer to large customers who had established themselves in the same area and it was easy to arrange formal and informal meetings.
-The customer must know that we differentiate ourselves from the other actors who often deliver crew and control services. We can offer them engineers in coveralls that add value through close monitoring, advices and expertise on the life cycle of the rig. This means that our customers receive quality processes, stable production and secure installations. At the same time, we lower the number of mobilizations, says Bye.
Different but valuable
His wife, Dagrun, is working in the software company Visma. She was granted leave to go to Brazil with Torgeir and their two sons, Trym (7) and Odin (10). Both Torgeir and Dagrun are the curious and adventurous type and they wanted to experience something completely different.
– I have to admit that it was pretty tough the first six months. We had to adapt to a new culture, learn the language and form new networks. It was a bit lonely at first and we had to figure out a lot of things. But after the first months we had a fantastic time, says Dagrun Bye.
She took the initiative to get to know new people and she decided at an early stage that she wanted to get to know others than people from the Norwegian community in Rio.
– We formed an international group of women from different countries who exchanged experiences from daily life in Brazil, such as school conditions and safety. It was interesting how different nationalities look at schooling for the kids. Our family did things that the others did not dare to do in the spare time, like going on bike rides and walking in the mountains. We wanted to experience Brazil and not pushing us into leisure complexes with spa, tennis etc. We saw Rio as safe and as a paradise for hiking, says Dagrun.
Rio has become safer in recent years. One day they were told that the school had changed to bulletproof windows and saw their kids everyday be transported to school in bulletproof cars, quite distant from the Norwegian reality.
– I think that you just have to jump into it and travel. It’s good for all of us to see and experience that there is something outside Norway. One must of course take precautions such as not letting the kids go off alone. People have different starting points and get different experiences. It was almost a bit strange to come back home after two years in Rio. You really appreciate the freedom and our surroundings. But I have no qualms about going abroad again, if the rest of the family agrees, says Dagrun.
How does Axess look like in Brazil in ten years?
“We’re going to grow. We are set up in an expansive way. We will have profitable growth, and we are bigger in established markets and have further developed at our established overseas locations. Our customers see us as a partner that follows the life cycle of projects and we continue to create value for our customers. Torgeir Bye.