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From Paris to Tbilisi and back again
Gosselin Mobility is active in 34 countries, and this means just as many different cultures and stories. In this edition, we drink coffee in Paris and tea in Tbilisi to find out more. Even though the two offices are 3,500 kilometers apart as the crow flies, there is so much that connects them, such as great wine for example.
Can you describe your teams?
John Braeckeveldt: “Gosselin Mobility first set foot in Tbilisi fourteen years ago. What was once a vacant lot is now a complex with offices, warehouses and a fleet of trucks. We currently employ a staff of 25 people, including move coordinators, office staff, drivers and movers. In Tbilisi, most of our work is commissioned by government agencies and embassies. We also have a Logistics & Storage division that handles work for BP and Carrefour, among others. The moving division generates 60% of our sales, and the logistics division accounts for the remaining 40%.”
Christa Schwarz: “The history of our company dates back to 2002, and our home base is located 16 kilometers to the west of Paris. The choice for this location was no coincidence. Not only do many expats live in this area, but there are also many international schools nearby. The majority of our sales comes from relocations and moves for companies. Our most important clients are an international banking group and a major retailer. Gosselin’s office in Paris is staffed by nine people and we also keep fifty packing employees busy on a daily basis. Each year we successfully complete 800 to 1,000 moves for our clients.”
How would you describe the atmosphere in your teams?
John: “The best way to classify our Tbilisi office is as a small- to medium-sized family business. With 25 employees, the business remains manageable; everyone knows everyone else. The advantage of this homey atmosphere is that everyone is always willing to help one another. It’s a really fun and happy team...I should be careful about saying that too loudly though, otherwise they might send me back to the head office in Belgium (giggles).”
Christa: “Our team is very young and we have a flat management hierarchy. We are all too happy to roll up our sleeves for each other, regardless of the title on our business cards. The French describe the atmosphere here as ‘convivial’ which you could translate as friendly, human or empathetic. Our team is made up of people with a variety of backgrounds. I’m German and have been living in Paris for 40 years. These different points of view ensure we maintain a fresh outlook.”
What are you most proud of?
John: “Our team, without a doubt, and not only in Tbilisi, but all the Gosselin teams in the entire Caucasus region. I trained the first employee fourteen years ago and since then I have personally learned a lot from all our staff. I don’t see myself as the best salesman. Making clients happy is mostly the result of all of the efforts of the packing staff, drivers and coordinators.”
Christa: “The team of course. I think that our collective passion for this business forms a large part of our identity. You really see this during the incredibly busy summer period. While the sun is shining and friends and family are taking it easy, we all wonder now and then why in heaven’s name we work in this industry. At the same time, we also realize we wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Why are Tbilisi and Paris such attractive destinations for expats?
John: “Whether it’s Lonely Planet, Trip Advisor or CNN Travel, Georgia regularly appears on lists of must-see places. And this is justified. Georgia has gorgeous natural beauty, and some areas even have a subtropical climate, complete with palm trees and hammocks. These days, Georgia has much more in common with Europe than with Russia. People speak English really well here, it’s safe and everything is relatively inexpensive. And - sorry Christa! - Georgia is the birthplace of wine, not France (laughs)!”
Christa: “On the whole, France is a fairly complete country with great summers, sea and mountains and a rich cultural and culinary heritage of course. France also has wine and was the winner of the World Cup, John (laughs). There is so much to see and (re-)discover. This is why France draws the highest number of tourists worldwide, year after year. Paris is somewhat of an ‘odd man out’. Many people believe you either think it’s amazing or do not see the appeal at all. Parisians have the image of not being very hospitable. Expats often see the city as tough and challenging. As a newcomer, it takes a while to feel you belong. However, once you’re ‘in the groove’ of Paris this city feels like a home it’s hard to say goodbye to.”
Do you have any tips for expats moving to France or Georgia?
John: “Easy: go without any pre-conceived notions and you will find that Georgia is basically an unspoiled paradise.”
Christa: “Don’t force yourself to like or dislike certain things about Paris. Just get out and explore. I would definitely recommend taking language lessons at a public school. Learning the language also helps you learn more about France’s character. One more thing: since many of the city’s residents go to the South of France in July and August, Paris is ideal to explore in the relative calm of the summer.”
What are your personal mottos, on and off the work floor?
John: “Respect everyone; your clients, colleagues, friends, family and neighbors. Do this and you will automatically earn their respect in return. And of course try to enjoy your life and family as much as you can. Or as Abraham Lincoln once said, ‘In the end it's not the years in your life that count; it's the life in your years.’”
Christa: “As in love with France as I am, service is traditionally not the French people’s strongest suit. In spite of this, in 2002, we started a business model here that is based on service, friendliness and responsiveness. My motto is ‘Yes we can’! Personally, I think it’s really important to enjoy life to the fullest. Fortunately, this trait is also in the French people’s DNA.”
About Gosselin Mobility
Gosselin Mobility is a leading provider of international moving and relocation services. Our clients are multinationals, relocation management companies, expats, diplomats, military personnel and private persons. Gosselin Mobility has 56 offices in 34 countries and has a strong presence in Europe, Eastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia.
Gosselin Mobility is a division of the Gosselin Group that has its headquarters in Antwerp, Belgium. The company was founded in 1930 and employs 830 co-workers that generate more than 300 million euro in turnover.