With Baloise from the very beginning | A new family
The first three years of apprenticeship were formative for the then 17-year-old. “You didn’t just represent yourself with the grades you obtained in training, you represented an entire company,” recalls Fredi. “Baloise apprentices were the best and I was part of this prestigious Baloise outfit. Our general agent Hans Oberholzer was much more to us than just a general agent, he was like a father to us apprentices. In that sense it was simple. I always wanted to work hard for him.” Fredi talks about close ties that have lasted for many years. He experienced the break-up and reform of General Agencies (GA) several times, “but people were always the most important thing, no matter which form the company took.”
After the apprenticeship
... they put Fredi on the tills. A huge responsibility for the young man. “At the end of the day everything had to be accounted for right down to the last cent, otherwise I would have paid it out of my salary,” jokes Fredi, but the job actually provided some lasting anecdotes. “One time, I was sent to get the carefully rolled up change from the post office. Unfortunately, I fell on the mountain with my bike. Coins and notes rolled and fluttered across the street. They didn’t let me forget that for years.”
The most important thing is always the people.
He also recalls an incident with new curtains from the General Agency. “I was told to take care of them, to measure the fabrics and order them. But I confused the height and width. You can imagine how pretty the wrong measurements looked in the window.”
Career well underway
In the mid to late 70s, Baloise expanded its General Agencies throughout Switzerland and Fredi assumed his first leadership role. At the age of just 25, he became Head of Internal Services at GA Buchs / St. Gallen. This was special in the sense that this post was reserved for people above the age of 27. “But once again it was Hans Oberholzer who stood up for me. He saw something in me from the beginning, recognized my potential and always encouraged me. I am grateful to him for this to this day.” Fredi remained in this position for a total of six years. “A great time,” he says. “We recruited more people than we actually needed and sent them on placements to the various agencies. This allowed us to network and get to know other ways of working. Vocational training made in the 80s.”
And then, a general agent
Every five years Fredi wanted to do something different, undergo further training, get out of the routine. So, from an office role, he went on to become a field service representative, and from sales manager (at that time still called organisational inspector) to sales support manager and, at the end of the 1990s, to general agent back in Frauenfeld. ”We have gone through so many changes over the years: regional offices were created, general agencies were expanded or dissolved. Despite all the back and forth, I was always impressed by how much care was taken with employees. They always made sure that everyone had somewhere to go, and I, for my part, have always taken this same approach to people management.” Fredi describes a very close cooperation at that time. “Once a year, the general agent invited his colleagues and their partners to a company party. That was part of the friendly environment. You knew each other, you knew how everyone was doing in their private life, you stood up for each other and helped each other. I hope that this will continue to be an important value for the people at Baloise. People are the heart of our company.”
I was never one of the best salesmen. Far from just being interested in money, people are my priority.
A large network is the basis for everything
If you listen to Fredi today at the age of 65, he is still a very active person. In addition to his current role as head of an SME team at GA Frauenfeld, he is also a passionate hunter and president of the local school. “You have to network in the field service, you have to be present in the clubs of your region, you have to know the right people, and use occasions and celebrations. You have to chat and get to know people. Only then will you be successful as a salesman.” Fredi still preaches this attitude to his young successors today. “We all have to be socially committed and show ourselves. This is how networks are created.”
Time for retirement
At the end of May , Fredi Himmelberger retires after 48 years with Baloise, with great hopes for those who will continue his work. “I hope that the pride in the people at Baloise will remain. I’ve always been proud of where I worked.” Fredi’s job made him the person he is today. He hopes that other generations will be able to experience this too. “Advertise Baloise as an employer in your families, talk to friends and siblings. Jobs in the field convey values, and they are the adventure of a lifetime.”