Alexandre Gallo took over as CEO at DB Cargo in France in the summer of 2021 and has led the company back into the black within a short time. His recipe for success: if you keep your eye on the people, you keep your eye on the business.
Management by Heart
"Our success doesn't depend on locomotives or rails," explains Alexandre Gallo. " It's the people who drive the business." At the company headquarters, he knows everyone by their first name and listens very carefully when he talks to employees - which is often. "That's probably why I'm never surprised by the results of an employee survey," Gallo says with a twinkle in his eye. He also maintains good contact with the works council and attends its meetings at least twice a year. This is another reason why he is regarded as a gentleman in the company who holds everything together. A skill Gallo acquired in the military and later perfected in South America: at the beginning of the 00s, Gallo was sent to Brazil by CMA CGM, the shipping company he was working for at the time, where he became familiar with a completely different management style than in Europe. "We are used to manage on the basis of guidelines and business plans," Gallo describes the European approach. "In South America, you lead with your heart. And for that you have to be close to the people."
An honest and human approach is also important to Gallo with his clients. "We say what we can do and what we can't do," he emphasises with a view to the fragile infrastructure in the French railway sector. Since DB Cargo is not the only company struggling with the poor condition of rails and the like, Gallo regularly communicates with competitors and shares information. For him, this is part of good manners. He is just as open when there is potential for improvement in his own company - or in the parent company Deutsche Bahn. "The organisation there is still very German-centric, both linguistically and culturally," says Gallo, who is sometimes irritated when meetings are not consistently held in English. He sees diversity in the team as an important advantage in a complex business like rail freight. "I believe that a system that doesn't get input from the outside will die." This is why he prefers to hire people who come from other industries and challenge DB Cargo with new perspectives and approaches.
Life in balance
Coming up with new ideas and questioning old habits: Alexandre Gallo himself succeeds best when he takes the train on Thursday evenings. Then he gets away from his workplace in Paris and sets off for the southern France. Here, between the mountains and the sea, is the centre of his family's life. He experiences the alternation between the hectic office hours in the capital with many business trips and the slowed-down weekends in France as a balance, says Alexandre Gallo ¬- to then add with the understatement of a gentleman: "It's really not a bad life."
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