Rachel had previous retail experience and had lived in Germany for some six years. She’s been surprised and pleased by how non-hierarchical Lidl is. So much so, that Lidl is the first company since leaving university that she sees herself being in for the long haul.
What did you do before you joined Lidl?
I studied European Studies with German and Italian, so nothing property related at all. I had a couple of translating jobs, then went to Germany and worked for another discount retailer for three years in their international offices. When I wanted to move back, I applied for the property secretary role thinking I could work my way up. They rang me and said they had a role that might suit me better as SAP RE-FX key user, which is for property contract management. A year later I was promoted to consultant and I’ve just been promoted to team manager.
What’s your role entail?
We mediate between international and the regions, so I spend most of my day on the phone speaking in German – managing the property systems and the documents to make sure that we have everything that we need from a legal perspective but also from an audit perspective. We are more of a support function in terms of the systems, documents, new procedures and streamlining processes. We manage project reconciliations; we deal with service charges to sub-tenants; we do a lot of ad-hoc analysis and reporting for our International office on our plans for both current and new stores; we do presentations to both the UK and international boards and we're also currently doing the three-year planning for investment and cost planning.
Has your time at Lidl live up to your expectations?
I would say the reality is better than my expectations. I was pleased to find that everybody was really nice and that the team get on well together and socialise outside of work. I was expecting it to be a lot stuffier than it is. And whilst Lidl still has a way to go in terms of modernising, we’re well on the way. It’s come so far, even from when I joined three years ago.
What’s the work-life balance like?
I think you have to be prepared to work hard, because there's always a lot to do as we’re expanding at such a rate. But it’s not unmanageable. Lidl’s pretty flexible as well. So, if I have a doctor's appointment, or a dentist's appointment, or you need to come in a bit late for whatever reason, it’s fine. It's not often that I need to stay particularly late.
And the rewards and benefits?
In terms of pay, it’s very good. The company car and health insurance are the biggest benefits for me. There are also discounts at restaurants around Wimbledon and on cinema tickets. That’s quite useful.
What’s the team like?
There are 15 of us in the property team. We also have 16 regional property offices, who each have a team of about five. Most of our role is desk-based, but we do sometimes go to the regions; whether that’s to train colleagues or ask for their feedback so we can improve on how we support them.
What challenges have you faced?
We often have very tight deadlines, in terms of having a lot of work on. Yet everyone is keen to muck in and pulls their weight. And with the growth we’re experiencing, inevitably the target and workload increases.
What’s been your biggest achievement?
I'd say when I was promoted in 2016, as it was quite a step up. I suddenly had to take on a team, several systems and manage the processes and the procedures. It was a case of learning very, very quickly as my team were coming to me with challenges that they were facing and asking for my advice on things that were obviously relatively new to me.
Where do you see your career going with Lidl?
Since I left university about ten years ago this is the first workplace that I can see myself staying in. Now I’m a team manager I am looking for ways to further develop with my line manager, so I can work towards the next step for me, which is hopefully a head of department role. The only way is up.
Why would you say Lidl is a good place to work?
I've had three promotions within three years, so the progression options are there. The pay is good in comparison to the market, as are the benefits. But for me it’s about working in an environment that I feel comfortable in, where we work hard – yet have a laugh – and everybody gets on.
What words would you use to describe Lidl?
Fast-paced and efficient.