ACW: Your mission is to be the leading cargo GSSA in the world. Have you achieved that and how do you intend to keep that position?
Zimmer: With over €350m in managed airline revenues per year, we have journeyed a long way down that road. In terms of quality we see ourselves as standing apart from our competition. The best measure of our quality is attested by our portfolio of customers, which are some of the leading actors in the airfreight industry.
When it comes to our coverage, I can say that with our nine US offices we are the best choice for any airline looking for a GSSA there. In South America, we are active in six countries at present, but by the middle of this year this number will have expanded to nine country organisations, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador.
ACW: What do you see as the key requirements to get the most from your staff?
Zimmer: First of all, ATC’s top management is hand-picked. After 30 years in the GSSA business, I have developed a good sense for what makes a top manager. Prior to joining ATC, Timothy Pfeil was in the top management of SAS Cargo and Lufthansa Cargo in the US while Rene Weinberg, our managing director in Sao Paulo was the Lufthansa country-manager in Brazil before joining ATC. These are but a few examples of the many talented Managers and Directors at ATC.
Secondly, we invest in ongoing internal and external training programs and coaching. People are our biggest assets. And together we have a lot of fun. Team building exercises such as our recent weekend at the Nürburgring serve to develop friendships not to mention a little healthy company competition. So experience, knowledge, customer orientation, ongoing learning and training, respect and a great working environment are the foundations of a winning team at ATC.
ACW: In terms of ATC, what are the main opportunities you see over the next five years?
Zimmer: We are in the process of becoming more active in Total Cargo Management and we are now able to offer customised service modules to our airline partners. Besides our core GSSA work we offer a menu of supplementary services such as handling, trucking brokerage, and financial services under the umbrella of our holding.
ACW: Do you still believe that airfreight spends too much time on the ground?
Zimmer: Certainly, one of the biggest bottlenecks lay in the time it takes to deliver cargo to the handling-agent’s warehouse. At some airports, congestion presents the greatest challenge to overcome when it comes to shortening transit times. Last December, some trucking companies refused to deliver to certain ground handlers due to excessive waiting times, sometimes up to 24 hours.
While the industry is working on solutions and working groups have been initiated, the results are not yet clear. In my opinion, the process is taking too much time.
ACW: What’s the most interesting thing about you that we wouldn’t learn from your resume alone?
Zimmer: My family is rather international, with roots in Austria, Germany, Cuba and Lebanon. And even my dog comes from Asia … she’s a Tibetan Mastiff.
ACW: We finish the interview and you step outside the office and find a lottery ticket that ends up winning 10 million euros. What would you do?
Zimmer: I guess a lot of things including a big donation for Plan International, an organisation I am involved with already. I am also a godfather for a little girl in Africa and a boy in Indonesia. But I would continue working and not change my style of living.
ACW: If ACW came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us?
Zimmer: It would be a barbecue with fish and beef on my gas grill. I would be the chef at the grill for you!
ACW: If Hollywood made a movie about your life, who would you like to see play the lead role?
Zimmer: That’s easy. George Clooney! He is about my age, and I travel in a style similar to how he portrayed his character in the movie “Up in the Air”. I have had weeks where I start on Saturday in Japan, arrive Sunday in Germany, and the following Tuesday I am found in Brazil and on Wednesday in Argentina.
ACW: What’s the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it?
Zimmer: To be honest, I don’t watch a lot of TV or very many movies. Not even on long haul flights. I cannot remember the last time I watched anything from start to finish on TV. In fact, the remote control at home is managed by the kids. My passion is reading. A good book can fire up the imagination better than the best TV show or movie.
ACW: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Zimmer: I wanted to be a captain of a ship. My mother’s family comes from Bremerhaven. Two family members from her side have been captains in the mercantile marine. One grand uncle was the Captain of an Icebreaker based in Hamburg. My father was in fact, in the German Navy.
ACW: Beer or wine?
Zimmer: Definitely wine. I am a collector of fine red wines, and because of my Cuban wife, I have a nice collection of Habano Cigars in my humidor to complement any wine.