Experience Lutz Braun

Experience

While working in our family-owned business I had the opportunity to gain 13 years of experience as managing director. During these 13 years I learnt from very early on how to make decisions and how to implement them. After successfully finishing my studies in economics at the University of Mannheim, I deepened my knowledge in our family-owned company in the areas of strategy, costs, leadership and marketing. In my position as managing director I had an intensive insight into all business sectors and from the beginning on I was entrusted with responsible tasks.

While attending an additional management training I acquired profound knowledge in the areas of leadership competence, applicant selection as well as communication skills. Furthermore, I deepened my knowledge in psychology and team development. As I have already been comprehensively involved in my own business, I was able to put my newly acquired knowledge immediately into practice.

My company was divided into the departments “operative and strategic purchase”, “bookkeeping”, “calculation”, “secretariat”, “production”, “logistics”, “retail”, “sales” and “e-commerce”. By having acquired a comprehensive know-how in all areas mentioned, I was able to get a good impression of the various tasks my staff had to fulfil. We enhanced an independent working approach by consistently delegating routine duties. Thus, we had enough time to work on important subjects such as “personnel development” and other strategic considerations. With the help of an assignment organigram and an assignments-competences-responsibilities-matrix, we had an overview of all departments and were thus capable of allocating duties in an optimal and economically reasonable way, of delegating them and of classifying them according to their priority.

By installing a second management level – a commercial manager and a sales manager – we achieved further relief for the management. Both managers were systematically trained in order to be able to take over as soon as possible the disciplinary as well as the technical management of the respective department. The management was in permanent exchange with them as well as with the production management.

Meanwhile, we had the idea of establishing and formulating a vision, a guiding principle and of communicating it to our employees. Due to this vision and due to a noticeable change in customer behaviour (the customers were buying cheaper products online and less in specialist stores than in large furniture stores), we decided to focus more on our core competence – “sleeping” – and to dispose of the “side” products and services such as home accessories, tablecloth, children’s clothing, baby equipment etc. Now especially the sales department was forced to think differently and orientate itself towards concrete customer needs. In addition, we developed an own product brand to be able to communicate our strength “in-house production” to the public. Furthermore, we worked on all “touchpoints” of the customer (online and Facebook presence, general appearance, consulting quality, order processing and delivery) during the “customer journey”. The customer journey is the journey a customer makes from getting to know the store, for example by internet, up to purchasing a product and after sales customer care.

Our cost accounting was further developed in a way that the profit contribution, the margins of the individual products and the figures for each profit centre could be calculated in more detail. Our aim was to let the employees share in the company’s success. In order to obtain a better data base the Enterprise Resource Planning System was renewed. This change represented a major challenge for us as the management as well as for the employees who were involved very early in the further development. Another change was our newly installed Customer Response Management that gave as the possibility to contact our customers in a more individual way and to increase the response quota. Obviously, part of our strategic planning consisted of a permanent observation of the branch and the development of customer behaviour. On the basis of a clear opportunities-threats-analysis and the negative development in the stationary retail business we finally decided to close down our business. Certainly, this process was not easy and very painful, but we completed it successfully.

During these 13 years of responsible work in my own company, I learnt to consider complex matters with a comprehensive approach. As a managing director I had to handle not only with sub-departments but with the overall economic development of the company. Due to different external management consultancies, that we commissioned during this time, I was able to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of various consulting services. In any case, the advantage of an external consultant is the fact that he reflects the matter from the outside and that he is thus able to evaluate the issue objectively. A fundamental result of a consultation of our company was the development and formulation of a concrete vision and strategy and the resulting objectives and values.

Lutz Braun has been married for 15 years, has two daughters and he lives in Flein near Heilbronn/Germany.