Philipp – could you tell us a little bit about how you got to Edelmann and your path since joining the company?
I am a true local from the area – and I am a very hands-on person when it comes to studying and learning. When my graduation from high school was fast approaching, it was clear to me that I wanted to pursue a path of further education that could allow me to get both a theoretic overview of my field of study, as well as getting active insight into the current industry.
For this reason, I decided to enroll at the Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University Heidenheim, a university providing students with a post-secondary education that combines theoretical studies with practical, hands-on training. What intrigued me about this is that I was able to alternate between academics and actual work experience with one of the companies that support the program.
Edelmann’s headquarters are also in Heidenheim, and the company has partnered with the university for many years. When it came to choosing a program and a corresponding company, Edelmann offered a worldwide company structure as well as fantastic products for really interesting customers. I was also intrigued to work for a company alongside my studies that would result in products that can be seen and which are used by consumers, and by me, on a daily basis. This was a primary reason for choosing Edelmann.
Three years and another graduation later, I started a full-time position in the sales department for Beauty Care. After another 18 months of interesting new tasks in sales, I was offered my new role as Head of Sales and Administration of Edelmann France, one of the many sites the Edelmann Group has worldwide.
You recently took on a new role as Head of Sales and Administration of Edelmann France, thus you made the move from Heidenheim to Pontoise in Paris – can you tell us a little bit about how you prepared for this step? How have your esponsibilities changed since your move?
When Oliver Bruns, Edelmann Group CEO, contacted me to talk about his idea and vision for Edelmann France, and we discussed the possibility of the new role he imagined, I was excited about the prospect of this opportunity and all of the exciting new tasks it would entail.
The decision had to be made fast and within the next month, I moved to France. I spent some time talking to people at both sites as a way to get a glimpse into what the transition may hold, how life may be away from home and what the new responsibilities may hold. Working in the sales department for the beauty care sector until then definitely prepared me to dive deeper into that industry and also prepared me to finally be at the front line of where many of the high-end, luxury beauty brands originate from.
Although you try to prepare and to foresee what you may encounter, I have learned to take things as they come because more often than not, reality differs from expectations. That is why I always keep an open mind and prepare for the unexpected.
What are some challenges that you have encountered with your move? How did you overcome them?
Moving to a different country means a sudden exposure to a different culture. You have to adapt to new kinds of behavior, to a different way of life and in this case also to a different language. Communication is the key to success and luckily my language skills are proficient in this area.
But communication happens on many levels, not just verbally, and a great deal of this is learning how to speak, but most importantly, learning how to listen. These nuances are what will make communication successful and will lead to trustful and sustainable relationships in the future. Having patience also plays an important role. I hope people are patient as I learn to navigate my new environment, and I must have the same patience and respect on the other side.
What are some successful strategies and tactics that you have learnt at Edelmann that are necessary for working in a team environment? Have these helped you when moving to France?
Team building is essential for the success of our business, as it allows us to share our individual know-how and to combine it to our collective knowledge. Again, communication and patience are vital for successful team work.
That doesn’t mean that you always have to agree with everyone, quite the contrary is true. In our teams, we constantly challenge the status quo and push the envelope of traditional packaging solutions. Constructive discussions with active participation and an open mind to see other people’s point of view lead to innovative solutions, and this passion for innovation is what unites us all at Edelmann. This ultimately means that we can develop the best solution for our customers.
A big part of moving to a new place or country is to understand that you cannot approach this situation by just wanting to teach someone your ways. There needs to be mutual respect, just like in any team environment and you need to be open to learning new things.
With everything that is going on around you and your transition, how do you manage to stay current and up-to-date on trends, industry news and development, specifically in the packaging industry?
Time is luxury, especially knowing that a day has 24 hours and there is nothing we can change about that. Nowadays, in this fast paced environment, things change quickly. And by quickly I don’t mean in weeks, things can change in minutes, even seconds. Social media can keep up with that, which is why many trends develop there and we spend a lot of time monitoring this. Our customers expect us to be up-to-date with what is going on in the world, and to foresee trends for them. That also means to look beyond our traditional scopes, and to delve into new areas that may be unknown to us. I try to stay current in many areas, also from a production standpoint. For this, I often consult specific packaging industry journals, as they always give in-depth insight into what is going on and what to expect for the future.
There are many changes in consumer behavior, brand protection, a rising awareness of sustainability and digital transformations, to name a few – how do you see these developments impacting packaging?
All of these aspects are important for our customers and therefore, for us, especially in our innovation departments. We try to develop new solutions that satisfy our customers’ demands, but we also offer them alternatives to common possibilities. We want to lead the industry with our packaging solutions.
Out of all of these consumer effects, the digital transformation is omnipresent. It has trickled down into all aspects of the business and thus we are constantly working to enhance the digital footprint on our packaging.
Traditionally beauty, pharma, and consumer brands are the core markets for the Edelmann Group – do you see more of an overlap in terms of design, materials, etc. coming in the future as the lines between these areas start to blend?
I am a strong believer that all of our three core markets go hand in hand. OTC products in the pharma industry are increasingly using folding boxes with high-end finishings that will guarantee a superb appearance in pharmacies like we have them in Europe, as well as in drugstores that are more common in North America. On the other hand, leaflets, coding or braille can now be found in or on packaging in the beauty markets. It all goes to show that we cannot just look at our respective markets, we have to keep our eyes and ears open and observe what is happening around us in all industries. At Edelmann, we are great at exchanging and sharing our knowledge with our other team members across all departments.
What are your goals for the future? Do you have any advice for someone who is trying to make the move to another country?
There is always a new project to work on and a new challenge that needs to be turned in to an opportunity. We want to keep Edelmann at the forefront of the industry and to set goals that push us into the future. We are passionate about our work and proud to be a part of the team.
On a personal level, that meant taking the plunge and moving to France. Being openminded and putting yourself into situations that are outside of your comfort zone will eventually lead you to grow, even if that may seem hard at the time. If you get the chance to go abroad, to experience a new culture, go and do it. Be prepared that not everything may go as planned, that not everything will always be done your way. Make any situation a win-win situation by accepting to learn from mistakes and to make adjustments where necessary. If you can do that, then overall, you can’t lose. Because looking back many years later only to regret that you didn’t take an opportunity will be a lot harder.
Can you describe your experience at Edelmann in three words?