Every two-three years I start something new even if everything is going well
Wolfgang Gruschwitz, an architect from Munich, has been creating conceptual retail design for many iconic European brands for about 15 years. His company works on projects for Mango, Massimo Dutti, Zara, Reiss, Uniqlo, H&M and others in Russia and abroad.
– I try not to focus on just projects in retail, Wolfgang says, I strongly believe in my work philosophy – nothing is stable. Everything is on the move. When you are satisfied with what you are doing, you calm down and miss market opportunities. Every two-three years I start something new even if everything is going well.
Wolfgang Gruschwitz works on projects in different areas: healthcare, food, catering, fashion and even eco-businesses. He thinks it is very important to notice current trends and respond to social changes.
How did you start your business?
I started by working for my father's company. We did some designs for retailers. In the 90-s it was a very successful business. Due to some negative economic changes and general business disagreements between my father and me, I set up my own company. In 2003 I started working independently. I had a lot of obligations then (loans and bills to pay), but I was still happy… I was free!
At that time I made up a set of four “never” rules: never depend on the bank, never rely on one branch, never press your employees, never disappoint your clients. People must be happy, successful and satisfied! This is my philosophy, my vision.
What are the main advantages and disadvantages of a family business?
Of course, it is always good to have a family member in your company. You always have someone to rely on – someone who is trustworthy and loyal. On the other hand, if you have problems or don’t agree on something, it really affects not only your business but also your relationship. You have to be aware of that. You need to appreciate that if you are in a family business you don’t have any privacy. Your life and business work well only as long as everything is OK. When you bring problems home, you can never relax. There is always tension and pressure. I keep saying to my children that if they want to do some business, I will leave them alone for at least three years. They have to think and act by themselves. If they don’t make their own mistakes, they will never succeed. It is very important. Especially, when working in such a creative business as ours.
As we know, an e-learning platform Waketo is the project run by your son.
Yes, this is his project. We started in June 2016 – at the moment it is not making profit, but the clicks and the interest have been growing. We think that many people need that kind of knowledge but can’t afford to spend time and money on going to training or seminars. We decided to create hour-long videos on certain topics in marketing or “new media”. The main purpose of the project is education. For us it is just a new direction for development. As I have already said, you can’t make any progress if you don’t start new things. The videos are in German. We’ve been monitoring the demand so far. If there is a need, we will translate and dub them.
Could you tell us a bit more about your company? What is the conceptual store design about?
There are two main objectives in retail: increasing the frequency of customers’ visits and the prolongation of the time spent in a shop or a restaurant. This is not only about the product or the service customers can get there. This is all about a special atmosphere where clients feel comfortable. We call that “the third place” – the social environment separate from the two usual institutions of home and the workplace.
The time when the brand “told” people what to buy is in the past. Now it is the customer who creates and rules the brand. A consumer becomes a prosumer – a blend producer + consumer. The Internet and social networks dramatically changed our society and consumer behavior. We are not a copy-paste but a sharing society now. We share everything: pictures, clothes, looks, life styles, experiences and – what is the most striking – emotions! Retailers need to keep up with the global sociological changes and offer their clients a little bit more than expected. Our aim is to help our clients to motivate their customers.
You can motivate people by giving money, discounts, free chocolates, or champagne. But these are short-term motivators. Your clients will be happy for a moment. As soon as they get home, they forget about these little treats and about you. The best long-term motivator is emotion! Neither a product or a service, nor an extraordinary design, outstanding light or luxurious furniture, can substitute a real human emotion! Your product should be emotionally appealing. In Europe it is a “must” at the moment. As we put it: “Function follows emotions.”
How to give this emotion then?
What can be more pleasant than receiving presents? Right – giving them! If you provide people with the opportunity of making others happy while doing shopping for themselves, you will give them the best feeling and a strong emotion. For example, when people know that one ruble out of a hundred in the price of the item they have just bought goes on charity, they feel really satisfied. Making donations is a very satisfying thing. It starts with social behavior and leads to social ethics. Then you go ahead with multi-sensual marketing – orientation, convenience, problem solution, etc. Then, little by little, customers become your fans. This is more valuable than being just loyal. You can’t buy a fan. You can only earn them. Fans don’t get angry when you have problems. Fans don’t leave you. They forgive you. They suffer with you and help you. You can’t disappoint your fans as long as you are not cheating them… You reap what you sow. Classic!
Empty Refrigerator’s Law
Was it your love of change that brought you to Russia? How long have you been working here?
One day one of my clients contacted me and suggested that I manage some projects in Germany, Austria and Eastern Europe. Things went well: we had about 180 projects in Eastern Europe. I had to open branches in Vienna and Warsaw and employ more people. Information about our projects was spread by word of mouth. We worked for Bayern Munich, Telecom, Adidas, Audi and other international brands.
I have always been focused on the Russian market and found it very promising. When we started working in Eastern Europe, going to Russia was quite logical. Finally, in 2007, I opened an office in Russia. The time was a bit wrong though… Unfortunately, in October 2008 the whole Russian market was “frozen”, but I decided to stay: too many people were relying on me. Looking back, I can say it was the best thing I did.
Actually, I’d started working in Russia distantly from Germany even earlier, in 2005. Soon I realized that a long-distance relationship with Russia wasn’t a good idea. I had lost a lot of money and had been deceived in a number of ways. Workers would miss deadlines. Managers would justify them or just run away with the money given for development. I didn’t give up though! Finally, I was lucky to find right local people. When I met Galina Gaft (my Deputy Director), I immediately offered her a job. We’ve been working together ever since and I’ve never regretted it.
In Russia our company covers all architectural services such as preliminary design, implementation planning, controlling, project supervision, quality control and documentation. The majority of our clients have been working with us for a long time. We get new customers through good recommendations from our regular clients.
Accounting OutsourcingFinancial Accounting is a very complicated and time-consuming process. Making mistakes in company’s accounting is risky and costly. Everybody has to do their job. That is why we have delegated our finance and accounting functions to 1C-WiseAdvice. We are provided with professional advice and the range of accounting services. The company has a unique approach to any client and the answer to any question. It makes us feel secure. This is very pleasant and fruitful cooperation. 1C-WiseAdvice professionals do financial routine for us. We do our favorite business – work on our projects.
What do you think about retail design in Russia?
We keep working… To be serious, I’m very pleased with some of the hotels and restaurants here in Russia, especially in Moscow. They convey loads of original ideas, concepts and meanings. For example, there is a restaurant in Moscow designed as an ordinary flat with the appropriate furniture and a real cat living in it. It is very individual and stylish. Of course the food is important, but you quickly get used to good things. The place should tell a story and give you a multi-sensual experience.
Everything depends on your target audience, of course. You also get a very strong emotional appeal by getting to know something new. You can go to a shop or a pub and learn something new there. There are many topic-oriented places, like meet-ups, for instance. You can learn a new language or check your knowledge of a particular topic. There are many of them, actually.
If we are speaking about retail in Russia, I’ve noticed that clients are still very price-orientated. We judge by tendering: sometimes the prices are unreasonably low, and so is the quality. Unfortunately, the quality follows the price.
Luckily, our clients are quality-oriented. In Russia we work with Tiffany&Co, Burberry, Dior, Uniqlo, and Inditex group.
What WiseAdvice would you give to foreign business people who are thinking of setting up a company in Russia?
Sadly, people here are used to being cheated. They live in the present without thinking about the future. They don’t plan in advance. I call it the “refrigerator” law: only when it is empty do they put anything in. That is not good. It is very important to show your respect and give your employees the feeling that you work with them on a permanent basis. If you provide emotional stability for your colleagues, they will do their best!
For example, our employees get only legal salaries, nothing unofficial. Now they can get loans from the banks. They can afford to buy property, study or travel. This is a totally different way of thinking. They can work better and plan their lives. The company has a good reputation.
Team is Everything
How many people work for your company?
There are 35 in total of us at the moment, in Russia, Germany. Our work is in France, Bosnia, South America, the USA. We do project management all over Europe. Our international team speaks about 15 languages: English, German, Turkish, Italian, French, Chinese, Russian and others.
You mentioned “the third place” earlier. What about “the second” place? Do you have any tricks on organizing the working environment for your employees?
Believe it or not I don’t have any fixed working place in my office in Germany. I work from any place available in the moment (sometimes in the kitchen). You see, in our job we can actually work from home. It requires a lot of self-discipline. I think that traditions and rituals are still very strong within the working environment. People need to have “the second place” to come to have small talk, a bit of gossip, exchange opinions or share experiences. How they do it – by smoking a cigarette together in the morning, eating a birthday cake at lunch or having a glass of beer on a Friday night – isn’t important. The most valuable thing is, that they don’t lose the feeling of working as a team of professionals and friends.
Address: Spartakovskaya Ploshad 14, Building 2, Office 4108, 105082 Moscow
Phone: +7 (8) 495 545 43 12
What is your advice for people to be happy and successful?
Be open-minded and don’t be afraid of anything. Always move and change your daily routine: choose different routes, holiday destinations… everything! Don’t miss the opportunity of meeting new people and getting new experiences and emotions. Just live and enjoy!