It’s time to move on, says Robert Hesse, after six-and-a-half years of leading Bosch’s Electro-Voice, Dynacord, Telex & RTS HQ in Straubing.
Hesse and family are heading to Uxbridge in the UK, where the 43-year-old will head up Bosch’s Power Tools division. “I’ve never worked anywhere longer than I have here and that shows how I loved living in Straubing, enjoying the industry and doing what I do,” says Hesse, who came to the brands from Bosch when the security systems and machinery giant acquired them in 2006.
“We all know that the pro-audio business is addictive, emotional and fun – I’ve always kept that in my back pocket, if you like,” Hesse, whose title runs to vice- president sales communication EMEA and managing director of EVI Audio for Bosch Communications Systems.
“But at Bosch if you want to continue your career you have to look for something new,” he told PSNEurope’s Dave Robinson in an exclusive interview before his departure. “And I wanted to go abroad again…” You’re a well-travelled man already. Well, I was born in Kenya, then moved to London, then to South Africa, then to Tokyo, then Germany, then Malaysia, then back to Germany. It’s normal! And luckily I found a wife who accepts my nomadic lifestyle. This gives my kids an opportunity to live in a world city, to learn the English language ‘locally’. Power tools is a very strong division in the UK, it’s one of the largest markets in Europe. So it will be like pro-audio was six years ago. I’ll be learning how to use a power drill. For the first time in my life I’ve been going into DIY stores! The power tools guys tell me the products are very emotional… Especially if you drill through your own hand, I would imagine… There’s a saying in Germany – mit einem lachenden und einem weinenden Auge – ‘with a laughing and a crying eye’. That’s how I will be leaving Straubing.
It’s good for me, and it’s good for the team here to experience someone new in charge. Your style of management was very different to your predecessor, the legendary Mathias von Heydekampf. I think everyone’s style is! [Laughs] My successor is Kamil Swobodzinski, who will run all four brands as vice president sales EMEA. Kamil I’ve known for many years: it was important for the Bosch management to have someone take over who was familiar with the brands, the industry and the customer base. He’s a great guy. In what sort of shape do you leave Electro-Voice/Dynacord? My major task was to integrate the Straubing office into the Bosch organisation, starting with the introduction of SAP software, which we have done. We’re in good shape, we’ve launched exciting products, and all brands have gained market share after the crisis. And we will continue with that. The ZLX ranges have done well for EV. But isn’t it time for a new major touring system? I would speculate that one is coming… What I can comment on is, we continue to cater for the vertical market: MI, installation and rental. And we will find solutions for all these segments. But we will of course maintain the rental business. This will include not only stackable systems but also line arrays and portable line arrays and whatever there is. We’re not giving up the sector, we will continue with all three. The money is where the diversification is… You look at other brands, such as d&b or L-Acoustics, they have moved into installation because they realise they can build classical touring gear into installation projects. So the rental and install business is coming together. (Referring to Electro-Voice’ large scale touring offering) We have to do something of course, that’s absolutely clear, but before we launch any product, we focus on how strong are the markets – that’s why we started after the Bosch acquisition with heavily involvement in installation, which also helped Bosch’s public address systems. Then we said, the MI market has been neglected, so we looked at that – and with the A Line and the new Powermates and the ZLX and LiveX lines, we are back where we wanted to be – and we see that with the dealers and distributors calling up and asking if they can take on our brand… PowerMate mixer sales reached 100,000 units in April 2009. Where is the figure now? We see a shift from PowerMate to CMS mixers because there’s a clear shift in the sales of powered speakers versus none-powered speakers… So I’ll call you when the company reaches 200,000…! Is there anything that didn’t get done under your watch?
There are always tasks that need more focusing on, but in general I’m leaving a very satisfied man, and I leave with the company in a good position. I was very privileged to do what I did. After the acquisition, there were lots of questions; there was a lot of talk about why is Bosch entering the pro audio market and how will they delevop the business. We [at Bosch] understood very fast what we needed and how the market works. Every two years we internally measure the employees’ satisfaction level and generally I can say, that the team enjoy working for Bosch. What do you think your legacy will be? I don’t know… [Pause] I think people enjoyed working together with me, I think they appreciated my honest and open approach, how I was always trying to find a solution for the customer. But also somebody who can say ‘no, that’s not right, we’re going to concentrate on other things’. That’s important too. What‘s the scariest tool Bosch manufacture?
I don’t know but they told me I’ll be learning how to use a jackhammer, a drill, a robotic lawnmower… Dynacord’s Martin Traut used to perform demos at the Straubing Hausmesse involving dangerous-looking heavy machinery powered by Dynacord amps. Maybe I’ll invite him over to Uxbridge to teach me a few things…