Our brand ambassadors from MBSY have created a place “to work, network, collaborate and most importantly experience their Partner Brands Baux, Bulo, and Supergrid™“
– the WRKS.SPACE.
“Design Post Cologne acts as a toolbox for their clients to organise brand events, product launches, talks, meet-ups, sampling and pitches.”
In May, we had the pleasure of setting up the Supergrid™ in the Design Post and thus also training our ambassadors with the concept at the same time. Markus Schiffer’s team had a lot of fun and curiosity and were inspired by the uncomplicated assembly of our office furniture system…
We talk to Markus Schiffer, Managing Director of MBSY GmbH, and Wolf Deiß, Managing Director of Artis Space Systems GmbH, about MBSY’s self-image, workspaces and sustainability.
Moderation: Katharina Wolter (Artis Space Systems GmbH)
This text was translated by DeepL and may contain content errors.
Hello Markus! What is a brand ambassador? What distinguishes you from classic sales?
Markus: As a brand ambassador, you are more or less positioned between the brand and the end customer, with the task of transporting the brand experience to the customer in the best possible way. If you are directly at the customer as an advisor, you can mirror and present the products better. It is more emotional and it is possible to position the brands positively and to arouse interest in the incredible oversupply.
There are many customers who notice that we work in a completely different way than traditional sales. This is where the “wheat is separated from the chaff”. I have never really felt comfortable in the role of a classic salesperson, meaning a pure commercial agent.
Basically, it’s about the art of understanding the customer and picking him up personally at the right place. But that is only possible with a team that is able to arouse enthusiasm in its counterparts through personal exchange. Not many people can do that, so personality and market knowledge have always been all the more important to me.
What criteria do you use to select the brands you represent? Are there common denominators?
Markus: Our focus is on collaboration: the interaction and combination of different brands that can complement each other in a project.
Over the last ten years, I have built up and established my contacts and have translated brands, so to speak. The exciting thing is that collaboration is a central concept in the discussion about new worlds of work, which is reflected in our idea of collaboration among the brands.
I also only choose brands that I personally stand behind to one hundred percent.
Would you like to gather even more brands under “one roof”?
At the moment, we are in a situation where we are approached by many brands, but it has to fit together, the contact has to work and harmonise. At the end of the year, there will certainly be an evaluation of the current partnerships, where we will analyse which brands fit best to us and our way of working.
Markus, how does the idea of WRKS work? Can a coworking space be a showroom at the same time? How does that work in everyday life?
Markus: The idea has developed over time, it was important to me to create a space where interested people can work and network and at the same time experience the brands in their everyday work. That has an enormous added value.
Mobility in terms of time and place and coworking is an important component and part of the new working world. Instead of a static furniture exhibition, the manufacturers we represent can bring their products to life in a real “use case” at the WRKS.
The space can now be booked via a website – free of charge! Visitors can then use all four areas of the workspace, including all the equipment at the great counter you have built. You can also make appointments with our team. Of course, we also try to do our administrative work or hold meetings in the WRKS as often as possible.
Editor’s note: Registration link at the end of the blog.
Are you “getting in each other’s way” with Design Post tourists?
Markus: The operation is not yet running under normal conditions, but even after Corona you have to book appointment slots and cannot visit the rooms like a museum.
Wolf: Are the users who have inquired so far rather unknown or do they come more from circles of existing contacts?
Markus: Since appointments have already taken place in the Design Post before WRKS, there are currently still many interested parties who already know the place. Of course, we would like to address new target groups through our brands in the future.
The concept of collaboration and mobility in the office seems to have caught on. Is the idea of coworking also feasible in rural areas or is it much more of an urban issue? Quite apart from the digital infrastructure.
Wolf: Well, New Work / Coworking etc. is certainly more of a metropolitan topic from its origins. Space is expensive and scarce, the young and mobile are pushing into the city, start-ups have emerged… In the meantime, however, there is increased pressure on rural areas, not only due to the pandemic, and I think that there will also be a generational change here in the medium term and that it will also become easier with increasing digitalisation.
However, coworking as a non-temporary way of working would certainly only be conceivable – whether in the city or in the countryside – as a hybrid between a classic workplace and homeworking. The next few years will show whether the idea of collaboration will prevail.
Markus: I have also noticed that all the WeWork and Design Offices are always found in the city centre in the most central location and do not move to the urban periphery or even to the countryside. But some companies have already discovered this for themselves, and not only for cost reasons.
Of course, short distances for shopping and drinking coffee in the city centre are attractive, but the added value of having a mix of remote working and office hours, having to stand in traffic jams less, thus relieving traffic and being able to avoid other urban stress factors, is not to be scoffed at.
The other day I heard about a concept to convert savings bank branches that are no longer in use into coworking spaces. I think that’s a great thing; there just have to be entrepreneurs who simply do it.
Wolf: I was very impressed by the large-scale projects being developed in and around the old Deutz works in Cologne. There is a lot of potential here, hopefully for living and working – apart from that, the trade fair is just around the corner.
How do you rate the topic of homeoffice after the experiences of the last few months?
Markus: Homeoffice as we had / have it at the time of the pandemic is certainly not the optimal solution, especially if you don’t have a separate study. I also prefer to use the term remote working and see it as a possibility to organise the working week more freely, namely to be able to do so-called still work from any place -with an internet connection- and to schedule office hours for team meetings and creative exchange with colleagues.
This requires a certain infrastructure, especially digital, but also trust in the employees. I can imagine that it can actually bring a lot of advantages for employers to jump on this change and not just think in black and white. This will be an exciting development in the coming years.
Wolf, coming from the craft sector, you know how important it is to have long-term employees. In your planning office, fixed workplaces have been preferred up to now. What efforts does it take to meet the new requirements for mobile working?
Wolf: Difficult topic. The discussions of the last few months have almost always referred to the part of the working world that takes place in front of the screen anyway. The areas where production or services take place on site were completely undervalued in the media discussion.
Some colleagues from the office have been in the homeoffice during the last few months, so remote works quite well, but since we produce a lot individually, a lot of coordination is necessary on site. Since these can’t always be planned, there are always difficulties between production and design. Our digital infrastructure is also not always prepared for this type of remote work due to the complexity of some of the design programmes we use.
All in all, I see homeoffice as a partial addition to the office in our area, but we have learned from the situation and will continue to work on the issue. The possibility to do so will certainly also be a criterion in demand in our world when recruiting employees in the future.
Incidentally, I hope that in the course of the homeoffice initiatives, a new two-class society will not emerge. Those who tend to “work off” (numbers, taxes, general administration, etc.) are “allowed” to work at home, while those who tend to be more “creative” or team-oriented are “allowed” to work in the office. This separation will certainly also be reflected in salary differences.
Markus, how do you envision distribution in 5 years? Stationary trade versus online? Is a hybrid variant conceivable?
Markus: Yes, the topic is very important, I think the market will soon be overtaken by Amazon and Co, that won’t take long and you have to prepare for that now!
In any case, strong digital communication is needed. You have to present yourself everywhere and create expressive presences. Of course, a good sales department is part of it, i.e. good staff as brand ambassadors, and of course they also need a communication strategy.
I believe we will see a new era of flagship stores, if you bring together the building blocks of digitalisation with the physical experience you are best positioned.
The topic of trade fairs: how will the trade fair landscape develop after the end of the pandemic, will trade fairs continue to retain this lighthouse function?
Wolf: I can’t imagine that the colleagues who are now thinking about trade fairs will simply carry on as before and have the idea that exhibitors and the public will also carry on as if nothing had happened. On the other hand, I don’t get much feedback from this area, so I could be completely wrong. On the other hand, trade fairs are far too interesting an economic factor to simply drop them. But new business models are definitely needed.
Markus: I think we will no longer have 45 trade fairs a year, but rather events with targeted prospects who can be addressed much more individually, and as I said earlier, more flagship stores. Trade fairs always mean very high costs, especially since you have to make an extreme effort to attract attention and stage your products in such a way that they stand out. When I think of the big car shows, they are still the leading stars in terms of branding.
But: The cost-benefit ratio is much better in the concentration on a few large trade fairs plus the aforementioned focussed events. I think it would be sensible and exciting to have a really big fair, for example in Milan, which would then show everything over two weeks, i.e. not separated into private, office and retail, especially as the boundaries here are becoming increasingly blurred.
Keyword sustainability, certification, production Europe, CO2, Cradle to Cradle – what would you like to say about this?
Wolf: This is a big topic that everyone is talking about. A quote by Karl Valentin comes to mind: “Everything has been said, but not yet by everyone”. But seriously, I hope that a sensible certification strategy will prevail in the office world that puts an end to the coexistence of the most diverse certificates. The current situation is neither comprehensible to customers nor to manufacturers and cannot be acted upon in the long term. Perhaps the DGNB certification will prevail, that would make sense to me.
But regardless of the certification, I think it goes without saying that products like our Supergrid should not only be durable and repairable, but also recyclable by type after use. And of course, things should not travel halfway around the world and produce environmental pollution that is not necessary at all.
Markus: As a company, you certainly don’t have to implement every certificate. Every country has different standards and requirements. What is important is that a brand can deal with the issue of sustainability transparently and with a clear conscience.
What you mentioned last, recycling and multiple use is of course an important aspect. Supergrid is predestined for a second or even third life!
It used to be the case that start-ups or companies that had to start with a small budget and couldn’t afford a new USM or other high-priced product, found the furniture second-hand.
Wolf: Yes, you can certainly sometime buy the individual parts of the Supergrid on Ebay or wherever. I think that’s a nice idea!
Then to finish on another topic: Will the importance of SM performances remain high? Which platform is performing best right now?
Markus: We are active on Instagram and LinkedIn. Which platforms will work best for us remains to be seen, we are evolving and social media is also changing fast.
You should definitely consider filling social media marketing with a full-time position, because direct communication is so important! No one wants static platforms anymore that forward requests and then it takes days for them to reach the person in charge. Communication must be as unbureaucratic, fast, flexible and friendly as possible! SM can do that – if you know how!
Wolf: It would be desirable to have a medium that combines findability by product like Architonic and the world of images and interactive participation of Instagram and Pinterest with a discussion platform like Facebook and LinkedIn…
But to experience it, you need haptic stimuli and user examples, and your WRKS.Space is perfect for that. We are happy to be part of it!
I look forward to hearing more from you soon and how WRKS and Supergrid are developing. We will follow this on all channels…
Thank you and see you soon!