“Walter K. suits us to a T – like the Handelsblatt, it stands for excellent products. And astounding experience.”
Frank Dopheide, Managing Director at Handelsblatt Media Group – responsible for customer development and brand management, on brands and why he wanted to realize his new Handelsblatt vision exclusively with Walter K. An interview.
Mr. Dopheide, what kind of furniture do you have in your office?
I don’t have an office – that is part of the cultural change that we are going through. Publishing houses are hierarchical, making it very difficult for the management to gain a sense of the mood among the employees and within the various departments. That is why, day in day out, I find a place for myself among my colleagues. But from eight till nine in the morning, I sit downstairs in the foyer.
You work in the foyer?
I read our newspapers and the expressions on my colleagues’ faces – to see their frame of mind as they come to work. Everyone knows and sees that I am approachable. Some might hesitate a few days, but they always come to see me. Sometimes it’s about a difficult customer, other times it’s to do with the office dog. Many things are too small to require a formal appointment with the management but can nevertheless place a strain on day-to-day office life, so we quickly find a solution.
Do you already have a favorite item among the range of new office furniture?
My favorite is the FK Lounge armchair. It’s a prestigious item that embodies ultimate relaxation. I enjoy sitting on our FKs with customers in the entrance hall. If people are as enthusiastic about the Handelsblatt as they are about these armchairs, then I’ll be a happy man.
What will the Handelsblatt of the future look like?
We are shifting from a distinguished business paper to an innovative media group. We want to share economic expertise with society as a whole – be it in printed, digital or live format. Our newspaper is 73 years old, people love our experience, our analytical skills. That is great, but we cannot allow ourselves to be stifled by sobriety. That is why we must bring the old forward into the future.
How are you addressing this transformation?
Our new building is a cornerstone of the process. We wanted a flagship store. As our products become increasingly virtual, it helps to have a place where employees, readers and customers come into physical contact with the strength of our brand. The rooms and furniture must make our brand and our values both visible and tangible.
What do you feel now when you touch your furniture?
Excellence, independence, clarity, community and innovation. Excellence is fundamental – our desks, upholstered benches and sofas make that abundantly clear. Every employee feels that the desire for excellence also applies to them. Every visitor, regardless of whether they are a customer or a job applicant, should see us as a future-oriented company.
Does that mean job applicants choose their employer from the inside?
It is mind-boggling how much time we spend at the office during our life. And this space has an influence on our decisions. If you don’t care about the furniture, the technical equipment or the quality of the coffee machine, that shows your indifference. That is why we gave a lot of thought, and devotion, to the equipment in our new building.
Why did you opt for Walter K.?
The company suits us to a T – like us, Walter K. stands for excellent products. And astounding experience. Markus Benz and his team displayed the utmost empathy and creativity.
How did you brief Walter K.?
We handed them our brand strategy and then worked together to determine which values were to be conveyed and which area played which communicative and emotional role. It was sometimes something of a struggle, but the result is perceptible and quite exceptional.
What do your visitors think?
They say that they want to stay and work here. They praise the concentrated power and the pleasant atmosphere. The employees’ perspective has also changed noticeably. They now tend to see us as being much more flexible and modern. It is important to remember that many of our employees are journalists, a highly critical breed if ever there was one. Praise from them is the ultimate accolade.
Frank Dopheide has held the position of Managing Director, responsible for customer development and brand management, at Handelsblatt Media Group since 2014. Previously he was Chairman at the advertising agency Scholz & Friends in Düsseldorf and at Grey Worldwide, and founded the agency Deutsche Markenarbeit.