Your family business in Krefeld has had a turbulent year. What has happened?
In the course of last year’s Corona crisis, we had to file for bankruptcy. Before Corona, we achieved 50% of our total turnover in the printing and tourism sector. We produced many products in the printing sector, such as product catalogues for events and trade fairs. This market completely collapsed last year. We acted very early on and restructured quickly, analysing which areas were lucrative or could become lucrative again. As a result, we divested the printing division, because it has a very high capital input and the competition is very strong.
The restart also brought about a shift in generations. Volker and Petra Neumann have retired, and my cousin Tim Neumann and I now run the business. Since then, a lot has changed in the company culture. Today, we rely more on digital processes, team communication and offer our employees more benefits, such as the 38-hour week and remote working. With Stünings GmbH, we now focus on content and marketing strategies, and corporate and product communication. Our goal is to be a provider of ideas and solutions for our customers.
How has the company developed since its foundation in 1929?
The specialist publishing company Stüningsmedien GmbH was founded in 1929 by my great-grandfather. Stüningsmedien GmbH specialised early on in specific fields, such as commercial vehicles. Bus and group travel soon followed. We had our own editorial offices very early on and liked to try out new technologies. Our family has always been very agile and has tried to establish itself in niches. From having our own printing house and placing advertisements to having our own marketing agency and web development, we quickly picked up many developments in the market. For a long time, the credo was “everything from one source”.
What will distinguish Stünings GmbH in the future?
We are now focusing on our strengths as a trade publisher. We have three strong brands: “KFZ-Anzeiger” for the commercial vehicle industry, “Bus-Fahrt” for bus and group travel, and “MADE IN Krefeld”, a magazine for city marketing. In the automotive sector, we are one of the leading trade magazines. We place great value on quality content, which we create together with our own specialist editors. For example, when Mercedes launches a new tractor, it is tested by our editors and evaluated in driving reports. Green logistics will become an important topic for us in the future, and we award an innovation prize for trailers every two years at the International Motor Show (IAA). Our service portfolio also includes consulting services, the design and development of corporate, brand and product strategies. With our analogue and digital solutions, we offer our customers complete marketing solutions and develop appropriate multichannel strategies.
What distinguishes you from the competition?
It all depends on which area of expertise you look at. With our product “DataFactory”, we dealt with structured content, processes and professional product databases at an early stage. In the meantime, we offer our SaaS solution as an affordable cloud solution. An added value of our product database is the attractive and intuitive user interface, coupled with our service to make our customers’ processes even more efficient. This enables our customers to manage their product data easily and conveniently and to fill a wide variety of channels with up-to-date and consistent data. We sell licences for between 2,000 and 10,000 euros a year at relatively low costs. By comparison, the costs of similar solutions quickly run into five figure numbers. With the “DataFactory” we can create database-supported product catalogues together with our customers and simultaneously fill a large number of websites and e-commerce systems. For example, we have long been active in the sectors of occupational safety, hygiene and industrial technology. There, the big challenge for manufacturers and distributors was how to exchange product data. We are now working with large industrial organisations on concepts for the standardisation of product data classifications.
Which topics pose future challenges for the communication industry?
Advertising has become highly discredited in recent years and poses a huge threat to traditional forms of advertising. Most specialist publishers have great difficulty generating sales online. There are therefore a few services that we will strongly expand, such as podcasting and video, which are in line with a multichannel strategy in product communication. In the mid-term, we also want to raise our profile in AI topics and further expand web technology.
What role does the border region play in your business?
At present, the border region does not yet have a major impact on our business. The cross-border exchange is still too small. This is due to the invisible, but nevertheless existing border. There is a lack of exchange and a platform for it. I find it natural to visit a customer or partner in Münster, although Venlo is actually closer for me. Unfortunately, not enough is known about the opportunities for cooperation. That is why this cross-border euregio campus project appeals to me so much. I see great potential in German-Dutch cooperation.
What kind of staff are you looking for?
Our staff is very diverse: from the classic account manager to designers, application developers, editors, marketing experts and project managers. We have about 40 qualified employees. In the course of restructuring, we have brought very diverse know-how into the company. We employ a colourful mix of people who are able to inspire each other optimally. We give our employees a great deal of freedom and encourage critical debate. Applicants always have very different expectations of their employer. We try to respond to the diversity and different needs of our employees. Every year, we are looking for new trainees in the fields of media management digital & print and media design digital & print. But we are also always happy to receive spontaneous applications from creative people with good ideas. The sales department is also constantly expanding and can always use some support.
What do you offer to young people in particular?
There are trainees and apprentices working in the various departments and we like it when someone takes a fresh look at our work processes and services. We are therefore pleased to be able to support young people as an approved training company. Training has always been very important to our family. We recognised the benefits of this early on and this year we will even take on more trainees than last year. The topic of education is also high on our agenda and is supported by the management.
The past year must have had an impact on you personally. Have you changed as an entrepreneur?
The powerlessness during the Corona crisis was a unique experience for me. We managed to cope with the crisis of 2008 quite well, for example, but nobody expected something like Corona. There has been a complete shift in consciousness. Now, we talk about meaning much more often than we used to. Corona has shown us that the best long-term plans may not work. So we have learned to be even more agile and to completely question ourselves as a company. It is not only about what investments or purchases we make as a company, but also about meaningful value. Which customer or service provider do we really want to work with? This has led to great partnerships that we would not have thought of 1.5 years ago.