Marion Klein, you took over the family business Pack Easy in 2009. Over the past 50 years, your company has made a name for itself outside Switzerland, and especially in Europe. How did the history of internationalization begin in Emmen, Lucerne?
The company’s core competencies developed into two fields fed by tradition: its history as a 150-strong luggage and bag producer, the actual Swiss handicrafts that began with the patenting of the aluminum frame, and the continuing development of the SWISS TRAVEL SOLUTIONS, which really got going with the generational change in 2009.
The company is currently implementing the driver of digitization in a radical way. We are proactively approaching our stakeholders.
With company headquarters in Emmen and the Swiss Service Center, you are strongly committed to Switzerland as a business location. Is this the secret of your export strategy’s success?
It is rather the result of our internationalization strategy. On the one hand, the international composition of our employees, like that of many suppliers and business partners, is part of our network. On the other, there is the internationalization of the working relationship between design/development and production. We cooperate worldwide and are continuously expanding our linguistic and intercultural skills. People from other countries should feel welcome in our company as customers/partners and employees. Above all, we are consolidating and expanding our international service culture. This valuation approach continuously improves the baseline of Pack Easy's international positioning.
For the past four years, you have also been selling Pack Easy products through our own online shop. What are the benefits of this digital distribution channel?
These technologies give us agility as a new way of strategic and operational thinking in the market (B2B as well as B2C). The six dimensions of market, customers, organization, work forms, strategy and transformation must be flexibly prioritized and linked again and again. This requires holistic, professional and interpersonal competence in our organizational and management culture as well as expertise with regard to digital data.
It is indeed the case that not only are processes getting faster, but changes are also becoming more short-term and radical. The networking of processes within and between companies makes it increasingly difficult to predict these changes. However, networking with our customers via the online shop and social media channels keeps us agile and flexible. This means that Pack Easy can also react quickly and sensitively to changes in the market. By the way, we entered into the digital world with our own website in 1997 – an early and forward-thinking time to make our company, products and services accessible to customers and partners.
Since 2017, opening up markets outside Europe has been on the agenda. Why do you focus on the markets China, Iran and Korea? Has the growth potential in Europe been exhausted?
The growth potential we are looking for lies primarily in synergy effects and not just in volume effects. With its networked apps, modern digitalization makes it possible to combine different values (e.g. efficiency vs. change) and behaviors (e.g. hierarchical vs. agile decision-making processes) in such a way that the resulting increased resources come to the fore, and not the differences.
China, Iran and Korea are countries in which we already have very good and proven business relations and partners. They are also countries where not only internationalization (business activities abroad) but also worldwide networking in the sense of globalisation are possible; this is due to the facilitation of market access caused by technical progress and the liberalization of world trade, due above all to Swiss free trade agreements. The latter in particular provides the growth potential we are looking for: transcultural synergies!
Among other things, you offer your customers the opportunity to personalize your products. Is this necessary to stand out from the crowd in the competitive luggage market?
Positive surprises are our way of giving the customer something unexpected. Something that is unexpected from a luggage manufacturer, but which can make traveling more manageable and special for the individual – something that displays an appreciation of the traveler. You could even say, something that is unexpectedly ‘easier’! EASY!
What tips would you give to other Swiss SMEs wishing to grow in European markets?
There can be no compartmentalized thinking when it comes to the management of companies, processes and projects. Instead, at all levels, we must always think about how the various worlds of experience can be used to create synergies that others cannot easily copy.
Security-oriented structures and processes demand agility, so that they can be both traditional and innovative. The winners will be those who strike a balance between tradition and innovation.