The Heinemann Way

By: Peter Marshall

When your name is on the door, you may have a different mindset to those around you, not least the pressure to preserve the legacy and profitability of your business. But, sitting in the Heinemann annual press conference on April 16 with the fourth and fifth generations of the family sitting side by side, you’d never think so. It has been a seamless process.

I have known this business for well over 20 years. It is the only truly global family-owned travel retail business. Co-owner Claus Heinemann has often referred to Gebr. Heinemann as a ‘small’ family business. But it comes with a smile, and that is indicative of the sense of humour that underpins this 4.6 billion euro business.

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Claus Heinemann

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Gunnar Heinemann

What is also significant was his opening address to the assembled trade media. It was to welcome Gunnar Heinemann back after a 5 month illness last year. And for Gunnar to respond: ”I’m back on stage, but will not dance!”. There was a palpable feeling of emotion in the room.

It was the same when Max Heinemann spoke. He is now Heinemann’s first CEO in the company’s 140 years of trading and leads the business. A quiet, yet measured and confident presentation, walking the assembled media through the values of the business, his vision and how it can succeed – be future-fit – in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Max-Heinemann-global-travel-retail-business-B2B-communications-trunblockedMax Heinemann

There was clear acknowledgement of how important he thought the Advisory Board of his uncle, Claus and father, Gunnar and his co-Directors – Raoul and Kay Spanger – were to him. The symbiosis was clear for all to see. ”In our family, there is so much you can absorb and identify with. Many great people who have impressed me – including my father and uncle. Our culture and values are important. I want to do many things, and continue to lead, in very much the same way as them in terms of respect, awareness, trust and openness. I believe that is what brings great success to our company.”

Four sentences that encapsulate the values and outlook of Heinemann.

Yet humour is an ever-present and important ingredient, too, within the fabric of the Heinemann business. You only had to witness the banter between Raoul and Kay, comparing notes about their respective ages and lengths of service for the company!

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Kay Spanger

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Raoul Spanger

And when Gunnar spoke on the subject of corporate responsibility and the various projects they were involved in as a company, you knew that this company believed in doing far more than just retail.

As I said in the Introduction, I am not going to focus here on their 2018 performance. That will come in a couple of weeks to you in the form of an executive summary. The focus here is more on some of the aspects of the ‘human’ side of the business.

And that starts with the employees and the launch this year of the new ‘Gebr. Heinemann & You’ employer brand. Here the core values of the company are closely aligned to its guiding principles. According to Christina Poultourtzidou, HR Marketing and Project Manager,
”It says that we are a family company, in which employees are valued, trusted and open with one another. We offer opportunities to develop and make a difference. And we are always focused on wowing our customers”. Interestingly, the company has opted to use it own employees in its brand campaign. ”We wanted to show our employees and give them a voice. Anything else would not have fit”.

But I can think of no better example of the example of the strength of moral obligation from Heinemann than how they dealt with staff originally recruited for Berlin Brandenburg airport. We all know about the continuing saga there. What is perhaps little known is the fact that all the employees initially recruited to work there were found alternative opportunities across the Heinemann business. How many other businesses do you know that would have acted in this way? It speaks volumes for the values of the business – putting their people first.

So, too, does their inclusion of 4 pages from their Review Insights Outlook/Business Year 2018 devoted to crediting and naming all the staff who have been with the business from 15 to 40 years!

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Heinemann believe in nurturing business partnerships, too. It’s a core value. Heinemann is known to be a tough but fair negotiator, consummate professionals. But once you are in business with them, trust and friendship follow, and you grow together.

For Heinemann, commercial success and sustainability go hand in hand. It’s part of the company’s DNA and straddles all parts of their business – from airports to airlines to cruise ships. The plan is to build on their USP as a sustainable travel retailer by establishing an efficient corporate responsibility (CR) management strategy through continuous, systematic optimisation.

In August last year, Heinemann joined the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC). In joining, the company has signed up to integrating the initiatives ten universal sustainability principles into its business strategy, including human rights, labour, environment and corruption prevention.

It’s all part of the company’s strategy to take a closer look at the economic, social and ecological impact of the business. Since 2017 Heinemann has collaborated with OceanCare, the marine conservation organisation. The principal aim is the reduction of plastic waste in the oceans. Right now Heinemann currently levies a 30% fee on all single-use plastic, paper and zip bags at its 14 Duty Free locations in Germany and Austria. All proceeds go to fund OceanCare projects. Bratislava and Ljubljana joined the scheme in 2018 and other locations around the world are due to follow.

OceanCare uses the donations from Heinemann to fund projects to reduce plastic waste in the oceans and to rescue the marine animals it endangers. In his presentation, Gunnar said the value of Heinemann’s support for OceanCare annually was between 130K and 150K euros, but the aim was to take this total to over 1 million euros annually.

This blog has focused on some of the values and embedded culture within the Heinemann business. At 140 years young, it’s in excellent shape for the coming generations. Our examination of the company’s performance in the blog scheduled for w/c May 6 will help demonstrate why.