This interview by Thomas Griesser appeared in the St. Galler Tagblatt newspaper on 13 October 2020.
You have been Delegate of the Board of Directors of RAUSCH AG KREUZLINGEN for three years. Now you’re taking on the job of interim CEO. Why?
Rolf G. Schmid: I’m a fan of this brand, I like the products. In my three years with the brand, I’ve come to know the Baumann family, which owns the company, quite well. Marco Baumann left the Board of Directors in the spring and, following the departure of CEO Lucas Baumann, the family and the company are now in a position where they need support. And I’m happy to help them.
You jumped in once before as interim CEO at textile finishers Cilander in Herisau in Eastern Switzerland, where you are Chairman of the Board.
That was 18 months ago, when Vincenzo Montinaro resigned as CEO. I took over for about six months until his successor Burghard Schneider assumed office, and that worked well.
RAUSCH is emphasising your experience in the consumer goods industry gained over 20 years as the former CEO of the Mammut Sports Group, which operates in the mountain sports sector. But outdoor goods have precious little to do with hair care products. How is that going to work?
Well, Mammut sells caps that cover your head and your hair (laughs). But you’re right, they don’t have much in common. Nor am I a product expert. But I don’t need to be. That’s why we have plenty of experienced staff at RAUSCH who’ve been with the company for many years. It’s my job to know the situation, the sales channels and the customers – and I do.
Why does RAUSCH need an interim solution, and why is no immediate successor in place for former CEO Lucas Baumann?
It’s not always easy to find the right candidate. Lucas Baumann wants a career change and we aren’t ready just yet. But with me we have an interim solution, and it’s not as if I’m new to the company. As Delegate of the Board of Directors, I’ve also been able to gain a pretty good overview of the company’s business operations.
How long do you expect your commitment as interim CEO to last?
We have launched a professional search process. It could take a while, but we may also strike it lucky. I’ll stay for as long as I’m needed. After that, I’ll go back to focusing on my appointment as Delegate of the Board of Directors at RAUSCH.
RAUSCH is expecting the manager appointed to deliver further professionalisation. Where exactly?
First, in digitalisation. We want to digitalise processes and make execution faster and more efficient. And we still have plenty of potential when it comes to automating production. We then also need to look at the internet as an additional sales channel. We’re not only thinking about our own online store, but also about our retail partners, who are selling more and more online. To do this, they will need other sorts of information, videos for social media channels, and so on.
Where else can RAUSCH improve?
Sustainability. There’s still quite a lot more we can do, for instance with regard to packaging and the manufacturing process, though I wouldn’t talk primarily about improving because our products are already very near-natural. But the needs of our customers are changing, and we need to change with them. Thanks to our development department, we are very well positioned to do just that.
What other skills will the new boss have to bring with them?
Leadership experience in an SME, preferably in a family-owned SME, as they have a different mentality than companies with anonymous owners. Ideally, they should have a certain affinity with the cosmetics market or at least the consumer goods industry in general. The new CEO also needs to speak German and have a distinctly Swiss character. They will also need to respect and drive forward RAUSCH’s values and culture, and the way it treats its employees.
Revenue has risen in recent years, but margins have remained under pressure. What steps is RAUSCH taking to counter this trend?
The fact that margins are under pressure is an industry-specific phenomenon. Wholesalers are exerting pressure and prices are trending down. That’s why we want to leverage optimised processes and increased automation to become more efficient and produce larger series.
And where do you want to sell them?
Increasingly in exports. Exports already account for well over 50%, but we still think there is a lot more potential abroad. We are on the ball when it comes to things like ‘Swissness’ and sustainability, and this can score us plus points.
RAUSCH developed a sanitiser in next to no time after the onset of the coronavirus crisis. Why did you stop?
We developed it and brought it to market at a time when sanitisers were a scarce commodity. We already had stocks of alcohol – the raw material needed – and we wanted to play our part in alleviating the shortage. But the situation has calmed down again. We had always planned to do it for a limited time only.
How has RAUSCH weathered the coronavirus crisis so far?
Very well. We were lucky that our primary sales channels, such as pharmacies, specialist retailers and Coop, stayed open the entire time. We didn’t record any substantial slowdown, and 2020 is likely to be a normal year, with revenue more or less in line with the previous year.
Do you use RAUSCH shampoo yourself?
And do you still kit up with gear from Mammut for mountain hikes, even though you left them in 2016 due to a dispute with the Board of Directors?
I didn’t leave because of any dispute. We simply had differences of opinion in the Board of Directors about the company’s vision and future strategy. But a good product is still a good product, even if you’re no longer with the company. That’s why I still have Mammut products among my equipment, although not exclusively. I also use outdoor goods from Fjällräven, the Swedish brand with the red fox.
Because you’re a member of the Board of Directors of the parent company Fenix Outdoor?
Exactly. And because they’re good products.
Rolf G. Schmid (61) was CEO of Swiss-based Mammut Sports Group for 20 years until he left the Board of Directors by mutual agreement in 2016. Schmid has held a range of board positions since then. He chairs the supervisory body of textile finishers Cilander in Herisau and sits on the boards of directors of Mobiliar, Mobility and Fenix, which combines several outdoor brands under its umbrella. He has been Delegate of the Board of Directors of RAUSCH AG KREUZLINGEN since 2017.