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Daniel Sennheiser talks the brand’s 75th anniversary and being co-CEO

"When you're the son of Sennheiser, nobody is honest to you!"

“A family company is very present in your everyday life”: Daniel Sennheiser

A swelling crowd is engulfing Sennheiser’s NAMM 2020 booth when PSNEurope arrives to meet with the company’s co-CEO Daniel Sennheiser. It’s mid-afternoon on the opening day of the show and a series of performers demoing the latest kit appears to be delighting the masses. A meeting room located somewhere in the hive of the booth has been reserved, yet the ebbing tide of performance and applause will continue to flood our conversation over the course of the next hour. “You can see and hear how busy it’s been,” he laughs, sipping at the first of several bottles of water we’ll consume as we bid to make ourselves heard.

It has indeed been a busy show for the German company and its joint leader. In addition to numerous new releases, Sennheiser is celebrating its 75th anniversary. To mark the occasion, the booth features its own dedicated anniversary section, adorned with an assortment of iconic artefacts from its three-quarters-of-a-century old portfolio. Still, Mr Sennehiser is a picture of calm amidst the surrounding noise and hustle and bustle. His demeanour is warm and affable throughout our interview; his answers consistently thoughtful and considered, never rushed or flustered.

Despite being born into one of the industry’s truly household names, Daniel Sennheiser is a relative newcomer to the business. In 2013, he and his brother Andreas were appointed co-CEOs of the company founded by their grandfather in 1945. Yet it would take a great many years for their professional paths to cross, as he explains.

“My brother and I took very different routes and it’s interesting to look at both, because my brother was convinced very early on that he would join the company and study engineering and do everything it takes to maybe one day be the leader of the company,” he recalls. “I completely refused it. I didn’t want to have anything to do with it. A family company is very present in your everyday life, so I rejected it for many years. I studied design, I worked in advertising, but at some point me and my brother came together and decided we now both had an interest in the company. I realised that it would be interesting to apply what I had been doing myself outside the company, and also to be more entrepreneurial. My brother was ready too, so we came at it from both sides and now we’re doing it together as co-CEOs, which is wonderful. It’s great having someone you trust so much when you are working so closely together. And we are able to look at the company from completely different viewpoints because of our different business backgrounds.”

Daniel’s initial reticence to join the business stemmed from an innate desire for self-expression; to pursue a professional life beyond that which was seemingly preordained. It would take decades for him to willingly enter the orbit of the pro audio behemoth bearing his family name, yet once he did it quickly became clear that he had made the right choice at the right time. “I needed my freedom,” he states. “I needed to prove to myself that I could have a career without… when you’re the son of Sennheiser, nobody is honest with you! So I wanted to learn how to do things outside of that. But at some point I realised that [pro audio] is a wonderful industry to be in; it’s the best industry to be in. It combines everything I love – high tech, music and art. And it’s a legacy that maybe when you’re 19 you don’t cherish so much, but as I grew a little older I realised it was something I wanted to carry on and take to the next level.”

Though his tenure as co-CEO may look relatively paltry compared to the number of years the company has been operating, Sennheiser’s understanding of the business and the cornerstones that have made it such a success is unparalleled. “Obviously I’m not 75 years old, I’ve only been a part of it, but it’s really great to see how a company that my grandfather started has been able to grow and be successful over all these years,” he says, pausing for a moment of reflection. “But when I look back, it’s not really us making it a success, it’s the customers, it’s the artists creating things with our tools, it’s the press talking about us. It’s a big community of people all working together. And when I think back, the common thread that runs through everything is that we were always focusing on creating the future of audio. We have always focused on growing our understanding of how sound behaves and how we perceive sound. Through that, we want to facilitate the making of more meaningful experiences and, ultimately, to create emotions. To still be successful after 75 years is because we’ve stayed true to that. It’s in our DNA.”

Now guiding the company from the top alongside his brother, he sees their contrasting professional backgrounds as a major asset, although he does acknowledge the concept of co-CEOs as something approaching the unorthodox.

“Initially we didn’t think this would be the solution because we didn’t know how we would split responsibilities, and it seemed clear to us that there would only be one person at the top. But that didn’t feel right, even though the textbook says it’s not good to have two people at the top together. Plus, we decided we didn’t want to split responsibilities, even though I’m the marketing and sales person and my brother is more engineering and logistics. Ultimately, we are responsible for everything, so it’s really about being trustful, and it allows people to approach the person they feel most comfortable with. And it enables us to be more courageous, because we have at least one other person who wants to make a big decision with us.”

Though his tenure as co-CEO may look relatively paltry compared to the number of years the company has been operating, Sennheiser’s understanding of the business and the cornerstones that have made it such a success is unparalleled. “Obviously I’m not 75 years old, I’ve only been a part of it, but it’s really great to see how a company that my grandfather started has been able to grow and be successful over all these years,” he says, pausing for a moment of reflection. “But when I look back, it’s not really us making it a success, it’s the customers, it’s the artists creating things with our tools, it’s the press talking about us. It’s a big community of people all working together. And when I think back, the common thread that runs through everything is that we were always focusing on creating the future of audio. We have always focused on growing our understanding of how sound behaves and how we perceive sound. Through that we want to facilitate the making of more meaningful experiences and, ultimately, to create emotions. To still be successful after 75 years is because we’ve stayed true to that. It’s in our DNA.”

You can read the full article in the digital issue of the mag here.

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