Sennheiser UK and High Wycombe. While not quite as inseparable as Hansel and Gretel, there’s certainly been a ‘bond’ between the German headphone/microphone brand and the Buckinghamshire town. Until recently.
The UK operation has, after 15 years, relocated into new premises. It might just be a few miles down the road but – if you will – it’s like being in a fairytale in comparison.
Goodbye, cramped corridors of the 6,000sqft Century Point unit. Hello, stylish, 15,000sqft open-plan HQ in a tree-lined corner of Marlow.
“We were looking around, and this building came along,” general manager, Phil Massey, (pictured to the right) tells PSNEurope. “It fits where Sennheiser needs to go. It’s bigger than we need, but offers us the ability to expand.”
Now all the management, support, ordering, after-service and back office tasks are performed in the new surroundings – with hot desks for the sales guys, just to keep them on their toes, of course. “No one has an ‘office’,” confirms Massey. “Transparency is key.”
There’s lots of glass walls, certainly, but there’s still plenty of identity, as the management agreed the new home deserved a splash of character. Hence the company enlisted the artistic talents of students from nearby Buckinghamshire New University (where Sennheiser has already established links) to design the wall designs, the table-tops and so on.
Rooms are named after musical styles: Rock, Classical, Jazz, Pop. The decor propagates the theme: hence there’s a picture of famous Sennheiser user Kylie Minogue on the wall of the Pop room, and so on. With room to grow then, what is the expectation?
“We will grow 5% this year, and next year a little bit more,” says Massey. “We’re not a company that wants to make leaps and bounds. Our two strategic areas will be the Middle East and telecoms; pro audio as well.” Financially, Sennheiser is doing very well, thank you: global revenues are up 51% from 2008-2012, to somewhere near the €600 million mark.
Gerry Forde (pictured to the left), director of sales and marketing, backs this up: “Sennheiser is strategic and methodical, ” he says, strategically and methodically. “Changes won’t be made without good reason.”
He references the HD25 headphone, which is, appropriately, around 25 years old: “We’re still selling that,” says Forde. “Selling products that have life.” Massey pays a backhanded compliment to the Beats brand: “They showed the market that you could pay more for headphones... and so we are doing better in that [segment].”
“We reckon we’re the second or third time around,” quips Forde with a smile. “You buy a pair of headphones, then maybe another pair, but eventually you realise, you need something of a quality, when the others have broken. That’s when they you come to Sennheiser: when you’re a little bit older….”
While the first big change for SE (Sennheiser Electronics) UK has been the office move, the second is a focus on integrated systems. Hence the recent creation of an Integrated Systems division (lining up next to Professional Audio and MI); the November appointment of Nick Pemberton to a market development manager role; and the launch of TeamConnect, an ‘all-in-one solution for meeting rooms’ at ISE.
“It’s not an indication that we’re going to become an integrated systems solutions company,” remarks Forde. “We will remain an audio company.” Sennheiser will also take a “bigger picture view” and work with third parties where required, says Forde. “Rather than being known as ‘installed sound’, speakers on a wall and so on, we will begin to work more in the IT area. IT people understand what that ‘Integrated Systems’ means, more than ‘Installed Sound’ or ‘Audio Visual’. We’ve changed the terminology for the market we’re addressing.”
Other “headlines” this year, says Forde, will be the strengthening and expansion of the Sound Academy training programme, as well as active participation in whatever the next round of radio spectrum development brings forth.The shift to Marlow happened at around the same time last year as Sennheiser HQ in Germany expanded its factory. Is there an increased empathy with the Hanover parent for the UK arm?
“We were in a tin shed, basically,” reviews Massey, “and now we’re in a proper office that suits the Sennheiser brand and environment.
“We were proud to do the move, and for [Sennheiser Germany] to allow us to do it when they were making the changes, in difficult times, was good for everyone. “Mind you,” he shrugs, “agreeing a move seemed quite easy. On the day you move a company that’s been in place for 15 years, you find out what you’ve been carrying. How do put all that stuff into a new space? We had to throw a lot of stuff away…” Sshhh, Phil, you’ll ruin the fairytale.