Interview with Eva Jaisli - usic news, November 2017
usic news: If someone researches you and PB Swiss Tools, they quickly get the impression that communication is very important for you. Is this impression correct?
Eva Jaisli: That perception is correct. I attach great importance to internal as well as to external communication. Externally, communication that is directed at target groups is very important to me. In addition, we only communicate when we have substantial messages to send, a clear understanding of the target group and can specify the communication channel.
Targeted communication requires a high degree of professionalism. For example, today we have a standardized procedure as to how we promote new products. When, for example, I approach sales partners with a new product, then I know the names of these persons, I know what they are doing and need, and how they will receive the messages. We defne and pursue coordinated goals with our communications. When we send information through social media, the target groups are diffcult to control. Digitalization therefore offers many new opportunities for communication, but also risks.
What specifc effects does this have on external communication?
Many years ago, I expanded communication in teamwork, and not just external communication but internal. Ultimately, collaboration is crucially dependent on how the exchange of information takes place internally. Communication is really good if the tasks are solved internally with discussions and taking into account the interfaces. This means that we have a culture that provides direction in dealing with each other and in terms of communication. For me, internal and external communication must be credible and authentic. I can not treat my employees in a way that is different from the way I treat our customers. It is important that we all handle communication the same and that our suppliers, customers and the authorities experience what we promise. To ensure good behavior and the ﬂow of information, we have an internal guiding principle in which not only our goals but also our values are firmly enshrined.
If someone looks around your company, he will see many communication materials that have images of women. Is this intentional?
Yes, it is. Both women and men work with tools. As a logical consequence, we have dealt not only with diversity in-house in recent years, but also with the diversity of our clientele. What requirements do women have who use our tools in various felds, be they private or professional; why do they buy them? We have carried out various studies examining different issues, and taking into account several countries. We have found that women simply want professional tools and certainly not any special line of tools with smaller or pink colored handles. They want tools that have been made for professionals and that are therefore guaranteed to be reliable.
Our fndings also showed that women want to be addressed in connection with their everyday lives. They want to be supported when buying tools and confrmed in their purchasing decisions. That is why it is important to know and understand customer preferences. More and more women are taking over do-it-yourself work, even in their relationships with their partners. From various demographic studies, we are fnding that there are more and more single-parent households. It is therefore logical that, when a couple separates, a second toolbox is purchased and is also put to use.
Studies in Europe indicate that, in the wholesale trade, more tools are purchased today by women than by men. These are exciting developments.
You once stated, "A company must have a face." Why is this important from your point of view?
We are a leading branded product manufacturer that has positioned itself in market niches and is producing high-end products that are 100 percent made in Switzerland. Not only quality plays an essential role, but innovation also. We want to not only meet the needs of today, but also to address the issues of the future. That's why our brand promises quality and innovation. To be able to truly rely on the real benefts, you need a brand that generates confdence and identifcation. Its effect is like a lighthouse that provides direction. As a result, our brand stands for new products as well as standard items of high quality.
Interest in new products often arises from the information found on our attractively designed websites. Therefore, as a manufacturer, we always pay particular attention to the updates. The confdence in new products is achieved by providing top-level presentations and good advice to the retail sector, when interested parties can take the products in their hands and thereby experience the feel and the quality of our tools. And the same is true of the brand. The more that people are
aware of it, the more it stands out. This increases its credibility and people have more confdence it.
You often appear in public to give PB Swiss Tools a face. What kind of self-image does it need? And is this self-image part of the role of the entrepreneur?
I think so, for different reasons. When I enter into discussions with different groups, I give the signal for openness. I want to know what our target groups are interested in, what they want and how PB Swiss Tools reaches them. Maybe the target groups also have critical questions for me and I only hear them when I get close to them and make myself available for discussions.
On the other hand, I know that our messages gain strength with publicity. I am 100 percent in favor of our offers and send corresponding messages. That is confdence building. This trust is worth a great deal, especially in critical times. This was the situation when, during the fnancial crisis, I declared publicly that we could not avoid downsizing and did everything we could to fnd positions for those who were laid off. We have strengthened our communications with advertisements and provided jobs for our employees. So negative messages can also have a positive effect. A similar situation arose in the SNB decision in January, 2015, when, despite major uncertainties and a drop in prices of 16 percent, we gave our commitment to an SRF flm project. Because of my experiences during the fnancial crisis, I learned that clear and continuous communication, both internal and external, only creates benefts.
You produce technical products and technology is not easy to communicate, which is why PB Swiss Tools often puts the benefts of technology, i.e., the added value for consumers, at the center. How did you arrive at this insight?
Technical products in particular are often costly and in need of explanation. This makes the sales and purchasing process relatively complex. Attention is always aroused when the seller can draw attention to what is, from the point of view of the buyer, the added value. If I can tell a buyer what she will do better if she uses one of our screwdrivers, then, frst of all, she feels that her needs have been understood and, secondly, I can tell from which added values she will repeatedly beneft. Providing instructions on how to use our tools is particularly important for those who have little expertise. Ultimately, it's about offering our customers the right solution in close cooperation with the trade.
The company has been focused on quality, innovation and automation using new technology for decades. I have been with the company for twenty years, striving to achieve outstanding product value. Today, we attach more importance to communicating the distinctive quality of our tools than we have in the past. We not only focus on omni-channel communication. In global competition, differentiation must also be visible in appearances. With the right messages, we create and initiate demand. Digitalization and globalization challenge us to tailor our selection of content even more specifcally to the stakeholders and communication channels. This trust-building effect is crucial for the selection.
A strong brand is created through high product value. This provides a great opportunity for engineers who develop demand-driven and competitive products. Without a doubt, it is now time to build upon this foundation.
You once said that a product does not sell on price, but on its quality. What do you mean by that?
This again concerns the question of added value. It is the individual value that determines why a person has chosen one of our products. It is the answer to a problem that a person can solve with and through our product. With our communications, that's why we are very keen in sending targeted messages to the users, and also to the trade.
You always emphasize that your products must meet the needs of your customers. How do you and your employees specifcally identify the needs?
Employees from development, marketing and sales form a team and go to the end users and look over their shoulders. The sales representatives of our sales partners are in continuous discussions with users and communicate their fndings to us. Our developers address user needs and seek solutions as to how they can fulfll customer needs. They fnd out how the prototypes and series production must be designed in order to meet all requirements.
We also hold workshops to which we specifcally invite users. Buyers are also included because we can learn more about their individual concerns from them. We also apply this form of inspiration and inquiry when testing prototypes. Workshops also help us to deal with trends. An example is the demand for electric motors. Questions arise as to which screws and connecting parts are used for which technology. By carrying out desk research, instructive information can be obtained. In addition, observations during production are indispensable. That's why our employees go to the professionals in the workshops where electric motors are installed or repaired, and look at the problems on site. What is needed, what are you satisfed with or what would you like to do differently? So we recognize trends, try to understand and narrow down the problems, and then to generate corresponding prototypes.
But we also work together with institutes, technical colleges and universities to fnd out, for example, what a screwdriver tool used by robots must look like. In close cooperation with experts, we look at these questions and determine how soon a development will take place and what requirements will result from it.
The diversifcation of employees in terms of age and gender is a means to an end for you. You are convinced that it promotes innovation. Could you give us a specifc product that originated from a diversifed team?
Yes - the introduction of the Color Codes ( tools with size-specifc color coding) would not have come about without a diversifed team. We introduced these tools in 2000.
When we take business trips to our business partners, we also visit end customers. As a result, during a conversation with engineers from Toyota, we were told about the time needed to fnd the right tool. The idea for a color concept came in the evening when there was beer on the table. After returning to Switzerland, we tested different variants during development and production. The Caran d'Ache colored pencils inspired us. We made a prototype and had it reviewed, both internally and externally. Some feedback has indicated that colorful tools are not wanted by men. Despite these reservations, the diversely assembled sales team has decided to introduce the new products to the market. A buyer made the decision easier for us by electing the new products for a promotion and sales increased with the world premiere. I was very surprised by how quickly the product established itself on the market. A clear sign that color coding is functional and attractive. Because it is simple, effective and saves time, men have also been impressed.
Almost every tool manufacturer today has copied the idea and integrated it in a similar way into their product range.
You once said that investment is important, especially for companies that are driven by innovation. Do you provide "tinkering budgets"? And what other structural measures do you use to ensure the innovative spirit?
Resources are the key to innovation. That's why open spaces and differently qualifed contributors are prerequisites for creativity. In sophisticated processes and various forms of organization, the ideas ﬂow in and are processed by a diversely assembled team. Depending on the question, other persons are consulted. Solutions are sought to ensure that problem solving can meet customer needs. The potential for customer-oriented added value and expanded market shares is important here. Readiness to invest is even necessary for the preliminary study. The results obtained decide whether a study assignment will be issued. At this stage, we are investing without knowing if we
can get a return on it later.
We therefore assign preliminary studies to the "tinkering budget". Employees are free to seek out wants and needs.
You have been quoted as saying, "The entrepreneur guides herself and others, even in times of change. Orientation to values in response to less stability, security and controllability in the context of permanent change is important." What does this "guiding principle" mean in your day-to-day business?
I expect my employees to make as many changes as I can to ensure continuity. This applies, of course, to those situations that I can inﬂuence. In contrast to external challenges that I have to accept, and then to decide in the management team how we handle it: Keyword: Financial crisis. Changes confront us with opportunities and risks. They are very often directly related to social change, economic developments, etc. That's why they are complex and challenging to work on. We are looking for changes that are targeted and as far forward looking as possible. We therefore deal with trends and developments at an early stage to create the best possible framework conditions within which the changes can take place. Depending on the extent of the inﬂuences determined by external factors, this often results in a phase of uncertainty and a search for direction: Keyword: SNB decision. Especially in this and in similar situations, it is my job as CEO to communicate openly with all stakeholders in order to create as much stability as possible. For example, this can go as far promising our employees that nobody will lose their jobs because of a robot. The same applies to projects with refugees and the integration of people with disabilities.
What changes is PB Swiss Tools facing?
Further changes are pending in connection with Industry 4.0. We are increasingly working with processes that are determined by the interconnectedness of people, technology and data. Consequently, we have more and more data and knowledge available for optimization and further development. For example, during production, we quickly recognize factors that increase or decrease productivity, and errors and malfunctions can be corrected faster and more effectively when setting up a machine or during preventative maintenance. We know more precisely which systems produce which numbers of items. The same applies to shift work and daytime operations. This results in a completely different transparency of the output that is possible through the cooperation of humans and machines. The visualization of the data and results is therefore of great importance. In everyday communications, we deliberately use it to learn from it.
Digitalization provides access to new distribution channels and communication vessels. Therefore, we taken actions that support us in implementing our omni-channel strategy. The focus on selected projects helps us to use the capacity for more discussions with customers and greater brand presence.