Karl Schulze Interview in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ)

Business editor Thiemo Heeg has written a portrait of the C. Bechstein company and its CEO Karl Schulze in the FAZ of 6 June 2011. The half-page article, titled "We Don’t Want to Die Beautiful", appeared in a regular FAZ feature that showcases companies and entrepreneurs.

Heeg researched his in-depth report in a visit to the “little town of Seifhennersdorf, located on the south-eastern edge of Germany, a 100-km drive from Dresden”, and to the “largest employer in town, C. Bechstein Pianofortefabrik AG”. He writes: “The word ‘Fabrik’ (factory) in the company’s name conveys the wrong impression. There are no assembly lines here — computerized drilling and milling machines at most. The 150-odd employees are craftsmen. Wood, varnish, plastic, metal; keyboard, soundboard, cast iron plate, steel strings, 88 felt-covered hammers: all of these must be assembled just right so that one can say: the soul of the musician experiences the happiness of joining with the soul born from the interaction of the various materials.”

The FAZ editor looked deep into the soul, not only of the factory, but also of the company’s CEO. He found Karl Schulze as happy to talk about “figures, market shares and sales strategies” as about the “soul” of a grand piano and the famous “clear, transparent Bechstein voice with no hardness, no edge”. This attitude may well be the reason why “Bechstein is better situated than others in the industry”, Heeg wrote. “Schulze made a SMB into a company with sales of over €33 million, whose products are highly prized even in China.”

In his article, the renowned journalist recalls the company’s glorious past, when a Claude Debussy declared that “piano music should be composed only for the Bechstein.” But he also describes how the company achieved great success in recent years by concentrating its production in two factories, one located in Saxony, the other in the Czech Republic. “Our mix of ‘Made in Germany’ and ‘Made in Europe’ makes us highly competitive,” Karl Schulze explains in the interview. Heeg finds the strategy is working: “Schulze claims a market share of 25 percent in Germany. And the export figures grow and grow: in 2010, Bechstein shipped 180 instruments to China; 400 are expected to go there in 2011 and 800 in 2012.”

The FAZ article ends by putting the Bechstein group’s key figures for 2010 in perspective: “Sales rose from €29.3m to €33.2m, leaving €1.2m in profits after taxes. That is nearly four times more than in 2009.”

Karl Schulze