The challenge and reward of finding the best mix of design, function and value are what drive furniture manufacturer hülsta to give its customers the very best time and time again. Through continual innovation and some organizational revamping, hülsta has made a name for itself that is repeatedly associated with innovation and high quality.
“When it has to do with furniture, we are one of the essential and best-known brands. The brand distinguishes us – the others are not brands,” CEO Oliver Bialowons confidently states. During hülsta’s transformation from a small business into a larger production facility, it had relied on the traditional virtues that characterize German mid-sized companies.
Quality, innovation and delivery reliability had proven to be the ideal recipe for success. When hülsta was experiencing some stagnation in 2014, however, Mr. Bialowons joined the company and gave it a much-needed facelift.
“My expertise lies primarily in restructuring struggling companies,” Mr. Bialowons explains. “The challenge of turning their fortunes around is what pushes me.”
Mr. Bialowons saw an opportunity to propel hülsta to the next level, and so with a new CEO came a shift in company focus. Several key changes were implemented which improved the firm’s value chain, including process optimization and cost reduction.
Additionally, Mr. Bialowons no longer wanted to rely on the old growth strategy. “I wanted to establish the brand in a completely different way,” explains the CEO. “Not wanting to push the envelope and potentially risk jeopardizing the company’s future again, we decided to concentrate on retaining customer interest by preserving a certain level of scarcity.”
This shift in direction paid off, and hülsta has since experienced steady financial growth. One way hülsta maintains its competitive edge is by innovation through internationalization.
“A combination of international trade fairs and idea exchanges with internationally esteemed designers provides us with a totally different vantage point,” notes Mr. Bialowons. “hülsta makes an effort to find unconventional sources of creativity by searching for those with diverse backgrounds, for example, designers in the fashion industry,” he adds.
By staying connected to key players in the industry, Mr. Bialowons continually receives insights about changing trends. Flexibility and adaptability are of the utmost importance at hülsta. “It is change management in its purest form,” the CEO underlines.
Target markets can change subtly over time. Furniture manufacturers must also adapt to the mass market by contending with price pressure. These are challenges that Mr. Bialowons gladly takes on, though, pointing out, “the many different aspects, such as the people, marketing and finance, are like putting the pieces of a puzzle together.”
Admittedly, completing the puzzle is a group effort, and Mr. Bialowons is fully aware of that. He has instituted an open door policy, which encourages free discussion between the management and employees. It is not an uncommon sight to catch Mr. Bialowons walking through the office wearing a polo shirt and jeans.
The CEO values transparent relationships and makes sure that he is accessible to everyone in his company. Challenges are always present, but staying ahead of the competition is certainly easier when you make a great product, and hülsta does exactly that.
Solid workmanship, durability, and a luxurious, innovative feel differentiate hülsta pieces from the rest – and the world is taking note. Half of the company’s sales are from international clients, including those based in Switzerland and the United Kingdom, as well as further abroad in Japan, Australia and the Middle East.
Unique pieces such as the Birdy illustrate precisely how hülsta perfectly blends form and function. As for what lies ahead, Mr. Bialowons continues to pursue his vision for the company by designing products that are of the highest caliber and valued by the client, remaining optimistic that “these products will ultimately have a central place in society.”