Fanny Bülte, COO of Bülte talks day-to-day challenges of a family run company, plans for the company’s new website and how it has adapted to deal with the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic...
How did you get into the industry?
This industry is a family affair, so it’s only natural that it has always been close to my heart. I remember when I was little, I would help my father assemble screws and nuts while watching TV. My grandfather Norbert Bülte initially started the Company in 1956 by selling washers. My own father, Stefan Bülte, joined him and took over in 1980.
What does your day-to-day job involve?
No two days are the same and that’s what makes it exciting and challenging. I’m involved in pretty much all of the departments. From overseeing day‐to‐day operations to assisting our Marketing Department including Human Resources, my role as a COO is varied. Keeping this in mind, I always try to develop our business on a daily basis while remaining focused on customer satisfaction.
What are the biggest changes you have seen in the industry and/or the company since you started?
Needless to say, technology and communications have brought a lot to this industry. We are slowly getting to understand the full importance of digitalisation in this field. However, the Covid‐19 pandemic has had an even bigger impact and has pushed us to question our branding and commercial and company strategy even further. In the space of a year, we have seen most of our competitors embrace the new digital sphere beautifully. It is only expected that this has happened, as digitalisation is now crucial for any company.
When I first joined BÜLTE, I was so surprised to see that catalogues were still being printed, in so many languages. One of the biggest challenges we have faced this year as a company is the “Zero‐Paper” project, where from now on, everything will be done via email.
Can you share some of your career highlights and milestones so far?
I’m proud to say that building up my career in Germany has been a great help to me. Prior to BÜLTE, I worked as a Business Developer which helped me gain experience in efficiency and productivity. Working at the family business has been a joyful rollercoaster! I started as a Sales Assistant and ended up as COO. This has helped me to better understand each and every department within the company, which is a great experience for becoming a respectable COO. I’m glad I have managed to bring change and modernity to the company.
What plans does the company have for the next 12 months?
Our most recent and important project of the year is our website. Following the latest trends in the industry (but also elsewhere), our goal is to digitalise our communications and to be present not only on our website, but also on social media. We are hoping to slightly rebrand our company to keep it fresh and up‐to‐date. In addition, we aim to improve our corporate responsibility by finding new ways to improve sustainable development such as reducing our footprint and avoiding wastage, but also through our suppliers (i.e. transport service providers) or organisations like the National Plastics Industry Union. We still have a lot to do.
What is your favourite thing about the fastener industry?
In our wonderful B2B business, we always have the possibility of working with any kind of sectors – from automotive, medical or health, to the building sector – that’s what I enjoy the most, seeing opportunities in sectors we have not yet explored. Besides, the fastener industry can continue to evolve through new products such as recycling PPE, etc. Finally, improving the company’s strategy while adapting to the world’s changes is to me, and above all else, the most important thing in years to come.
What do you think needs to be done to encourage more women to get involved in the fastener industry?
I haven’t had any negative experiences to date. In some contexts, you may be surprised by the person in front of you, but as in many other professions, men are in the majority, but you have to persevere and find your place. I can only encourage women to come into our industry because they have a different approach to certain problems or situations, which can be very helpful and is often appreciated by our colleagues. In this sense, the growing number of women joining the industry is an asset, even though the overwhelming majority of the field is still male.
How does Bülte bring in new talent from a variety of backgrounds? Do you think this is a challenge for the industry?
We have still a lot to do to bring new talent in the company. Since spoken languages are now a necessity when it comes to having an international presence, we of course are looking for talents that have been abroad and can bring something fresh to the company. But it is definitely a challenge to find employees that ‘come out of the box’ while being trained to understand this field. What we have to work on is the technical aspect of our products. I think it is more important than ever to have employees who can improve their technical skills.
How is the company finding the coronavirus period apart from the economic consequences?
As is the same for every other company, the coronavirus health crisis is complicated in relation to human contact – whether it is with customers or internally. We therefore had to rethink the way we could discuss projects, by offering video conferencing. Beyond that, the situation is difficult for everyone especially for the employees who are slowly but surely not able to cope with it anymore. For example, not being able to organise internal events is something that harms overall morale. But we are doing our best to keep them satisfied, hoping that better days will return soon.