Back in Switzerland
Christian Karstedt to start new challenges in Switzerland
redtoo Managing Director and CSO Christian Karstedt already told us about the first 12 months of the development of redtoo US in the may issue of our redflash. Now he is back in Switzerland, ready to take on new challenges. In this conversation with Philipp Oser, President of the Board and owner of redtoo, Christian shares some very personal insights and experiences about his time in the US and how this has influenced his ideas and actions.
Philipp Oser: Christian, almost exactly 2 years ago we were talking about a potential redtoo subsidiary in the US for the first time. We did this in view of our growth strategy relating to the increasing requirements of our customers for global redtoo services. Today our vision has become reality manifested in US headquarters in Florham Park, New Jersey, and another subsidiary in Fort Worth, Texas. About 25 employees are now working for us in the US most of them with a permanent contract and all of them visually infected with the “redspirit virus”. For me this is a great success story, but how did you perceive this development and which experiences did you gain?
Christian Karstedt: Without a doubt I’m more than happy that everything went so well. Many things have happened since our conversation 24 months ago, especially during the 12 months that my family and me spent in New Jersey. Even now I can hardly characterize the overall impression of this episode, which is composed of numerous private as well as professional experiences.
Was it a long educational journey, development aid, an intensive start-up phase or simply “business as usual” only divided into two different locations separated by the Atlantic Ocean? Probably it had bits and pieces of everything, but additionally it provided way more. In any case it was a very valuable experience for which I am extremely grateful and of which redtoo, my family as well as I personally will benefit from in the future. An exciting year always passes by way to fast. However we were able to leverage it to the fullest and to gain some deep insights to the differences of Central Europe and the USA – concerning private as well as professional life.
Philipp Oser: From the very beginning I put great emphasis on the fact that our US locations should be established and accompanied by a highly qualified member of our Swiss management team. This was the only way to guarantee that the most important values and components of our success, such as our Swissness or the unique redspirit, would be sustainably integrated in the corporate culture of the new location. Talking about cultural differences: In the beginning it was a little difficult for you and your family to match your daily routines with the American culture, right?
Christian Karstedt: We were not completely unaware of the cultural differences. We had collected some experiences before through numerous business and leisure trips. However, it’s a completely new dimension to live and work in a country, to go to school there and to participate in the daily life. In the beginning we got to know the tough, extensive governmental processes related to the Visa approval and issuing. Later on we were continuously struggling with lengthy, governmental requirements in form of long and sometimes incomprehensive questionnaires and processes. Each time we had to decide again whether legal assistance was necessary or not, since mistakes could easily have grave juridical consequences.
Something very positive about the American culture, that we strongly appreciate is that people are very open, spontaneous and helpful. Furthermore, our Managing Director Jim Coleman provided great support in terms of legal and contractual matters by acting very cautiously. The observed spontaneity, fast pace, enthusiasm and bravery of the Americans in terms of starting new things and bringing them forward are in extreme contradiction to the stiff legal and governmental processes that we experienced at the same time.
Philipp Oser: Not only but especially for our industry fast and flexible actions are inevitable and more promising than lengthy balancing of chances and risks, followed by a long planning and implementation phase. I’m convinced that you will include this newly gained, valuable quality reliably in your new tasks at redtoo Switzerland, wherever it may be promising for our customers and us.
Christian Karstedt: This is my firm intention. This is a topic where both sides of the Atlantic Ocean can still learn from each other. The American pace is sometimes quite difficult to get used to and the results are only seldom fulfilling all expectations at the first go. Thanks to their tenacity Americans don’t get carried away with backstrokes and keep adjusting until they reach their goal, or at least a large proportion of it. The fastest way is not always the most sustainable one, but redtoo’s success is strongly based on this sustainability, reliability, loyalty and stability. We want to offer our customers those qualities globally and in the long run. I was able to set the basis for sustainable thinking and actions in our US offices through careful selection of staff and partners as well as other means. In return I will – whenever useful – reliably and carefully establish the American pace in Switzerland.
Philipp Oser: I would like to take this chance to thank you for your great effort in the US. It has been a great pleasure to me to master the development of our new subsidiary supported by you and the US colleagues – which I would also like to thank. As the US locations could successfully be developed from this basis, the whole redtoo family and I are more than happy to welcome you back in Switzerland. Probably you have been asked many times over the last few weeks how you feel about your return to Reinach and whether you would have prefered to stay longer in the US.
Christian Karstedt: Well those are the famous two sides of a medal. It’s sad because after a rough start and initial phase we felt quite comfortable in New Jersey, which was amongst other due to our nice redtoo colleagues, many sun hours, the proximity to New York City and the Atlantic Ocean. We will definitely return to visit the country, colleagues and friends. But we are also happy to be leaving the US colleagues with the good feeling that we have set the basis for further growth there.
And we like to return to Switzerland because we are looking forward to the good collaboration with colleagues and customers here. Many new and interesting tasks are waiting for me; hence I’m glad and grateful that our Enterprise team led by Patrick Hofer has taken on most of my previous tasks, such as key account management. Thus I’m ready to focus on highlevel development of the redtoo business strategy together with you and the rest of the management team – in Switzerland and beyond.
I’m looking forward to realize our plans for the further growth. I will contribute my newly acquainted surgency for the new, but always paired with my central European ideas of sustainability and long-term planning.