A Whirlwind Tour Through German IT and Culture
The two-day exclusive executive-level international event econnect took place on 24 to 25 June in Cologne. The focus of this event was offering our International members and contacts insight into the German IT market – for companies who wish to get a foothold in the German market, or are already on the ground in Germany but hope to get a better understanding of German business culture. The event brought together 22 IT professionals from 6 different countries, and was supported by interesting and knowledgeable contributions from twelve German specialists, with tours, demonstrations and hands-on activities, talks, and plenty of opportunities for relaxed networking.
Cologne Cathedral & nobeo
The tour began with a brief visit to the magnificent Cologne Cathedral, home to the tombs of the famed Three Wise Men, led by Roland Broch, Head of Member Development at eco, before heading to the satellite town Huerth, just south of Cologne, to visit the studios of the television service provider nobeo. At nobeo, participants got to see the studio where the German version of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” is produced, as well as seeing their outside broadcast van and trucks, the smaller of which, @car, made an appearance the following evening to provide the streaming of the eco Internet Awards. Jürgen Köllen, Head of Sales at nobeo, welcomed the tour party, and then his colleague René Steinbusch, Head of Organisation and HR, explained the complexity of directing live sporting events, the growing needs for data storage, and the pros and cons of IP-based broadcasting. Participants asked questions relating to the technical infrastructure, length of delays in live broadcasting, the possibilities for viewers to take control of the directing process, and much more.
On location at nobeo, Lars Steffen, from Member Services at eco and responsible for the eco Names & Numbers Forum, explained to the group the value of having a local domain name (such as .de, or one of the new gTLDs like .cologne or .berlin) for companies wanting to be active in the German market. For local searches, according to Steffen, a local top-level domain has a considerable impact on search results. And with such a large number of geographical top-level domains in Germany, this can provide companies with a competitive advantage. This was followed by a talk by Rosa Hafezi, from the eco legal team, on some of the more important legal issues in Germany, such as the very strong data protection laws, and how to handle cross-border employment contracts. Rosa provided several links to further information in English, and recommended the eco Directive for Permissible e-Mail Marketing, which can be accessed by contacting her at email@example.com. She also reminded eco members that they are eligible for yearly legal consultations on German and European law through the eco lawyers.
A second station on the tour was planned for later in the afternoon, and the bus returned to the Cologne Rheinpark, to be welcomed by the sunshine, a view of the River Rhine and the city center, and two further speakers. Michael Frey, of Frey International Business Consulting GmbH explained to participants how important it is to understand the culture of the different regions in Germany. Where a handshake deal might work effectively in Hamburg, a historic port city, business is done very differently in a city like Munich. His message was clear that having a person on the spot, someone with a strong network and someone who knows the local culture, is very important.
Klaus Landefeld, Managing Director of nexiu GmbH and Board Member at DE-CIX and eco, then gave an overview of the current state of German and European legislation affecting the telecoms industry. He talked about the problems with Blanket Data Retention, Net Neutrality, liability concerns for Wi-Fi operators, and other burning issues on the German market.
The first day finished in the cellars of one of Cologne oldest restaurants, where traditional German food and drink was enjoyed, and further talks, by Gerd Simon, Independent Management Consultant and Internet pioneer, Vincenz Wagner from Enterprise Ireland, and Judith Ellis from eco, gave further insight into German culture.
Key points that were made were that Germans need to feel secure about their business partners:
- offers need to be very well prepared, flexible, offer something “extra”
- the “hard sell” will not work
- money is not always the most important bargaining point
- Germans look for long-term business relationships, and need to know you can continue supplying the same quality at the same price into the future
- it takes time and energy to build a relationship with German business partners
- appropriate professional appearance, behavior and punctuality are important to show that you are a reliable business partner
- social activities and jokes should wait until after the business meeting – business first, fun will have to wait.
- The full agenda
- Lars Steffen: “Local Domains for the German Market”
- Rosa Hafezi: “Practical Legal Tips for German Business Market”
- Detlev Artelt: “Use your local spy”
- Rolf Claessen: “Trademarking in Germany & Domain Phishing”