A part of the Record family – at work and at home!
As well as spending over 30 years of his career at Record, Michael Hirt is married to Patricia Hirt-Bunzl, daughter of founder Helmut Heinz Bunzl. Clearly, his bond with Record runs deep, so we asked him to reflect upon his time here.
Michael, you spent much of your professional life at Record. When did you join the organization?
I started in 1989, so by the time of the merger I was the old fossil of the company! I started in export administration and I went through a lot of different jobs after that. I was assistant to the CEO, then I was based in Paris as a liaison between our headquarters and our French subsidiary. I came home after that, to be managing director of Record Switzerland for about five years. I also sat on the executive board, first as CMO and then as MD for Eastern Europe. I was on the executive board for 15 years, right up until the merger.
You must have seen a lot of changes over the years.
Of course, yes. Looking back, I can see clear eras at the company. There was the Helmut Heinz Bunzl era, when the company was small
enough to be led by a charismatic owner. He founded the company and expanded it, and he was smart enough to see that as the company grew, it would need to become more professional. That led to a new era with Hubert Jouffroy as CEO. He introduced the STA 16 which was a major breakthrough for us, both technically and in terms of shaping our future. Then in the 17 years under Stefan Riva, we became a more professional and even more international group. And finally, in the latest era as part of ASSA ABLOY we became jointly the clear global market leader.
It’s often difficult for company founders to step back, but it seems that Helmut Heinz Bunzl handled it well.
He did it really, really well. He stepped back from his role as managing director, then as chairman, then finally from his R&D role. He gave up these positions to people who were younger and more familiar with new technologies.
As the company grew, he saw that it really needed a team of managers to move forward. In the last, say, 17 years before the merger, the executive board worked very closely. It was real teamwork between the 8 of us, and we’re still good friends who meet up whenever we can.
Was it still a family business after Mr Bunzl stepped back?
It was important to my father-in-law that the family would continue to have some influence, so his daughter Michèle represented the family on the board of directors for many years, and I sat on the executive board. The other two sisters, were involved too. Christiane, the oldest daughter,
worked alongside me in marketing for a few years. My wife, Patricia, is a graphic designer, and she helped out with jobs from time to time. The daughters were all shareholders, so they were also involved in a lot of major decisions.
The biggest decision must have been the merger with ASSA ABLOY?
Yes, that was mostly a decision between the four main shareholders, including the three daughters. We saw it as a chance to change the company in way that benefited everyone. A lot of people are still there and now part of the ASSA ABLOY Group, especially senior management, which is a positive thing. It also ensured that we would continue to have offices and production in Fehraltorf which was important to us all.
I expect it was an emotional moment, especially for Michèle, Christiane and Patricia
Record was a part of the daughters’ lives since they were born. But it was a good time to open a new chapter. And we knew that ASSA ABLOY would help Record to continue as a brand and as a team, so it was a super decision for everyone.
Why do you think that Record has been successful for so long?
I think there’s been three pillars of success. In the 1990s, we moved to more modular concept. Starting with the STA 16, we introduced a common base for our sliding doors, swing doors and revolving doors. That created a lot of synergies, gave us a lot of purchasing power and really changed the way we operated. The second pillar was the focus on the customer, service and maintenance. We developed it professionally, moved into preventive maintenance, improved the longevity of our products, and gave our customers more security and confidence in their doors.
The third was to enlarge our network. We increased our international reach, but we also expanded into installation and maintenance. All three combined made us stronger.
Are there any values or principals that Record continues to represent?
Fairness has always been at the heart of our business, and that goes back to our founder. It was always about offering the best products and services. Satisfied customers guarantee the development of the company, so we strived for excellence and I think that philosophy is still there.
It was important that we weren’t only fair to our customers, but also fair to our employees. I’m really happy that, as part of ASSA ABLOY, that’s become even wider. We can now offer more opportunities, more positions and better training as part of a larger group.
It certainly sounds like you’re happy to have spent so much of your working life with Record.
Yes, and I’m thankful to my father-in-law for giving me the chance of a lifetime. Thanks to my wife too, for staying with me during the times when I travelled abroad so much! I’m especially happy and proud that the Record brand name is going to continue. You’ve got such a strong image,
around the globe!