An interview with Christian Albrings und Steffen Müller
Please introduce yourselves briefly.
Albrings: My name is Christian Albrings and I am 40 years old. I would describe myself as an early riser who loves spending time with his family in the garden and at home. At the University of Stuttgart, I studied civil engineering and architecture before working for ten years with a technical project management company in various roles. During this time, I was able to gain experience in a whole range of different positions – in fact everything from placement student to managing director. However, it was not possible to satisfy my desire for entrepreneurial freedom in any of these positions, with the result that Steffen Müller and I started our own business in October 2015.
Müller: My name is Steffen Müller. I am 35 years old and, as the result of my business administration studies with the focus on corporate finance, I would call myself a classic business economist. The topic of my diploma thesis was project development. After qualifying, I developed a commercial real estate consultancy service for a large-scale real estate consultant. Christian and I got to know each other there. In my leisure time, I am an enthusiastic mountaineer. The feeling of freedom that this generates is really important to me. Presumably, this has to do with the fact that I come from an entrepreneurial family. Ever since I can remember, business was always an important topic at our dining table.
We attach great importance to continuous development – not only to the company as a whole, but also to each individual.
Albrings: Yes, I also experienced this in my childhood and youth. Entrepreneurial thinking means that neither Steffen nor I differentiate clearly between work and leisure time. To put it simply, they are both part of life, and we always try to make the best of both aspects.
When did you come up with the idea of albrings + müller?
Müller: I think it was always obvious to both of us that employment – in whatever form – could never be a satisfactory solution in the long term. When working for our previous employer, it became clear how important a combination of commercial and technical expertise is for the real estate world – and now we incorporate that realization.
And that was your motivation?
Müller: Definitely! Freedom was also one of the main topics! Freedom is always right at the top of my agenda – this applies to everything I do – whether acting or thinking. The driving force for me was being able to maximize this freedom and to realize my own ideas.
Albrings: When our house was being converted I came across our old marriage folder. Before the ceremony the clergyman asked us what our objectives in life were. And so this folder enabled me to see in print that I had written “self-employment” under “medium-term objectives”. At this moment, I once more became very aware, that the time had really come to put this idea into practice. It’s all about freedom for me as well – even if it is always associated with great responsibility.
Müller: More responsibility and less security, too. You have to know how to deal with it; that's entrepreneurial risk – in other words, that’s the price of freedom.
How do you try to give this freedom to your employees?
Müller: We don't have employees, we have collaborators.
And how is this evidenced in everyday work?
Müller: Working with albrings + müller is primarily characterized by a basis of trust – both towards each other and also in terms of our collaborators – and by a maximum of freedom. We do not have any hierarchical structures; instead we work together in groups and teams to which everyone can contribute their particular skills, expertise and qualities. It may sound trite, but, despite the security we provide for our collaborators, we do actually to a certain extent expect everyone to behave in an entrepreneurial fashion.
Albrings: This also applies to careful handling of resources, including our own. We want our collaborators to work in a sustainable way while continuing to develop their expertise. This is the only way in which they can perform well on a long-term basis. That is extremely important to us, as the whole company consists solely of collaborators. Everything that happens within the company happens in the heads of our collaborators. They are our most important corporate asset and, as a result, they are the highest priority.
albrings + müller was founded in autumn 2015. Can you remember the company's beginnings?
Albrings: Yes, of course – very well. We started regular business operations on 1 October 2015. At that time, the operative section consisted of four persons, supported by our assistant and trainees. At Expo Real, the large-scale commercial real estate fair, we were able to present ourselves to the public at the outset of business operations. This immediately resulted in a large amount of enquiries during our first business quarter.
More responsibility and less security, that's entrepreneurial risk – in other words, that’s the price of freedom.
Were you not surprised by the tremendous response immediately after your company’s start-up?
Müller: Naturally we didn’t found albrings + müller in a totally starry-eyed manner. Both of us had been in the real estate sector for quite a long time and were able to rely on a good network. Presumably, many contractors estimated that they could now collaborate directly with proprietors. As a consequence, we were fortunate enough to find rapid market access and experienced a lot of support.
Yes, this positive response in any event provided us with a good start. Unfortunately, we were not initially able to focus fully on acquiring further assignments and on further development of our corporate strategy. There was simply not enough time. Our objective from the outset was not to neglect strategic thinking. When we expanded our collaborator base in February 2016 to such an extent that we had to double our office area, we were finally able to take the time to deal with our corporate identity, the internal organization, the team set-up and our general objectives. These themes are developing continuously. However, it is important for the basis to be correct.
Müller: Developing strategies means setting the course. In which direction should the company develop? What type of expertise is required? What is the business plan like? These are issues on which we spend time. We have also spent more time dealing with our list of clients and extended the initial network quite rapidly.
Albrings: To summarise, it can be said that albrings + müller has up to now undergone two strategic phases. During the initial phase we primarily took on short-term assignments but now we concentrate more on long-term mandates. This also provides a greater level of security.
What motivates you and your collaborators?
Müller: We'll do our best every day, because we want to achieve corporate objectives. Moreover, we want to make a substantive contribution to the market and to continue to enhance the real estate world with exciting projects. I believe that all of us at albrings + müller have extremely high standards in terms of quality.
Albrings: Our collaborators are also motivated by the fact that we seek their opinions regarding company issues and expect them to participate in discussions. We attach great importance to continuous development – this applies not only to the company as a whole, but also to each individual.
How about the future of albrings + müller?
Albrings: At present, our focus is on consultancy projects. In this context, we act as a service provider offering technical and commercial expertise. In the future we intend to focus to a great extent on our own project development. We are currently working on this initiative.
Müller: Exactly, consultancy and development. We are always present with these two mainstays – in good and poor market phases. This means additional security for our clients and for our collaborators. And this is very important to us, as, at albrings + müller, we feel responsible for both.