Holger Behrens, Managing Director at SOA People AG, has been with the company since 1980 and has witnessed and actively contributed to its development. On the occasion of the relocation of the company's headquarters, our colleague Kerstin Eder asked him some questions related to its strategic significance.
In the following interview, Holger Behrens provides exciting insights into the added value of the new location and the factors that led to the company's move from Ettlingen to Karlsruhe Central Station.
Kerstin Eder (K.E.): What were the reasons behind the relocation of the headquarters of SOA People AG from Ettlingen to Karlsruhe?
Holger Behrens (H.B.): The first and main reason is mobility. Previously, the location in Ettlingen was advantageous because employees could easily reach the office by car. Over time, as we grew and hired more young employees, it became less common for them to own a car and commute to work that way. We wanted to address this challenge with the move to a location right next to Karlsruhe Central Station. There is hardly a better mobility connection than the central station, as it provides options for not only cars but also public transportation and bicycles.
The second reason was the shift to remote work becoming the standard during the COVID-19 pandemic and establishing itself successfully. Based on this experience, SOA People has found a healthy balance between working from home and spending time in the office.
Another factor was our situation at the old location. The building structure was over 30 years old, and the layout was not compatible with a new, modern office reconfiguration. So we searched for a suitable area where we could build an attractive new office for our employees. The space near the Karlsruhe Central Station, specifically the water tower, was the perfect fit, and we were able to customize the interior according to our needs.
Additionally, we wanted to better prepare ourselves for particularly hot and prolonged heatwaves. In the new building, we have good insulation, and the ceiling features a professional heating-cooling water system with heat recovery. This ensures a comfortable indoor climate, even during the summer.
K.E.: Great that you could find such a location that fits so well to the needs and expectations of SOA People AG. Did sustainability aspects play as well a role in the location decision and office design?
H.B.: We always consider sustainability aspects in our decision-making. This is also reflected in the design of our new office spaces, starting with small details. For example, we replaced bottled mineral water with a modern water treatment system. All beverage refrigerators have energy efficiency class B. We now source coffee locally instead of relying on an international corporation. Our desks, as well as the overall office furniture and our providers of construction services, primarily come from Germany. However, we don't always succeed in that regard.
K.E.: I see. Do you have a specific example of a less sustainable decision?
H.B.: Yes, actually, it's a funny anecdote as well. We needed several power strips and found a supposedly German supplier from Hamburg. However, the invoice and shipping time indicated that it was more likely a foreign company with a German name, mailbox, and appearance. Ultimately, it turned out that the power strips did come from China, despite our efforts to avoid such sourcing.
K.E.: That's indeed a funny anecdote. Earlier, you mentioned mobility as an important factor in the location change. How will mobility be organized at SOA People AG in the future?
H.B.: In the future, we will only have electric cars as company vehicles. In addition to our fleet of electric cars, we offer our employees access to Stadtmobil and other carsharing services. Furthermore, we promote office attendance by fully sponsoring the 49-Euro job ticket, which provides comprehensive public transportation benefits. It's great to see that many employees actively utilize this offer and have switched to using public transport.
K.E.: Great. Especially those who live close to good public transport connections can benefit from this offer as employees. I myself now commute to work by bicycle and train as well, which was unthinkable at the old location. On a sunny, warm day like today, I have the choice now to come by bicycle.
H.B.: I'm glad to hear that, and it confirms that we have created a significant added value in terms of mobility with the move near Karlsruhe Central Station.
K.E.: Exactly. By the way, April 24th was already the first working day at the new location. How did SOA People AG inaugurate the new office, and how was it received by the employees?
H.B.: We celebrated the first working day at the new location with a big cheers. It was a great feeling when I cut the ribbon at the entrance, and the curious colleagues entered the office for the first time, looking around. It made me very happy to see that they liked the new location and the overall office setup and that they came together to celebrate on that day.
However, this relocation represents a significant change for some employees who, like myself, had been accustomed to the old office spaces in Ettlingen for decades. Therefore, I was especially delighted to receive positive feedback from them.
In the same week, we also organized a brunch for our employees and their family members. This gave the immediate family a chance to get to know the new location as well. We played a video showcasing photos of the different construction phases and acknowledging the employees who were particularly involved in shaping and moving into the new office. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the employees again for their exceptional support, as a timely move into a fully furnished office would not have been possible without them.
K.E.: I can imagine that. Building an entirely new office and relocating there involve a lot of effort that needs to be managed. Have the first customers already visited the new office?
H.B.: Yes, some of our first customers have already visited, and some were truly impressed by the sustainable design. I would like to emphasize that customers and interested parties are welcome to visit our office spontaneously. For example, if they have a longer layover at Karlsruhe Central Station, they can drop by for a coffee or chat.
K.E.: That's nice. Especially in case of train delays, it's good to know that there's an opportunity to visit SOA People for a conversation or simply to work in a peaceful office environment instead of waiting at the Karlsruhe train station within all the noise and rush.
K.E.: Holger, thank you very much for this insightful conversation.
H.B.: The pleasure is mine. It's important to provide more insights about SOA People and the relocation. See you next time!
Holger Behrens, Vorstand der SOA People AG, im Interview mit Kerstin Eder, Marketing Manager Germany, am neuen Firmenstandort.