In conversation with: Steffen Hoffmann
Steffen Hoffmann, President of Bosch UK gives a personal insight into some of the most important lessons he has learned in business, the pivotal moments in his career and advice when facing challenges in technology and company transformation
Reading Time: 10 Minutes
What are the most important lessons you’ve learnt in business?
Maybe these three:
- 1 Nothing beats a diverse team with the right people in the right positions.
- 2 You need to familiarise yourself with the facts, but often you need to trust your gut feeling.
- 3 Growth fixes everything (well, almost).
How did you decide to pursue the career that you are working in today?
I joined Bosch because I had always been interested in automotive technology and because I wanted to work in an international environment. I don’t think you can really plan a career. You just give your best in whichever position you are, and then you have to be in the right place at the right time to make the next step.
What was a pivotal moment in your career?
Oh, there were a few. The most important one was probably when I had to manage a fairly large merger & acquisition project in Japan. That involved me with so many new topics, outside contacts, extensive international travel and lots of work. But it gave me huge satisfaction and a lot of visibility in the company.
What would you say is the area in business that you are most passionate about and why?
Business development, identifying new products, services, customers and business models. Why? Growth fixes everything (almost).
What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
My father fled East Germany in the late 1950s with all of his belongings fitting into one suitcase. Compared to that, I can hardly talk about risks that I have taken. Probably it’s the big life decisions: Which university? Which employer? And probably the most important one: Which partner? I have to say I’ve been lucky with all of these.
What challenges do you anticipate for your company/industry in the coming years?
First, challenges almost always come with opportunities. The major trends are globalisation and digitalisation. The speed in which technology is developing can be mind-boggling. We need to spend a lot on R&D, and you can’t spend money on everything. You have to make the right choices.
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Resist the temptation to stay in the same job for a very long time. Leave your comfort zone and try to do many different jobs in many different parts of the world. Sometimes you don’t even have to change the company for that.
What are your favourite cities and attractions in Germany and why?
Oh, that is a difficult one. There is simply so much to see. Probably it would be the mountains and lakes in the south of Germany. Even though I have lived outside of Germany for more than 20 years of my life, I still feel very connected. It is home.
What do you appreciate about the British and what could the British learn from the Germans?
The social and communication skills, the deep-rooted feeling for fairness, pragmatism, allowing a bit of humour into an otherwise serious business discussion. What could the British take in? Maybe some exposure to German autobahn driving would not be a bad idea.
What’s your favourite German word and why?
It used to be ‘Muenzfernsprecher’, but that is a bit out of date. Now it’s probably ‘Gelassenheit’, and I don’t think there is a really good English translation for that.
How do you relax?
Playing golf. Thinking about and driving classic cars. Travelling with my family.
We trust you will be engrossed in your search for the translations of Steffen’s favourite German words– it is worth it!
Further articles from the ‘In Conversation with’ series, including a holistic three-part interview on diversity, transformation and importance of educating the younger generation from Bosch executives Arun Srinivasan and Maurizia Bagnato.