D.ate it at Emma Things are a little different than in other companies, you could read for a long time on a wall in the hallway. Where other companies otherwise nailed their department names and organizational charts, there was in the Emma–Headquarters in Frankfurt’s Bahnhofsviertel can be seen in rows with employee portraits. The photos were on wooden strips so that every colleague could rearrange them in passing.
The wall has recently ceased to exist because the management simply can’t keep up with printing the photos. 500 employees Emma at the turn of the year, 200 more than at the beginning of the year. At the beginning of the year, the company initially took over the three upper floors of the previous office building. Another floor recently had to be rented.
Developed in Frankfurt, manufactured in ten factories
The photo wall was a symbol and manifestation of a management philosophy to which the managing directors Dennis Schmoltzi and Manuel Müller have dedicated themselves since the company was founded five years ago: If you want to grow, you have to remain flexible and creative – and that works best without rigid hierarchies, without fixed budgets and without financial performance bonuses.
So far it seems to be working quite well. In 2019, the company had grown from 200 to 300 employees and had almost doubled its turnover to 150 million euros. At the end of 2020 it should be another 90 million euros more. The mattresses developed in Frankfurt, which are manufactured in ten factories worldwide, can now be bought in 25 countries. On the Black Friday weekend at the end of November alone, there is one every two seconds at peak times Emma mattress has been sold, Schmoltzi reports. “That showed that our strategy is working.”
This also includes leaderless leadership. In classic companies there are usually clear structures and decision-making pyramids: the further you go up, the more decision-making power you are granted over staff and budget. Usually there are clear internal rules and regulations as to which amount of money can be spent at which hierarchy level. At Emma if it is different, explains Schmoltzi: “With us, even the intern can decide something and then receive the necessary money for it.” He doesn’t even have to talk to the team leader about it beforehand. All he has to do is send an information email to the accounting department.
The only German exhibitor at the fair in China
In the summer, it became clear that this is not just a theory that sounds nice, but also lived business practice. When four employees of Chinese origin wanted to travel to their families in China, they learned that they were threatened with quarantine there for several weeks due to the Covid 19 pandemic. If you’re already there, you can advertise there right away Emma do, they thought, and registered the start-up at the CIFF furniture fair in Guangzhou.
Emma was suddenly the only western company at China’s most important furniture fair – and received huge advertising banners in the metropolis from the organizers as a thank you. The employees also opened a branch in Shanghai. If they had to go through the leadership pyramid first, it might not have come about, they believe Emma founder. But the colleagues were trusted to know the market.
Everyone can know everything
Such examples also show the founders that budget requirements are unnecessary. “If something makes sense, then we can find the necessary money for it,” says Schmoltzi. Budget limits are constricting, they hinder the necessary investments or seduce you into unnecessary expenditure in order to be granted at least the same budget in the next year.
For a similar reason there are at Emma also no performance-related payment. The managing directors believe that it only works in the first year, and in the second at the latest it is factored in – and it creates frustration and demotivation if it turns out less.
Along with the hierarchy waived Emma also on information monopolies. If everyone is to have a say in decision-making, they have to know everything as possible. That is why monitors are set up all over the floors, on which the current performance indicators are listed, be it daily sales in individual countries or the number of visitors to the online shop. Every Tuesday there is a big update meeting in which all teams report how things are going for them, what they are working on and the challenges they are facing.