»We are a digital media group«
This statement from Markus Reithwiesner, CEO of the holding company of the Haufe Group, sums up a comprehensive transformation— and points to one of the rare success stories in the publishing and media industries in the last century.
Known as a specialized publisher that made its name with loose-leaf publications, the family-run company has evolved into a successful provider of digital workplace and enterprise solutions. Nowadays, the Haufe Group generates 95 percent of its revenues from digital products, such as online services for HR managers, accounting apps for independent contractors, and internet portals for tax experts. Demand for these online products is high, and has been driving double-digit growth for years now. The sales data reflect this as well. In 1990, the Haufe Group reported 50 million euros in sales; today, sales have reached nearly 300 million euros. The number of employees has increased from 330 to 1500. These figures send a clear signal.
What made Haufe seek change— and more importantly, how did the company successfully implement this transformation?
The trigger was recognizing early on that the traditional business model threatened to crumble in the medium-term. The wave of digitalization has been more than obvious in the media and publishing industries. New technologies and changes in how media are consumed— faster, more mobile, more interactive— have triggered a radical break of historic proportions, forcing other media companies into existential crises. Revenues continue to dwindle, while new business models that take changing market conditions into account are still in rare supply. Haufe's management quickly realized that change was the only chance for survival.
Haufe had to
One major factor here was the acquisition of the software company Lexware, which enabled the Haufe Group to significantly expand its digital expertise in the 1990s.
The expansion of the product portfolio with digital workplace solutions opened up a new business segment for the company— in perfect sync with the times. Instead of theoretical information, customers wanted electronic tools that would make their everyday work life noticeably simpler. Apps, software programs, and social media platforms were in demand. This different array of products required a new way of thinking at the company. The paramount question became: What will help customers to work more successfully? The era of editors racking their brains over content alone was over.