The Plan had the opportunity to meet up with Mr. Marc Brunner, inspired and driven second-generation head of Brunner Group, and talk about family business, future of work and the role of design within.
On the eve of its 40th anniversary, Brunner is a family business going through a period of transition that involves two generations. How is the company managing this delicate but fundamental time?
Brunner is a family business specializing in multi-purpose seating. We initially made conference hall and meeting room seating, but today have extended our range to include the office and healthcare sectors. On the eve of our 40th year in operation, the Company’s approach to the delicate transition from the first to the second generation is to involve the whole family. It’s a key choice aimed at maintaining Brunner’s consolidated know-how built up over the years, combining it with a fresher contemporary vision.
How is Brunner managing to maintain its own brand identity as a partner with solid sector-specific experience, but at the same time be an innovative company looking to the future?
I’ve been in the Company now for some 11 years on the design side, and have never lost sight of the fact that our Company’s underlying characteristic is its really strong focus on functionality. So I think Brunner’s real progression lies in an ability to maintain its highly technological focus on esthetics. A beautiful but uncomfortable chair is of no use whatsoever; an ugly but comfortable chair is function; but a beautiful comfortable chair is perfect.
Once rigid and formal, working spaces are now conceived - and hence designed - as flexible, informal places. What is your Company’s response to this change and what, in your view, does the future hold?
History goes in cycles, and the same applies to office furniture and working spaces. There have been times when formality and attention to rules set the tone for the way offices were laid out. Today though, we’re living in a period in which the working environment has become less authority-based and more informal. But I think informality mustn’t be pushed too far – an office is still an office.
What is Brunner’s philosophy? How does it set itself apart from its competitors in the office design and furniture sector? How are these distinguishing features communicated to the final user?
Brunner’s philosophy is grounded in its commitment to create a product with an inherent value added for the end user. Our experts have to be open to constant dialogue and exchange with customers – be they long-standing or still only potential clients – in order to develop solutions on the basis of market analysis and specific customer demands. Only in this way will we be able to stand out from the competition, and only in this way will customers not be obliged to accept what the market offers but rather be able to purchase a product that really fits their particular requirements.
What role do interior designers and distributors play in the way the Company develops its product?
I believe both are an important part of Brunner’s production process. Together with the end user, designers and distributors are the people the Company interacts with in order to conceive, develop and renew its product lines. Today’s interior designers are not just concerned with the esthetic side; they are fully aware that all seating must also be comfortable. Their contribution is therefore of the essence when it comes to developing a product of great refinement that is also efficient, comfortable and therefore useable in the short and long term. Distributors, on the other hand, are the pragmatic players with first-hand knowledge of what works and what does not.
Marc Brunner is an International Business Graduate from European Business School (ebs), calling ESC Lille in France and San Francisco State University, California his international academic stops. Before joining the family business, he added to his professional experience at Roland Berger Strategy Consultants and Porsche AG. Since 2004 Dr. Marc Brunner is Managing Director of Brunner GmbH and takes particular interest in design, art and culture. Brunner stands for clear, functional design and customer-oriented, individual solutions at maximum flexibility. The family business ranks among the five leading contract furniture manufacturers in Europe.