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Interview with Bjørn Christ, President of ReSound US

Bjørn Christ

December 3, 2007
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Topic: ReSound US Overview
Dr. Paul Dybala: Hello everyone, this is Dr. Paul Dybala with Audiology Online, and today I have Bjørn Christ, the new President of ReSound US (www.gnresound.com). We are having him on today to learn more about ReSound US and his new role. Bjørn, welcome, and thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. Please start by telling us how you came to be the president of ReSound US.

Bjørn Christ: Thank you Paul. I am very happy to be able to convey some ideas and visions for ReSound to Audiology Online.

As for my history, before I joined ReSound, I was working as a senior manager for McKinsey & Company, a strategy consulting firm that operates on a global scale. It is not the largest of consultancies, but it is a place where you definitely learn business strategy and problem solving in general.

I enjoyed my three or four years there. It certainly gave me a very sound perspective on how to solve business challenges. I also saw many, many industries. I worked in oil, beer, consumer goods, telecommunications, and even in the public sector; therefore, I have many benchmarks from other industries that I, from time to time, draw on when I am faced with issues in this industry.

To discuss my years in the hearing industry, I believe that it was in 2002 that I worked in the U.S. for ReSound, in Minnesota. Before that and also shortly after, I worked in Europe in a number of different countries, but mostly Scandinavia, Austria, and Germany.

I was then transferred to Japan where I was the general manager for Resound. My task was to grow our market share there, specifically, to double our market share. When I went to Japan, we had a 5% market share. I am very happy to be able to report that when I left a little less than four years later, we had at least doubled that.

Dybala: Were there any unique challenges in working in Asia, versus working in the US or Europe?

Christ: Yes! I learned quite a bit in Japan, from a personal growth perspective, because I do not speak Japanese. I only muddled through in Japanese. Imagine running a subsidiary in another country. You cannot speak to the customer or even most of the people in the organization because they speak another language. You cannot read the signs at conventions from the competitors and suppliers because they are in Kanji. When you look at the financial reports, you cannot even read your own product names, because even the basic names that we all know in the U.S. or Europe, are written in different characters over there.

Basically, you cannot micromanage your way through organizations in Japan. You have to run your organization the way that all organizations should be run, namely through the principles of identifying and attracting great people, providing them with the tools and the trust to get the job done, and then to coach. You will never know the facts the way they do; therefore, you are forced to be humble and listen to your employees.

Generally, I think that is the sensible thing to do, not to force your own will; teams are always better than individuals. It worked very well in Japan, and it was rather interesting to me to see that the idealized principles for running a company actually work.

I think most people never get to that point, because they get into situations where they are frightened; therefore, they start to question their employees too closely and they start doing their jobs for them. I have seen that is not necessary. It is better not to. It is better to lead.



Dybala: In terms of your new role, what are your goals for ReSound in the upcoming months to years?

Christ: Our goal is to broaden our services to dispensing audiologists and help them- from students to experienced practitioners- towards a fulfilling personal and professional life in the field of hearing.

For example, one thing that manufacturers are not offering right now is assistance to audiologists in networking for practice succession. There is a need in the market to help people who own practices and want to retire and people who want to own a practice but do not have the money to get in there. There is a need for manufacturers to facilitate that connection with finance and/or networking assistance. This is just one example of the broadened offering that we are definitely going to bring to the market.

Dybala: Do you see any changes in the personnel for ReSound US?

Christ: There are certain additions to our organization that I will undertake, such as the addition of a permanent position for a VP of Audiology who will be managing 30 or 40 audiologists up here at ReSound headquarters in Bloomington, Minnesota. The purpose of this position will be to increase the awareness of our company at all the teaching institutions, conventions, seminars, and so on and so forth that we have going on around the country.

Dybala: Previously, you had talked about how you had worked in other hearing aid markets outside of the US. What challenges do you see for the ReSound US compared to ReSound in other worldwide markets?

Christ: In comparison to some of the other markets I have operated in, I am seeing less of an awareness of our brand than I would like. In Japan, we are the third biggest manufacturer, and I cannot see why we should not be that here. I think about and beyond the product; service and quality is key. I am concentrating very hard on the customer experience.

I actually think it is more important than the product, or at least on par with the product, that the customer experience is great. Customer service is something that we can and will work on.

From my time in Japan, I am now quite focused on quality. At Volvo in Japan, they use twelve coats of paint where in the rest of the world, they use only nine coats of paint. That is because the Japanese are very particular with that. I have become very particular with quality; therefore, I will be reviewing our product pipeline at all points and launching only when I feel that the quality is on par with the best in the market.

Dybala: Do you have any special challenges that you are facing due to the cancelled merger with Sonova?

Christ: We do, but there are some advantages to this as well. We have had, you can say, an inability to launch as many products as we would like during the merger process. We have a lot of backed up product that needs to be introduced to the market. The fortunate situation that I have is deciding what goes to the market first. In addition to the great new products and innovations that we are going to bring to the market, I am very happy to be able to say that we can get back to the ReSound legacy of really changing the market on the product side.

If you remember, it was ReSound that originally came out with the Air, initiating the open fit concept. That made a substantial change in the market. Next year we are ready to do something similar, which I am looking very forward to.



ReSoundAIR

Dybala: It is going to be exciting to see all the new things that will be coming out this next year, and I am sure we will be covering that on Audiology Online as well. With that, we are out of time today; however, I am sure we will be talking to you again soon. Thank you for your time.

Christ: Thank you, Paul.

More about ReSound

With the recent release of the Azure, ReSound's newest development in hearing technology, and the partnering with Miss America 2005, Deidre Downs, as a spokesperson in 2006, ReSound has maintained their position in the hearing industry. Deidre Downs was the official ambassador of Sound Effects, ReSound's hearing health campaign encouraging hearing protection. For more information on this marketing campaign or ReSound's product line, visit www.gnresound.com or the Audiology Online ReSound web channel.
NEW 4-part series presented in partnership with the National Acoustics Lab | October 5, 12, 19, + 26 | 5:00 pm EDT | Course Typ


Bjørn Christ

President of ReSound US