Three key takeaways from UBS Growth Talk #11

  • Invest in a high-quality network with long-term contacts.
  • Expand your business activities by drawing on expertise from your network.
  • Make targeted use of your network to recruit specialists.

They each successfully run a family business in two different sectors: Moritz Schneider is the CEO of the media agency Mediaschneider, while Matthias Gysi heads up the IT full-service provider Multilateral. In UBS Growth Talk #11, the two entrepreneurs talk about how they develop and maintain their networks, what makes a good business network and how it can impact business success.

Watch the talk directly as a video or listen to it as a podcast.

Be open to learning from others

When Matthias Gysi joined Multilateral back in 2004, the company run by his father focused on the transport and tourism industries. Eight years later in 2012 when he took over the reins of the company himself, Multilateral’s sector focus also changed. Today, the company serves clients from the financial sector, often from the realms of banking and insurance. “This change has primarily come about due to my own professional background,” explains Gysi, who completed an IT apprenticeship at a bank and whose previous roles include a period as a software engineer at a major Swiss financial institution. The change of focus undergone by the company has been greatly influenced by the know-how and expertise that Gysi has been able to contribute from his time in the banking sector.

“My network wasn't particularly extensive to begin with – as a young entrepreneur, you often have the feeling that you can take care of everything yourself,” says Gysi, before stressing that you can benefit enormously from exchanges with others. Matthias Gysi therefore started to establish contacts as part of a targeted approach and has also kept in touch with former colleagues and workmates.

The lesson learned: You don't have to do everything yourself. Companies that exchange information and ideas help each other and benefit as a result.

Use our network

Do you sometimes find yourself wondering whether other companies are pondering the very same questions as you? We don’t only support you with financial matters.

Drawing on our extensive network, we offer you solutions to any challenges you many face during your day-to-day activities. Including for issues relating to strategy or expansion, for example.

Build relationships based on trust

Moritz Schneider from Mediaschneider did not have to build his business network from the ground up. Upon taking over the media agency from his father at the start of 2022, he was able to call on existing contacts to some extent. “This opened certain doors for me.” But this isn’t the end of the journey. Instead, you need to invest in your network on an ongoing basis. “Compared to the financial sector, for example, the media industry isn’t huge. People know each other, meaning it is easy to establish initial contacts,” says Schneider. After this point, however, the most important thing is to develop these contacts further. “I try to provide my clients with added value every time I interact with them,” explains Schneider, who shares that he prepares for such meetings in a targeted manner. “Generally speaking, I often ask how things are going for my clients and their company and what concerns and problems they are currently confronted with – even if this has nothing to do with our daily business at present,” he explains. For Schneider, part of this process also involves being self-critical and saying openly when something hasn’t gone to plan. In his view, such personal encounters that take place on an equal footing form the basis for securing contacts that last.

Long-term contacts are also important to Gysi. He doesn't describe himself as “somebody who goes to networking events.” “It is a little like speed dating,” he says. From time to time, however, he does attend panel discussions or other industry events, although he admits that this has “more to do with the drinks receptions” that are customary at such gatherings in Switzerland. Should the opportunity arise, he also enjoys entering into deeper discussions with others in attendance. “I am interested in learning the opinions and experiences of my counterparts. And it is much easier to do so on a one-to-one basis than it is when I talk to 15 different people.”

The lesson learned: To maintain a network, you have to invest in it.

I don't only want to be surrounded by people who think like me. Hearing different opinions and views is valuable for your own personal development.

Moritz Schneider, CEO of Mediaschneider

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Put quality before quantity

Are personal contacts essential? For Gysi, the answer is a clear yes. Regular physical meetings with a few people are more sustainable and fruitful than constantly posting something on social media. This doesn't mean, however, that he doesn’t also use platforms like LinkedIn. “If I am at an event and I see people I know, I can write to them afterwards via LinkedIn and arrange a lunch meeting, for example. This doesn’t allow you to achieve a great reach, but what it does do is facilitate continuity." In the case of Moritz Schneider, it was also never his objective to simply establish a particularly large network. “In the era of digitization, it has become a trend to be linked to as many people as possible. This isn't my goal.” Instead, he prefers to place an emphasis on quality over quantity. For him, the most valuable contacts are those with specific expertise. In his view, this is more important than any influence they may hold. These individuals in turn also have their own networks, meaning that your own business network grows organically, he adds. Schneider also highlights that he pays attention to the diversity of his contacts. “I don't only want to be surrounded by people who think like me. Hearing different opinions and views is valuable for your own personal development.”

The lesson learned: Those who consciously choose their network partners will yield more as a result. Individuals with specific expertise and valuable contacts of their own are beneficial for your own network.

Regular physical meetings are more sustainable and fruitful than constantly posting something on social media.

Matthias Gysi, CEO of Multilateral

Recruiting specialists from your network

An important factor of networking that should not be forgotten is employee recruitment. In the media industry, and especially in the digital sector, it can be difficult to recruit good people with the desired level of experience, says Moritz Schneider. In his view, he is most likely to find suitable specialists through relationships with others. What is the situation in the IT sector, which has found itself particularly hard hit by the shortage of skilled workers? “In my case too, networking is number one when it comes to recruitment,” says Matthias Gysi. He shares that over the past 20 years he has perhaps published two or three job advertisements – all other employees have been recruited via his network. In Gysi’s view, recommendations are always the best way to get good employees into the company.

The lesson learned: When looking for employees, listen to recommendations from your network.

Don’t shy away from the competition

Matthias Gysi’s business network also includes employees who have left the company, started their own business or switched firms. “Generally speaking, these individuals do something similar to us. This means there are often points of reference that allow us to work together on joint projects,” he says. “It has already happened on many occasions that we have been able to put something together as a combined team.” Gysi explains that he therefore doesn’t shy away from reaching out to the competition as network partners. “There are very few competing firms that have an identical offering.” In principle, potential exists here for us to bundle our expertise and expand our own business activities.

The lesson learned: Competing companies that bundle their expertise can achieve more.

Have patience when building your network

One piece of advice that Gysi would like to share with younger companies regarding networking is that “building a business network takes time.” He doesn’t believe in forcing contacts or following up on them again and again and opines that “it is also possible to overstretch a network.” He also shares his belief that it helps when you get a little older, as over time the people within your network will hold ever higher positions and thus have greater influence. Gysi is convinced that those who are open and don’t shy away from confrontation are the ones who will succeed in building a stable network. “Being patient when building a network and investing in it continuously pays off.”

On a scale of one to ten, is networking a prerequisite for business success? Moritz Schneider puts the figure at “six or seven.” “I do think that networking has a big influence. If you need people or are unable to solve a problem, a good network can be a big help.” In Schneider’s view, however, the people in your own company are just as important. He believes that putting all your faith in your network would be the wrong way to go about things. “While your network is one driver of business success, it isn’t the only one.”

The lesson learned: A network doesn't emerge from one day to the next. It needs time to grow.

Portrait of Moritz Schneider

Moritz Schneider

CEO of Mediaschneider

Moritz Schneider is CEO of the media agency Mediaschneider AG. He took over the reins of the company in 2022 from his father, who had run the business for 20 years. Schneider joined the family company back in 2011 and founded the subsidiary Hoy AG in 2016. Before this time, he had held various positions in the advertising industry. Moritz Schneider holds a Master’s degree in Marketing from the ZHAW and a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and the History of the Contemporary World from the University of Zurich.

Portrait of Matthias Gysi

Matthias Gysi

CEO of Multilateral

Matthias Gysi has been CEO of Multilateral, a company that develops IT solutions for the financial sector, since 2012. He took over the company from his father after joining back in 2004. In addition to his role at Multilateral, he is also a Managing Partner at UnRiskOmega AG and PrimeRock GmbH. Before joining Multilateral, he worked as a software engineer at a major Swiss bank. He completed an IT apprenticeship and holds an Executive Diploma in IT Business Management from the University of St.Gallen.

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