The early years in northern Germany
When Bernd Jöllenbeck is born on 16 February 1945, the second world war is in its final throes. His family also suffer from the consequences of war. They own a small convenience store in Weertzen, a village located in the north of Lower Saxony, between Bremen and Hamburg. This store allows the family to support themselves and overcome the hardships of the post-war period. Right from when he is just a child, Bernd always helps out enthusiastically at the store. He seems predestined for this career, and it is expected that he will go on to run the family business.
But life takes a different turn
Right from when he is a youngster, Bernd is aware that society will undergo great change in the 50s and 60s. And these changes will pose huge challenges to his parents’ small store – changes that will likely see the business having no future in its current form. Just like his peers, he completes his compulsory education and his apprenticeship, but then he decides to leave his home town for the first time. With his parents’ blessing, he moves to Hamburg.
From apprentice to company founder
At Dr. Oetker, the young Bernd joins the sales department. In the following years, he hones not only his commercial skills, but also develops the personality that will set him apart as a company founder. Bernd makes a name for himself early on as someone who gives his all to whatever he is doing. He works in field sales for his employer, which gives him the opportunity to not only learn a great deal about the sales activities of a large, international conglomerate, but also to have daily contact with people he is selling products to. This down-to-earth nature coupled with an eye for the bigger picture eventually set him apart as an entrepreneur. But even though he is attracted at the time by the idea of having his own company, he focuses on day-to-day business.
His commitment and talent don’t go unnoticed at Dr. Oetker. Bernd quickly climbs the career ladder, with every door open to him right up to senior management level within the company. Before he even reaches his 30th birthday, he is offered the chance to take over as head of sales for the entire northern region.
Bernd is aware that this would be a huge career leap for him despite his young age. However, in doing so he would lose out on what he likes most about his job: direct contact with people.
With the heaviest of hearts, he decides to decline the offer. He knows that the time has come to establish something of his own. With this in mind, he returns to where it all began.
The initial years
Jöllenbeck GmbH is founded on 1 April 1974. The company’s headquarters are located in Weertzen – in exactly the same building as he spent his childhood. While the small convenience store is no longer there, Bernd starts to build his company. His technology-driven curiosity sets the direction he intends to follow with this company. The electronics market is still in its infancy, and the product categories – which we are all familiar with today – first need to be created. By establishing initial commercial contacts, Bernd is a driving force behind this market right from the outset. He makes a point of addressing partners and customers in person, with the trusting relationships he establishes in doing so forming the basis for his company’s success. Bernd is also a pioneer in terms of business relationships with Asia. Even before the big boom, he already has a partner network in the Far East.
The product offering ranges from aluminium cases for technical equipment and early chess computers to lighting consoles imported from France. Bernd inspects the products himself, testing them extensively before including them in his range, as his name will be associated with them. With many of his product choices Bernd shows a strong flair for spotting trends, putting his company on course for success early on.
Not only does the company Jöllenbeck grow, but so does the family.
Growth and the next generation
Tim Jöllenbeck is born in 1976. Just like his father, he is also closely involved in his parents’ company from a very tender age. The only difference: it is no longer a convenience store. Right from when he is a child, Tim helps to pack electronic components for shipment to customers. This exposes him from a very young age to a wide range of electronic products – and not just as a consumer; like a wide-eyed explorer he pounces on the equipment, trying to figure it out. Virtually just by playing, he gains sound technical knowledge and learns initial programming skills. At the same time, he also learns at first-hand how his father runs the company. As a fourteen year old, he accompanies him on business trips even to Asia, gaining an insight into the manufacturing methods in the Far East and the commercial relationships of his father’s company.
Bernd Jöllenbeck spots his son’s potential early on, involving him in the running of the company. Tim’s keen eye for technology and his flair for figures help him make good product decisions, while always keeping an eye on the bottom line. It becomes increasingly clear that father and son make a formidable team, with each one complementing the other with their strengths. With his analytical approach and smart product decisions, Tim earns the employees’ respect.
Expansion and quality
Jöllenbeck GmbH enjoys continual growth, and becomes an established name in the German electronics world thanks to its commercial partners. This is helped by a sustainable, long-term product policy. The company opts not to rent out a prestigious location; instead, it continues to expand its long-standing headquarters in Weertzen, becoming one of the region’s most important employers. Social responsibility is important to the Jöllenbeck family, which is also highly involved at a local level.
Success also brings with it the need for the company to establish a wider employee base – at all organisational levels. One of the new recruits is Michael Eisenblätter, who joins on 1 February 1994. Bernd Jöllenbeck personally hires Michael Eisenblätter, who also has his roots in Weertzen. He is responsible initially for Sales & Marketing, and soon establishes himself as a key pillar of the company.
With the company not intending to rest on its laurels, Bernd and Tim Jöllenbeck become increasingly dissatisfied by the fact that the growing number of products they evaluate are manufactured ever more cheaply owing to price pressure, and in doing so no longer meet their quality standards. They both source products as if they were the customer themselves who is interested in the product. Ultimately, they reach decision that they should do things themselves when things are to be done correctly.
From Jöllenbeck to Speedlink
With growing responsibility, Tim takes more major product-planning decisions, and is the driving force behind honing the company’s profile Jöllenbeck GmbH initially begins to manufacture its own hardware under the Soundlink label. Soon the label is rechristened Speedlink. This is to make it absolutely clear that the aim is not only to serve the audio market, but all areas of the electronics sector, which are to be supplied with practical accessories: from Gaming, Office, Ergonomic Products and Sound to Home Security. Tim keeps a close eye on ensuring no quality compromises are made, and that customers are offered outstanding products in all areas. The relationships with manufacturing facilities in the Far East, which Jöllenbeck GmbH has forged over the years, are now paying off, and with its mainstay products – such as the first 5.1 surround sound headset – Speedlink quickly establishes itself as a brand with a high level of recognition and excellent reputation among gamers as well as among customers in all other product categories.
Business expansion, fresh experiments and new faces
The trio, comprising Bernd & Tim Jöllenbeck together with Michael Eisenblätter, attach great importance to working in partnership with other companies, and they do not hesitate to strike out into new fields of business. When a partner needs help in selling optical media, they establish First Wise Media to get more actively involved in this field. This label, which was established under the control of Michael Eisenblätter, is still one of the company’s largest brand partners.
This expansion in the line of business is accompanied by a change at senior management level. Hardly anyone knows the internal procedures and personnel better than Michael Eisenblätter, who from now on takes on more responsibility within the booming company. Michael’s main role is to manage First Wise Media, while Tim Jöllenbeck takes care of the Speedlink brand. Coletta Jöllenbeck, Tim’s wife, also gets involved in the family company. In 2001 she begins to build an international sales team. Initially focusing on Europe, the company now has sales channels including in the USA.
The company boomed in the first few years of the 21st century It terms of employer attractiveness, the company is rated highly – with many employees staying with the company for decades. Bernd & Tim Jöllenbeck together with Michael Eisenblätter understand the importance of offering employees a working environment where employees can give their best, while also offering them help wherever it is needed in their personal life.
But in April 2012, almost 30 years after the company’s formation, the business is shaken by the death of Bernd Jöllenbeck.
There is a huge outpouring of sympathy across the region. For the company, the death of the founder has a deep impact; yet all is not lost as Bernd Jöllenbeck has imparted his knowledge, values and philosophy to his son, who from now on manages Jöllenbeck GmbH and its brands together with Michael Eisenblätter.
With the proven dual leadership team of Tim Jöllenbeck and Michael Eisenblätter at the helm, they now manage the business just like the founder intended. Over the decades, the company has continually transformed itself, yet it has always remained true to its roots, strengthened trusted brands and also not shied away from experimenting.
The company still focuses on gaming, with its wide range of peripherals rated highly by gamers – whether they play occasionally or at a competitive level. It also has a broad product range for standard office accessories. At the same time, the company is targeting new areas such as home automation and health – and is always doing so with the same curiosity which set the founder apart.
There, where Bernd Jöllenbeck helped out as a child in his parents’ store, still stands the company’s headquarters. It is now an extensive yet attractive low-rise complex, which tells this company’s exceptional and moving story.
It is a story that will continue to be written. True to the credo: shaping the future.