“I’m Not Looking for Subordinates, Just Real Colleagues” – Dean&David Founder on Employee Engagement and Corporate Culture

How can a young entrepreneur lead a team? What’s the best way to share your vision with your colleagues, and how can you drive your company and your employees to succeed? David Baumgartner is the founder of “dean&david,” a well-known restaurant chain headquartered in Germany. Dean&david is dedicated to offering healthy and freshly prepared food to its customers. Baumgartner is all too familiar with the challenges of starting a company.

After a world tour, Baumgartner returned to Munich with his dream of bringing healthy “fast food” to his home city. In 2007, the first dean&david restaurant location was opened. The menu offered light crisp salads, prepared right in front of the customers, as well as freshly pressed juices, curries, sandwiches and wraps.

This was the beginning of a successful career – today dean&david has almost 50 locations, in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg, and the United Arab Emirates. We had the chance to discuss teamwork, employee engagement, leadership and the start-up spirit with Baumgartner. Find out what challenges Baumgartner had to overcome as a young entrepreneur, and how he manages to lead his team.

I'm Not Looking for Subordinates, Just Real Colleagues - Dean&David Founder on Employee Engagement and Corporate Culture

What does success mean to you?

Professional success, for me, is when I accomplish something that satisfies me. But at the same time, it has to be so useful that it also benefits society, and my employees.

How do you ensure that your team shares your corporate values?

I live our values everyday, and I try to instill this same spirit in every coworker from day 1. In my company, we treasure honest and fair cooperation, flat hierarchies, and a culture of open discussion and conversation. We respect each other, we enjoy our work, and we put a lot of passion in everything we do.

How do you motivate your employees at the office?

I trust my employees, and I give them a lot of power to make their own decisions. They should, and they must, be fully integrated – this means that they should see themselves as entrepreneurs as well, and not just as employees. At [dean&david], there’s a lot of cooperation and openness. This creates a strong sense of belonging. Of course, we also reward our employees with incentives and bonuses.

What does successful people management look like to you? How closely do you work with your employees?

In the office, we all address each other by first names, and everyone can say what they believe. When a colleague needs somewhere to stay, he can stay at my apartment on the couch. I’m not looking for any subordinates, but real colleagues.

Earlier this year, you said that “no employees had left your company in the last decade… at least, no one important.” It seems as though you’ve created a very close team. How did you manage?

Even when a larger company can pay more than us, my colleagues have the ability to participate fully, to put a bit of themselves into the company, and to achieve something. This motivates them more than a check. My coworkers are mostly members of Generation Y, and they know to appreciate their personal space within a company. For this reason – and others – they prefer my company to some of the other “big players.”

The Experteer Magazine staff wants to thank David Baumgarter for this interesting perspective on the topic of successful employee leadership! We hope that the experiences of the dean&david founder inspired not only us, but our readers as well. The question is, what are you waiting for? We wish you success with the next step in your career.

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