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Evolving the family business: Oliver Stulz

Oliver Stulz Managing Director of STULZ GmbH

Oliver Stulz, a third-generation member of the STULZ family business and now its managing director, is driven by a desire to understand the business in all its global variations. After graduating in business from the University of Hamburg, Oliver went abroad, working with STULZ’s sales and service partners in Japan and at a branch in France before spending close to a decade in the US heading up the production and manufacturing side of operations.

“We are a one-stop shop for mission-critical cooling,” Oliver says, but reaching this position involved a recent overhaul of the company’s business model. After witnessing a dramatic change in the market for STULZ’s business in the US, Oliver knew there was a need for STULZ to diversify its offerings to compete with increasing numbers of manufacturers, offering different solutions, the introduction of modular data centres and high-density solutions, and the growing influence and presence of cloud providers like Microsoft and Google.

He returned to the STULZ headquarters in Germany six years ago, determined to focus on three main areas he had identified as crucial to the company’s growth. An initial plan to focus on strengthening STULZ’s core business (that is, data centre cooling) was underlined by the changing market; in response, attention turned to acquiring companies to add additional products to its portfolio that STULZ could not develop on its own, enabling it to strengthen its market position building on its existing customer base.

Oliver Stulz Managing Director of STULZ GmbH

The second area of focus was to diversify, based on these new acquisitions – for instance, to use air handling units not only for data centre cooling, but for other industrial applications as well.

Finally, STULZ committed to encouraging open and regular communication within its global organisation. Oliver had learned from his time at company headquarters and overseas that increased communication leads to increased efficiency. “I have always been interested in discovering where I could get the necessary information on what makes people tick,” he says. “On the communication side, this knowledge gives me a significant advantage.”

“We are a one-stop shop when it comes to data centre cooling.”

Considering STULZ’s future, Oliver says the data centre business is a great one to be in at the moment, but admits that “you never know what kind of technological changes might occur”. STULZ’s interest in acquiring new companies will put the company in a good position to meet such changes, but these procurements come with a corresponding challenge: talent acquisition.

“In a growing market,” Oliver says, “one of our biggest challenges is being attractive to talent. Our global sales, service and protection network is first-class, but to maintain our quality standards, especially in terms of growth, we are constantly on the lookout for fresh and outstanding minds.”

Oliver is taking the company forward with an awareness that external negative influences such as trade wars, new environmental laws, sanctions, exchange rate and interest rate fluctuations, which can pose a challenge, must be dealt with quickly. He is also closely following new technical developments. He remains confident that STULZ will be able to leverage valued relationships with suppliers to maintain its strong market position.

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“We nurture our relationships with suppliers,” Oliver says. “To provide for and excel with our customers, we need our suppliers to do the same thing, in terms of quality standards, lead time, and after-sales service.” It is not unusual for STULZ to develop key components of its units in partnership with suppliers, who test and analyse these components, helping STULZ create the highest quality products for its customers.

With a dramatic shift in the kinds of cooling solutions sought in the marketplace, Oliver has overseen a necessary reinvention of the company that has seen it widen its offerings from computer room air-conditioning units to include air handlers, micro and modular data centres, high-density cooling, direct contact liquid cooling, and even software solutions. This reinvention has occurred alongside the long-established family values that have underpinned the company’s past success, and it continues to invest in fostering relationships between its teams working across the world.

“We have kept the values of the family-run business, while at the same time changing our organisation to allow us to step up our game,” Oliver says. “One of our advantages over our competition is that we’re not only a family business, but we also possess a family spirit.”

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