“A Design Piece” – Interview with Boris and Dorian of QUADRO, plus a Special Guest!
Dorian loves to bring his lunch packed in a Peppa Pig lunch box. Boris wears shorts to work every day from March to November. This interview reveals what else is unique about these two QUADRO employees, what they think about QUADRO, and what the CEO has to add.
How long have you two been with QUADRO already?
Boris: Since 2005, with a few interruptions, but actually for my whole life. I completed a practicum for school at QUADRO in the 1990s, and before that I was also in photos for advertising.
Dorian: I’ve been here since April 15, 2019.
How do you remember that so precisely?
Dorian: I have a good memory (laughs).
And why are you here?
Dorian: I need the money (laughs). No, but seriously, my background is in e-commerce and I applied for a marketing position at QUADRO. The very next day I got a call back and the day after that I went in for an interview – it was a very long and interesting conversation.
For which respective areas are you responsible?
Dorian: Quite a wide variety: I oversee all of the marketing channels worldwide, including the online shops, and I’m the initial contact person for distributors abroad – together we come up with marketing measures and I implement them. But I’m also sort of a jack of all trades. But that’s the case for Boris as well.
Boris: That’s right. I’m also not sure where I should start in terms of my responsibilities – there’s nothing around here that I haven’t done so far. Right now I’m primarily responsible for operational and strategic purchasing at QUADRO. In fact, because I have so many years of experience, I advise my colleagues almost every day about many issues and share my knowledge.
In your opinion, what is special about QUADRO?
Boris: Because I have grown up with these products since I was little, my opinion is certainly not very objective. Over the years it became increasingly clear to me that the quality is simply the absolute best – particularly since now I have a daughter myself. Then there’s the variety. And the fact that in the meantime we’re working against what have unfortunately become normal marketing mechanisms; I mean we’re working against the throwaway society and total consumerism. That’s where QUADRO simply stands out because the products are durable and most of the time they last for a child’s whole life. You can see that in our customer base as well: I think the majority of our customers are familiar with QUADRO from their own childhood days. People want to pass the emotions they connect with QUADRO on to their children, to give them that same delight. In general, you just can’t break these things, and the length of our guarantee – which we could have chosen by just throwing a dart – reflects this durability.
Dorian: I can also add the newest development taking place right now at QUADRO: QUADRO Nature. We’re carrying on the 40-year company tradition with QUADRO Nature while adding more innovative product features. QUADRO is more than a jungle gym: it can also be useful in the area of urban gardening – but not only that! The idea is fabulous: We have a panel, a connector, and a tube, and we can basically make anything with them – like furniture, for example. Or trade show stands. I don’t know of any other product, even beyond the toy category, that offers such limitless variety.
Since November 2020, QUADRO comes in new colors: berry, mint and petrol. The Home series includes all three. How did this development come about?
Dorian: When the idea of new colors came up, everyone was pretty pleased at first. Long before my time, QUADRO was red and black, but then it became more colorful – with the four classic colors we all know so well. But when we said, “We want to develop new colors for indoors,” everyone was excited. Actually, we had received feedback from a variety of areas indicating that customers wanted additional pastel colors. In that respect, we had struck a chord. And I could understand why. We had colorful QUADRO at home: My daughter and I had tremendous fun with it – but not my wife; she wanted to have QUADRO in the same colors as the interior furnishings, colors which were rather calming, and most of all, refined. In the meantime, the kit has been moved to my wife’s parent’s yard, and my daughter and I often head over there to slide and play. But after the Home colors became available, QUADRO was allowed to move back in at our place. – The Home colors, as they are now known, were the brainchild of Ines, our team leader for print media and product development. It was really a lot of hard work, and in the end, it was truly a team achievement that we can all be proud of. And I’m very satisfied with the result.
Do you have anything to add, Boris?
Boris: I was very happy to finally have something different after all these years (laughs). It was pretty cool, actually. Now QUADRO is kind of a design piece, a unique tool for designing jungle gyms or furniture that’s now been enhanced with a few sophisticated pastel colors.
What can you tell us about the QUADRO company philosophy?
Boris: Many are amazed that QUADRO is entirely “Made in Germany”. In addition to the quality aspect, this way we can affect the production process much more directly. The second emphasis is customer satisfaction: You will never have satisfied customers if you offer a product that has to be thrown out after just one season. Our customer care goes far beyond the actual purchase. When the product is bought, the transaction is far from over; in fact, it’s just beginning. For example, we offer a free model database with countless construction suggestions for building the jungle gym again and again in completely new ways if the children want something new or if their motor skills have developed to a new stage. By the way, that’s a great feature. You don’t always have to buy everything new; instead, it can simply be redesigned together with the family. That’s why we have the model database. This feature preserves both the environment and the contents of your wallet.
Dorian: Our philosophy also includes listening closely in order to understand and address our customers. Based not only on direct feedback in emails, but also through our communities in various countries. QUADRO employees are there; they read customer questions and respond to them. In almost every country where QUADRO is sold there’s an option for contacting employees directly. We take the things customers tell us very seriously and discuss them thoroughly. Before, we couldn’t see what our customers had in their yards and the difficulties they were confronting there – but maybe it’s really quite easy for us to solve that problem. Direct contact with our customers allows us to understand them much better.
Is it an advantage for those who work at QUADRO to have children?
Boris: Absolutely. Your perspective changes completely when you have a child. Before, QUADRO was something I was familiar with from my childhood – but as a child, I wasn’t really conscious of the phases in my life where QUADRO was present. And that was still true even after I had grown up. But that changed when we had our own kids at home. Since then I can gauge their needs and what they can do much better. For example, in addition to the five basic kits that were developed decades ago – My First QUADRO, Starter, Basic, Junior, and Universal – just a few years ago we created the Adventure, Evolution, and Beginner kits. The kits include half panels, 15 cm tubes, and a clever part structure, which makes them appropriate for children from the age of 6 months and up. Children who are 6 to 12 months old can’t always make it up a whole step that is taller than 25 cm. With the newer giant construction kits we’re meeting the needs of a younger target group. The fact that many of my colleagues have children gave us a direction for this development.
Dorian: Both of my daughters help me understand our customers better. I gain experience by watching how they play with QUADRO.
Is there a situation at QUADRO that is particularly memorable to you?
Dorian: I think Boris could talk about this for hours now...
Boris: That is almost certainly true. But I’ll talk about just one: In the 1990s, I drove all over Europe together with our current CEO in a van – at dozens of local Toys “R” Us stores we installed QUADRO displays, including advertising posters, and then inserted the QUADRO construction kits into the displays. That was actually some pretty cool work.
Falk: Guys, don’t let me interrupt you. I’m just here for a minute. But I have to add a little something here: Boris and I, we were driving around at that time with VW van full of QUADRO displays. We were 18 or 20 and of course we were completely lost; we ended up somewhere between Austria and Switzerland on top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere. It was pitch dark. The way down included lots of switchbacks. Because the van was so heavy and we were going too fast, the brakes became so hot that we had to resort to braking with the engine. The brakes faded so badly that we were really in serious danger. If there had been oncoming vehicles, we would have totally crashed right into them. But we made it down safely and got out of the van immediately, loaded with adrenaline. I remember well that we held the map – back then there still weren’t any navigation systems – in front of the van’s brake discs, which were glowing so brightly that we could read the map perfectly. From a few meters away, the van looked like a pole-position Formula 1 car at night just before a curve. Crazy! In addition, at that age we weren’t all too finicky about how we treated the vehicle or how we listened to music. When we returned the van, a rental, we received some feedback a few days later: The rental company was shocked at the vehicle’s condition. The gist of the message was that the entire van was totally trashed: the brakes, speakers, and tires showed wear and tear that should have occurred over years – not just weeks. Moreover, the turbocharger was leaking. That was intense – but no one could have stopped by all the Toys “R” Us stores any faster than we did. Okay, guys. I’m out of here.
Dorian: I have another story! In March 2020, at the beginning of the first lockdown, the amount of orders went through the roof because all of the child care centers and playgrounds were closed. This increased demand, which was already quite high, even more quickly. At first we were happy that we had so many additional orders – until it became clear that we also had to process them. We worked a lot of night shifts, even on the weekends, when the children were already in bed, because we didn’t want to let our customers down. That was an inspiring period because it helped the team grow even closer.
What are your respective favorite products? And which ones do your children especially like?
Dorian: The QUADRO giant construction kit.
Which one, exactly?
Dorian: All of them!
Boris: That would have been my answer too. It’s hard for me to name anything specific. But the kids absolutely love the Slip and Slide extension. That’s a product that’s really underappreciated. First of all, the plastic film is really thick, which gives it unbeatable quality. It’s a real highlight for the children: The thing is six meters long and there’s water flowing over it – the kids run up to it, jump onto it, and slide. Right away they start competing to see who can slide the farthest. And the extension can also be used like a pool.
Dorian: For me, it’s the combination of kit and slide that’s really great. And the possibility to apply your own creativity and build something out of the individual elements. You can actually become an architect. That’s really exciting.
Boris: My daughter thinks everything is cool – no matter if it’s a small cube or a huge castle. And sliding, of course, is always popular.
Here’s another completely different question: What is this QUADROpro exactly that’s on the website?
Boris: In terms of components and quality, it’s no different than normal QUADRO. It’s just that there aren’t any kits; QUADROpro is for an entirely different target group. You can buy individual kits or combine them with other kits, a slide, and extensions. With QUADROpro, you select a certain specific model based on size and what you want. It was originally developed for professional use; that is, for kindergartens, child care centers, automobile dealers, or waiting rooms – that’s why we included “pro” in the name. Professional applications require completely different models than those which are used privately in living rooms or yards. Most of the structures are also much larger. This range also includes pool platforms that we provide under the QUADRO Aqua brand.
Boris, what developments have you noticed in your years at QUADRO? What has changed?
Boris: Everything! First of all, the product itself has been under continuous development, also in terms of quality. But a lot has also changed in the company itself. From the restructuring at the beginning of the 2000s to a few relocations – and at some point we arrived in the opulent office in Hamburg-Bergedorf, our current site. Then the rapid growth in turnover in recent years.
What other plans do you have at QUADRO and with QUADRO? Where do you see QUADRO in the future?
Boris: Of course, we would like QUADRO to continue to grow internationally and to capture as much of the market share in other countries as possible.
Dorian: Precisely. Our goal is to make QUADRO known throughout the world so that children everywhere can play with it. The greatest challenge here, however, is logistics. We’ve been inspired by people who make completely different things with QUADRO than what we had originally planned. Little by little we keep coming up with new ways to use QUADRO. It might sound funny when you’re looking back on more than 40 years of company history, but to us it feels like we’re really just beginning the journey with QUADRO now.
Thank you both for talking with us!