Confronting protectionism: PIEGA Switzerland betting heavily on exports.
Exporting goods in the face of protectionism – PIEGA Switzerland shows how it's done. CEO Manuel Greiner explains in this video what export barriers PIEGA encounters as a Swiss SME and how the company manages to prosper in spite of them.
Exports crucial to Swiss SMEs
When people talk about a Swiss precision company created by a passion for music, PIEGA SA comes to mind. Over the past three decades, the company has made a name for itself in the field of consumer electronics, becoming the leading Swiss manufacturer of speakers in the medium to upper price range. PIEGA speakers are known for their high quality and elegant design. It's no wonder that PIEGA stopped marketing its first-class products only in Switzerland a long time ago.
"We export roughly 70% of our products," says Manuel Greiner, CEO of PIEGA SA. "The Swiss market is extremely important to us, but it also has its limits. In order to produce at adequate prices, we need the output from our export business." Europe, consisting of not only Germany and Austria but also, and in particular, the Benelux Economic Union and Scandinavia, has traditionally been the primary market for PIEGA. "In recent years, however, Asia has seen strong growth as a market for our products," states Greiner. He adds that Hong Kong has expanded vastly as a target market.
Protectionism and trade barriers putting a drag on business
According to the CEO, the company is also facing increasing challenges to international trade as its exports grow. They have only gotten worse on account of trade barriers and increasing protectionism. He notes that particularly high customs duties and new legislation in the export destinations are making business difficult for PIEGA. In the video, the CEO tells where the company specifically runs into obstacles and how it successfully circumvents them.
The birth of a Swiss SME: Turning passion into a business
PIEGA's success and high number of exports hardly lead one to believe that the company was born in a garage. PIEGA SA was founded in 1986 by Kurt Scheuch, Leo Greiner, and Christian Schmid. Kurt Scheuch and Leo Greiner have an affinity for delicate tones. They also enjoy their music loud as long as the sound is crystal clear. This love of good audio brought the two together, giving rise to PIEGA. Both founders had previously built speakers independently of one another, selling them to friends and acquaintances. Kurt Scheuch was known for speakers with high-quality sound, Leo Greiner for models with appealing design.
Christian Schmid was the one who convinced the two to join forces and turn the passion they shared into a legitimate business. Leo Greiner thought it was a great idea at the time, but they had no money. Nevertheless, that obstacle would not stop them. Christian Schmid's father gave a guarantee to Swiss Volksbank for the young entrepreneurs, and in 1986, Kurt Scheuch and Leo Greiner started developing products together in the basement of Leo Greiner's house. Three years later, they moved into their current headquarters in Horgen. Soon thereafter, they were independent of the bank with no need for any more loans.
Growing with the right financing despite trade barriers
Thanks to innovative entrepreneurship, the company quickly grew and made a name for itself internationally as well. Since 2018, Leo Greiner's sons, Manuel and Alexander Greiner, together with Thomas Müller, have been the second generation running the company. To grow in a way that is healthy in spite of more difficult export conditions, it is also important to have the right financial partner. "We greatly value our partnership with Credit Suisse. We actively communicate with our client advisor, who also rushes to help us on short notice when there is unexpected trouble. Our bank addresses every one of our individual needs," says Manuel Greiner.