“I’m most looking forward to seeing the reaction from our customers”
Your doors are set to open in June 2021. What’s the situation at the moment?
Like many others, we have had to adjust our plans due to Covid-19. The protective measures on the construction site are slowing things down. This means that we won’t be able to take over the building as its operator until summer 2021. However, some areas have now entered the final straight: the industrial kitchen is nearly finished – this has been entirely redone. Restoration of the magnificent concert hall is also largely complete, and the new organ is being installed at the moment. In the restaurant, we’ve moved onto the interior fitout, and you can already see that it's going to be spectacular! Of course, we’ve got many other rooms and areas, and the amount of progress that has been made on each varies considerably – some are just missing their technology, others have only just had their floors laid.
Is anything operational yet?
Yes, the lake water pumping plant, which will cover 75 per cent of our heating and cooling requirements, is now on stream and is already supplying surrounding buildings.
What are the biggest milestones before things get going again?
The building technology such as ventilation, heating and air-conditioning will be commissioned from September 2020 onwards, and construction will be completed at the end of the year. There will then be a period for fixing any defects and obtaining the necessary permission to move in and begin operations. But the most important date is undoubtedly 1 June 2021, which is when the building will be handed over to us, the operator, and operations will begin. Between now and then, we’ll be increasing the size of our workforce from its current total of nine to around 100 permanent and 300 temporary staff.
What’s going to happen after handover?
We’ll start straight away in trial mode, before regular operations begin on 28 June 2021 – with the first large-scale event happening the very next day. Even though we’ve still got almost a year to go, we’re hugely excited. And our customers can’t wait either: even at this early stage, we’re nearly fully booked for the first six months after we open. We’re already really busy advising our customers.
«I’ll probably never have as much variety in my life .»
What will you be working on until then, apart from the construction site?
We’re currently evaluating and implementing various digital tools, taking out all the insurance policies, setting up our facility management, finalising our restaurant concept, various operating strategies and our building and user rules – including a Covid-19 protection concept. And we’re also seeking ISO certification. We’re putting a lot of energy into devising new products, such as concert packages, and we’re going to upgrade one of our rooms into a studio for live TV streaming. The increase in headcount that I’ve already mentioned will also be stepped up. Those are just the most important tasks ahead of us.
What are you most looking forward to when the day finally arrives?
I’m particularly proud of how the building will be “connected” in the digital sense, even though this will largely be invisible day to day. All the event technology in fact, which will be state of the art: a zone-controlled line array sound system in the Kongresssaal, smart spotlights, a panoramic projection screen that can simultaneously show a variety of content, LED walls that can display presentations without having to lower the lights. Those are the biggest technical highlights. Behind the scenes, the new industrial kitchen is definitely a milestone. The huge terrace overlooking Lake Zurich will speak for itself, just like the restaurant with panoramic views and various different areas. In fact, I’m looking forward to everything that lies ahead, but most of all maybe to the reaction of our customers as they set foot in the new Convention Center for the first time.
How will the opening affect your work as CEO?
At the moment, I’m mainly responsible for ensuring that the operational requirements are factored into the construction work. I’m also taking care of the fundamental tasks at our company: defining processes, setting up controlling instruments, expanding our range of services, strategic considerations, that kind of thing. The corporate culture is particularly important to me. I want to build a satisfied and committed workforce. You need to be able to feel people’s happiness and dedication. Right at the start of operations, staff training will undoubtedly be the main priority. After that, I’ll gradually switch to focusing on customer care, quality assurance and driving Zurich Convention Center forward from a strategic perspective.
Until then, there’s still a great deal to do, as you’ve said. What will you be tackling next after this interview?
I’ll grab a bite to eat and then stretch my legs by the lake over lunch – our unique location fills me with renewed inspiration every day. Then I've got a workshop on HR issues. We’ll be talking about general conditions such as pay, the various job roles, developing a competency model, and so on. Later, we’ll do a bit more on finalising the furniture for the public areas and check on what the joiners have done for the restaurant. I’ll probably never have as much variety in my life as I do at the moment – and I’m enjoying it.