Managing director, Compass-Group
For more than 20 years, Hermann Futter has managed the business of the Compass-Group, a leading Austrian provider of business information. Apart from this role, Hermann Futter has performed and performs a range of other functions, including “Generally Sworn and Certified Expert” of Austria for the internet (1998 – 2013), President of the ÖAVV [Österreichischen Adressbuchverleger-Verbandes – Austrian Association of Address Book Publishers (since 2005). He is also a member of Siinda, and member of the board of ÖZV [Österreichischer Zeitschriften – und Fachmedien-Verband – Austrian Association of Journals and Specialist Media (since 2005). Hermann Futter is married and the father of three children.
Q. Is there something you’ve started to do during the pandemic, like a new hobby, or do you have a routine you like to do every day?
Well, actually during this pandemic situation, I didn’t start anything new because I had to finish so many things. I just finished the reconstruction of our head office here in Vienna. And it’s a brand-new office building now, and it was quite a hassle to finish it during Covid because we had lockdowns obviously. And then the other companies said, oh, I cannot do anything anymore because of Covid there. But I didn’t really start anything new.
I suppose I did the same little things that everybody else did in the severe lockdown. We started having cocktails at six o’clock in the afternoon, or the gin & tonic was kind of a good thing, but I suppose a lot of people did that. And I’ve heard that here in Austria, the sales of alcohol went up by 30% and the supermarkets.
Q. Did you start some new sports practice, like a home gym?
So, you know I was never big in sports, so I thought, why should I start now, it doesn’t make any sense. The funny thing is that it obviously looks like a lot of people are healthier than they ever were, because there are no other viruses. Everybody is taking care of themselves, not being captured by Covid.
Q. Did you see a big challenge in mixing private and business life with the lockdown period?
Obviously, that was a big challenge. The lucky situation is that I’ve got enough space at home. So, everybody had his own room actually, I didn’t have an own room because my kids are in the room. My wife has an office at home, I don’t have an office, so I was kind of wandering around in the apartment, and in the end, I ended up going to the office like almost every day. And then, and that was quite frustrating because you’re going to the office and it’s a huge place and everything is fine, but nobody’s there. So, that was a frustrating thing. I know my employees, some of them freak totally out. I mean, if you’re at home, with 2 or 3 kids, an apartment above 70, 80 square meters, the kids are always quarreling about the computer, who has got the access.
Q. What is your favourite kind of cooking, and do you also cook yourself?
My wife lived for six years in Italy, and she is perfect in Italian cuisine, so I wouldn’t stand any chance to be a good cook compared to her. So, I leave it to her. Yes, that’s fine for me. As a lot of other people, too, people would really buy very good stuff. In the supermarket, you wouldn’t buy the cheaper stuff. You buy the best thing, because you’re eating at home, and you want to enjoy life.
Q. So Italian cuisine is your favourite?
Yes, yes, a day without pasta is not a good day. If you get a good carbonara then your day’s a good day.
Q. When you were out of school, what was your first non-desk job?
My first job, actually, I was 16, and was cleaning up the cellar of a company, a huge company that was a huge cellar. So, one month, time to clean the whole thing up was kind of a dirty job. Yes, so very manual, you know. And, I mean, obviously, a job that, basically, anybody can do and it’s very difficult for students to have a job here and obviously, the only thing, the rest is cleaning up something somewhere.
it’s kind of funny, I do like to work with my hands manually. That’s fine with me. And because the intellectual work is far more challenging, it’s far more tiring than the manual work; manual work, you can actually relax. Your body gets worked out, but your brain is sort of in sleep mode, mute, so to say. And I like that.
Q. What would have been your other dream profession if you had gone into a completely different sector?
Very hard to say because in the end, I’m an entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, you’ve got the utmost experience of economic freedom. You can do whatever you actually want. I never wanted to be a public servant, or I never had the idea of driving a fire brigade or there was no dream job like that. I didn’t even want to become an actor or a famous person of whatever style.
I mean, in the end, having success is probably, um, the best thing that you can achieve in life. The profession is actually secondary. You want to have success.
Q. If you had one message that you wanted to convey to Siinda members and partners, what would this message be?
Well, there’s one message I always say to my kids, it’s “never give up” because if you give up, you’ve already lost. And this is very important because you can always choose if you win or lose, and if you give up, you choose to lose. You might lose in the end, anyway, but if you give up, you’ve lost already.