WHU General

Five Questions To Benjamin Roos 

What lessons the corona crisis teaches to start-ups

WHU alumni Benjamin Roos and Andreas Wels founded Studitemps in 2008. Now they employ 10,000 students a month.

What is the right job for me and how do I get it without complications? Many students ask themselves these questions. One company that provides answers to these questions during and after the studies is Studitemps. It was founded in 2008 by the WHU graduates Benjamin Roos and Andreas Wels and has grown significantly since then: over the years, tens of thousands of students have been employed by the digital employer. The company now has more than 400 employees at 23 locations in Germany. But even with a well-positioned online presence, the corona crisis is having a major impact on the entire job market. Benjamin Roos, Founder and Managing Director of Studitemps, answers how the 2008 start-up has fared so far, how Studitemps is dealing with the corona crisis, and what lessons other start-ups can learn from it.

1. Studitemps has undergone some significant developments since its inception in 2008 and continues to expand. In 2018 the brand was relaunched. What is the current status and what is the recipe for success?

"Joy of change" and the "Freedom to act" are two things we value a lot. There is no such thing as a recipe for success. It has a lot to do with the attitude of each individual.

Even though the idea right from the start was Studitemps, a digital employer for students, we started with the online job exchange Jobmensa. We have also employed students as moving helpers, babysitters and real estate surveyors. So we changed a lot until we focused on our current business model of temporary work for students. And these changes continue every day. Just recently we launched our new online portal and app, thus this year a self-service in temporary employment will be possible, similar to Uber or mytaxi.

Another part of this change was to develop from a highly centralized company based in Cologne to a decentralized company with 23 locations. Each location is a company within the company. We would like to give every employee the greatest possible freedom in order to make decisions that are oriented at the well-being of the students and corporate customers. The next major change will certainly be the complete digitalization of our business model.

2. What makes your platform different from many other job agents?

First of all, we are not job agents, we are employers for about 10,000 students a month. The students have an employment contract with us, we pay their wages, take care of illness, holidays and public holidays. When one job ends at a company, we take care of the next one. This is more comparable to a business consultancy than to a job exchange.

We are often the first employer for students. However, it is important to be there for them locally and online and to offer personal support. Others rely on a merely digital offer. Of course, we also have a comprehensive online presence and students could do everything via app. Nevertheless, they appreciate us not only as a service provider who finds a job, but also as a counselor for problems. Our doors at the branches are always open for questions, whether it's about the CV or about payroll accounting. What's more, our service is holistic: we can be a partner from graduation from high school on, up to the first five years of your career. In other words, we support young talents in financing their studies and also arrange suitable jobs for young professionals after graduation. This is unique in Germany.

3. The corona crisis has a severe impact on the economy as a whole. How do you pass this test as a startup?

We have always been quite diversified and are active in a great many industries. Flexibility has always been our core business. In the fashion and technology retail or mobility sector, we lost a great deal of sales overnight. On the other hand, demand in the food retail sector was all the higher. Demand is also growing in the logistics of e-commerce and we see the first opportunities in the healthcare sector and for harvest workers.

Thanks to our self-developed software, we were able to switch to working from home overnight. Companies can view shift plans and so on, on a special portal. We also have a portal where students can upload their documents online, accept assignments, confirm employment contracts and schedules. Moreover, the tools for our internal employees are completely web-based and we can theoretically work from anywhere in the world.

Since we are introducing new processes and software in our company almost continuously, everyone is used to reacting quickly to changing conditions and adapting. This is quite strenuous in times of no crisis, but it now helps tremendously.

4. The crisis will not leave anybody unaffected in the foreseeable future, especially not the labor market. This has a direct impact on your business model. Is this a big challenge or can you react flexible enough?

You have to react very flexibly now and make decisions quickly. For us, a large part of the business has also collapsed at first: Orders in the event sector, gastronomy or stationary trade have virtually fallen to zero. Nevertheless, March 2020 was one of the strongest months in our history. Why? Because we quickly saw in which areas there is an enormous demand for flexible workers: food retailing, logistics, transport and now starting in harvesting and health care. On the other hand, students have a lot of time at the moment, as the start of the new semester has been postponed and many have also lost their part-time or working student jobs and are now looking for jobs. So, we are in the nice situation that we can help many students to continue to have a source of income.

At the same time, temporary employment has always been a good early indicator in recent crises: Temporary workers are often the first to be let off in a crisis, but if the uncertainty is still high afterwards and companies are not yet sure whether the crisis has really been overcome, flexible options are the first to recover. For this reason, we try to position ourselves as a reliable partner who can provide personnel quickly without raising prices.

5. Can the corona crisis also be seen as an opportunity to further the digitalization and perhaps provide new employment opportunities in the long run?

I think the crisis is an opportunity to rethink certain beliefs about work. Do we really have to work eight hours a day in the office? Do we always have to do our work between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.? Do we have to work full-time all our lives.

Wouldn't it be much nicer to be able to work from anywhere in the world, with working hours more in line with our personal inclinations? At the same time, work could be made even more flexible: 20 hours this week, 60 hours the next week, depending on how much is to be done.

As a society, we must find answers to these questions, especially since three million workers will have left the German workforce by 2030.

I think that many digital tools will remain. In our company, for example, slack news and thus slack use has quadrupled. The same applies to video telephony, but also to the use of our app and our corporate online portal. The crisis has greatly accelerated the changeover here.