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Portrait of Christian Gras, director of Hager Forum.

Obernai, 11.10.2017

The satisfaction of being a good host

Hager Forum: Interview with Christian Gras.

Christian Gras has been the new director of the Hager Forum since the beginning of 2017. In this interview, the director tells us about his ideas and plans for Hager Forum.

Christian, what exactly does Hager Forum stand for today?
For an exciting variety of functions and possibilities. On the one hand, it is a collaborative space for employees, partners and customers. For our employees it is a place to meet, to brainstorm or to take a break. We made sure Hager Forum is now known outside the region as a versatile venue, by hosting events like the Hager Group Tech Days, Young Talent Days, the Creativity Week, the Positive Impact Week and Trend Sessions, to name but the highlights. I believe one of my tasks will be to establish Hager Forum as an internationally known Convention Centre for Hager Group and their customers, employees and partners.

How do you picture this kind of international Convention Centre?
Russian or Chinese guests expect different kinds of service than Indian or American guests. We must be able to adapt to that, to offer our visitors an experience that leaves them with a truly lasting impression.

Do you mean that Hager Forum is rather aimed at international guests than at regional customers and neighbours?
No, it would cater to both. Since Hager Forum opened two years ago, it has received 10.000 customers and 20.000 other visitors. Of those, around 40% came from France, 20% from Germany and around 40% from other countries in 2016. In 2017 we expect fewer customers from France and Germany, while the numbers from other countries are expected to increase. Our Forum draws in visitors from further afield than we thought. In the future we would like to get to know our visitors even better, in order to provide them with a more individualised service.

How do you picture that?
We want to be able to adapt to our guests and their experiences, and to meet their needs. In order to do this, we must link our visitor data with the Hager Group’s customer information system. For example, when an electrician comes to Hager Forum for the third time, he is bound to have different interests and needs than his colleague who is visiting for the first time. But we need to be aware that a visitor has already been to see us several times. This leads us to the next challenge: for guests who already know and appreciate our interactive showrooms, we must think of other offers and features that we can present to them on their next visit. Over the next few months, we will be working with colleagues from the regional markets in order to better identify the needs of potential visitors.

One might say that with social media, nobody actually needs a real space to meet anymore. Nowadays, networking can be done digitally.
An actual meeting with real people is something that can never truly be replaced. Looking someone in the eye, shaking their hand, to say nothing of the atmosphere created by working, thinking and celebrating together: this is why you need face-to-face meetings. And for one-of-a-kind meetings, you need a one-of-a-kind space. Since the opening, the team here have done a really great job to make Hager Forum into such a unique venue.

How is Hager Forum going to develop over the coming years?
Hager Group has planned profound changes for the next few years. In this context, Hager Forum aims to be a place where relevant currents and trends worldwide are picked up on and analysed. A place that works like a magnet for interesting people the world over, who can contribute to the Hager Group’s vision here. And, last but not least, it should also send out clear signals to the world.

Hager Forum is attracting a lot of people – what brought you to Hager Forum personally?
I really enjoy building something through a collaborative process, as well as making people happy. That’s what I did during the eleven years I worked as the manager of a large hotel and congress centre in Alsace, and now I’m in a position to do something similar at Hager Forum. On top of that, I feel at home in companies with a friendly, robust, humane corporate culture. And Hager Group has a long tradition of hospitality. It would be great to further develop this tradition through Hager Forum.

Christian Gras, 52, comes from Lyon and studied at the Franco-German business school in Paris. After eleven years as Key Account Manager in the packaging industry, he switched to the hotel business ten years ago. He has been the new director of the Hager Forum since January 2017.