Abschlussmeeting der Otto Müller Zukunftsstrategie

Open strategy at Meat Counter

Staff is shaping the future of butcher Otto Müller from Constance

Who is actually responsible for the strategy of a company – its owners, management, or maybe even an external strategy consultancy? In many companies, strategies are discussed and planned behind closed doors. Or they are not planned systematically because agendas are driven by operational priorities. Otto Müller, a family-owned company based in Constance, is doing things differently. CEO Katharina Müller and her sister Sonja decided to open doors and invite staff to help shaping the future strategy of the butcher business. They were supported in this process by experts from Technology – Organization – Human Resources (TOP), the Steinbeis Transfer Center from Ravensburg.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The journey into the future started in September 2022 and involved 25 employees from butcher shops, company kitchens, and administration. This meant that a quarter of staff accepted the invitation to take part in four workshops, which were held at a startup and innovation center in Constance called “farm.” At the workshops, there was also a sense of entrepreneurship in the air, and it was an opportunity for employees to dive deep into future trends and customer needs. Accompanied by two Steinbeis consultants, Rita Strassburg and Ursula Schulz, the employees came up with their own ideas, talked to customers, and tested acceptance with experiments.

Employee ideas that leave a strong impression

Finally, in April 2023 three teams of employees presented their ideas for an experiential butcher shop, an online butcher shop, and a convenience offering. Katharina, Sonja, and Moritz Müllerrepresent two generations of the owning family. The jury has been completed by external experts such as Karl-Heinz Blum. member od the advisory board, Beate Behrens from the local office for economic development, and Sabine Steinmaier from the advertising agency Bransch und Partner in Stuttgart. The jury members gained a strong sense of the time and passion invested in the projects by the employees. They valued the potential of each idea, and due to the strong connection between the three topics, the Müller family would now like to pursue all concepts.

“It was particularly exciting for us to go through this process in a retail environment, with people who come into daily contact with customers rather than sit in front of a computer and work up ideas,” remarks Rita Strassburg. One particular challenge lay in coordinating the workshops the way that employees could work together without detrimental impact on everyday business. This was made possible thanks to the strong level of commitment and enthusiasm of staff, as well as the flexible attitude adopted by management.

Involving staff brings a multitude of benefits 

If it’s so difficult to work on innovation projects in parallel to the day-to-day running of a butcher shop, would it not have made more sense to only involve management in the process? The answer to that question from Ursula Schulz is “no” – for three reasons:

    1. Future builds on tradition

Companies that have been around for some time should base the future strategy on competences that are already in place. At Otto Müller, those come from its long-standing employees, its strong brand – which stands for local and consistently high-quality products – and its strong sense of customer focus. And who knows these competences better than those who are responsible for them?

    1. Team diversity fuels a diversity of ideas

The makeup of the workforce is generally more diverse than in the corridors of management. If diversity fosters creativity, the most expedient way to tap into that creativity is to involve staff. The people working on the project at Otto Müller hailed from different generations, cultural backgrounds, and positions within the company; they also had different eating habits. This combination spawned a fertile environment that was conducive to exchanging ideas.

    1. 70% of strategies fail during implementation

The real challenge is to take a strategy that looks good on paper and get it up and running on the forward journey. If staff are already involved in thinking up the strategy, the most important prerequisite has already been fulfilled for subsequent implementation. This was particularly evident at Otto Müller when it came to the topic of home deliveries. Its delivery service was born out of necessity during the coronavirus pandemic, and it was kept in place afterward due to high demand. So there was general acceptance of this new service as the project got underway, although in their heart, staff preferred standing with customers at the counter. But as the project progressed, enthusiasm grew for this additional opportunity to satisfy customer demand, and this came hand in hand with a realization that processes would also need to be optimized and digitalized.

A starting signal for further projects in Constance 

The project at Otto Müller owes its existence to the exchange between the Steinbeis Transfer Center TOP, Constance office for economic development, Southwest Trade Association, and the business networking association Treffpunkt Konstanz.

The idea is to allow retailers to develop and validate concepts for future business models, either individually or together in a kind of “downtown incubator.” Following the pilot project with Otto Müller, Beate Behrens, representative of the Business Development Department, feels enthusiastic about this model: “Innovation and entrepreneurship in retail are more important than ever in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. We’d love to see the success enjoyed by Otto Müller inspire more retailers.”

The person for retailers to contact if they are interested in finding out more is Steinbeis consultant Rita Strassburg. Her office is directly located in “farm” (the startup center), from where she coordinates Steinbeis startup projects in Constance. Strassburg was instrumental in getting the Constance Innovation Initiative off the ground and bringing different stakeholders around the same table. “For the next step, we’d like to support Constance companies with their innovation strategies not only individually, but also by initiating innovation projects on a cross-company basis. To do that, we’re looking for business leaders who are interested in redefining the journey into the future. There’s also an abundance of suitable grants to do that with.”


Ursula Schulz (author)
Steinbeis Entrepreneur
Technology – Organization – Human Resources (TOP) (Ravensburg)

Rita Strassburg (author)
Freelance project manager
Technology – Organization – Human Resources (TOP) (Ravensburg)