Three ITJ veterans on the industry, the journal, the players: The good old times?
It would be impolite to divulge personal information here – but none of these experienced colleagues who have edited and sold the ITJ for many decades is much younger than the magazine. Jutta Iten, Eric Derrer and Jean-Claude Zulauf look back with affection.
Jean-Claude Zulauf: It’s nice that the 80th anniversary of the ITJ has coincided with this ‘summer of the century’, with everyone wearing Bermudas. Things were different under Franz Rittmann. We sat in our office in suits and ties – and sometimes really sweated away!
Jutta Iten: We also got plenty of exercise. We got a computer with access to the internet relatively early on. This was considered a great investment – and completely sufficient – but it was located on the first floor of our editorial offices in Schützengraben here in Basel. So anyone who wanted to look anything up in the modern way, digitally, had to run upstairs.
Eric Derrer: We all managed perfectly well back then without a mobile phone or the internet. We used to write to customers in advance, but at international trade fairs and exhibitions we also arranged appointments on site or directly from our hotel. There was more time then.
IT: You can say that out loud! Our editorial presence was always appreciated. We had strong personal relationships with many people. We were frequently complimented for our regional coverage by people who knew the language and culture well.
JCZ: In the beginning, the railway tariff department was decisive for the rise of the company as a publisher. Companies’ knowledge of the rates gave them the information they needed to decide on the most cost-effective supply chain – for example, is it better to transport a 40 t consignment directly from Vienna to Trieste, or to route it via the port of Hamburg? Freight forwarders were empowered to negotiate with customers and the railways as a result, on the strength of this tariff information.
IT: Operating in many languages was essential from the beginning. In the 1960s our foreign-language editions – the famous pink and green French and English ITJs – caused us a very great deal of work. Digitalisation has really simplified life a lot.
ED: It was exciting to do pioneering work in developing our Middle Eastern and Far Eastern markets. The great upswing of the 1980s gave us a decisive boost. The travails of selling door-to-door were certainly similar then to what they are today.
JCZ: A lot has changed on the sales side. The large companies are much more dominant than they were before. We were in touch with many medium-sized enterprises that had their niche and knew it well.
IT: Things were also a bit patriarchal sometimes. Franz Rittmann had a rather personal and very entrepreneurial style. Relationships between ‘bosses’ and ‘minions’ are closer today. I’m especially pleased that our traditional team fetes continue to take place every year to this day.
ED: Some things have also stayed the same in many markets worldwide. Negotiations remain very different in Asia, the USA or Europe – regardless of the age or origin of the people involved.
JCZ: I’d say that business vis-à-vis top management is the same as it was 50 years ago. You arrive at an agreement in personal conversation – and then drink a glass of champagne afterwards. You can’t negotiate with the internet.