Lifehacks

Interview with Kristofer Ruscon, founder of Hatt & Söner

1. What label would you use to describe yourself – champagne maker, business developer, CEO?

Well I am neither. On paper I’m the head of the company [Kristofer pictured left in the photo above], but in real life I’m not a very good CEO and we have now a well more competent man doing the job. I’m a visionary and a big scale motivator as well as a creator of new concepts. I’m just not very good running the daily small things. Never have been. So we have been lucky to grow to the point where we could get the right people at the right place and at the right time.

2. How do you spend your days? 

Traveling, with my computer always in my knee and with a great offline system that make sure I can work anywhere anytime! We stopped marketing a couple of years ago and as the founder I decided to put that money in to charity. This takes me on a lot of travels as well as connecting with a lot of great people that help us grow.

3. Hatt & Söner is a company built on many families, generations and therefore also thoughts on how to do things – does it get complicated and who has the final say?

We made it very simple. The company has been built around me and everyone follows my vision and my creativity, which is rare and I’m grateful for it. My deeply humble and highly supporting family has accepted this, and as a result I get to do better and be better. It’s not like everyone will agree on things all the time, but we have very clear roles and I think that’s what really makes it work.

I think you need a leader.  Especially my father that had all the experience but took a step back to let me shine. But he understood, as I do now, that everyone should do what they do best. He is the COO and he is doing a great job with retirement in a couple of years (he is 70 years old) to become a board member.

4. There’s a whole lot of discussion around sugar – how much sugar do your products contain?

Yes there is a lot of discussion about sugar. But to understand that you have to get to the bottom of it. Why do we add sugar? Well, it makes things not good taste better. How do we avoid sugar? By making better products. For us that is the basic element and all our products are extra brut (very dry) and we ad a minimum of sugar. But in order to do that there is only one secret and that is working with Mother Nature instead of against her. You have to respect the plants and they will respect you back. A plant you know is living and is constantly learning throughout its life to adapt itself against threats. A great base product will give you a great end product. You just can’t cheat.

5. How do you turn something so laboroUs into a profitable business? One can only imagine how much work has gone into every bottle…

Just don’t do what everyone else is doing. You know champagne is small and everyone is trying to do like the big houses and you can not! You don’t have the budget as a small house. You need to evolve, to make a change and to believe you really can do. But to do that you must take risks and try new things. I think the key is not being afraid of failure. We have done it through breaking boundaries and with a philosophy of including and opening champagne to the clients.

We don’t see our main product as bottles. Our main product is service. First and foremost we are a service company that provides the service of selling bottles that we have produced. With this mentality we where the first house ever to create something we call the Personal Vintage (PV): where we let customers create there own champagne for the first time by personal invitation. We also stopped marketing and made things more exclusive. Lastly, we do not sell in a traditional way but with something that we call the ring model where it is all about including everyone in a big family (I know it sounds like a cult.. and it is 😉

6. Did it feel like a crazy move – i.e. taking over the vineyard AT THE AGE OF 22 and getting into some serious champagne business when you decided to go all in? How did you have the guts to do it?

It still feels surreal sometimes. There are only 300 people in the world that can do this [because Champagne is a very small area]. But I was young and naive. That was my true strength.

7. What’s your vision? 

Changing the world of course! And if I can not changing something substantial. The first step is a valuation of 300 M€. With this it will open up possibilities and we have the cult where people have invested with their heart. That is power. We are a family and we will continue as a family.

8. Do you have any advice for other people out there who want to set up a business without really knowing where to begin?

Just do it.. And try to see that it’s all not that serious, if you fail… do it again.

9. What has been the most challenging thing TO DEAL WITH WHILE building Hatt & Söner?

The shareholders. It’s really tough. They’ve clearly been a big part of our success, but it’s also very hard to please everyone. You just need to take charge and go with your gut. Some people will be fine with it, others won’t.

10. What’s your best way of helping:

i) yourself?

Discipline and giving myself time for myself.

ii) others?

The most precious thing in life: Time. The time we share together is the ultimate luxury.

 Kristofer Ruscon (left) pictured with Francois Vallois (right) in Champagne.

Stephanie is the founder of Helpings and the creator of all content on the platform. Watch her TEDx talk, 'Holy Shit', about digestion on YouTube, organized at King's Collage London in 2016. Stephanie is currently building her second business, a chocolate brand called kAAKAO, and she shares her experience by means of inspiring other entrepreneurs to excel in business and in life.

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