My name is Björn Viergutz – born in 1990 – and I founded Juvigo while studying. I grew up in Berlin, where I live again today. During my studies, I also lived in Moscow and Paris for a while. I like to spend my free time on the water – I love camping trips, canoeing, fishing or simply a day trip to the lake. The Berlin area is perfect for this and offers almost unlimited possibilities to get out into nature quickly.
How did you come up with the idea of founding Juvigo?
My passion for holiday camps began when I attended a summer camp for the first time at the age of 9 and then took part in different camps every year. At the age of 16, I started working as a camp counselor and soon afterwards, I ran my first holiday camp, being responsible for 150 children. That was at the age of 18 and I was younger than almost all the supervisors I had in my team. I founded Juvigo while studying Economics. I worked during the semester break and in almost all of my free time to build the booking platform. Initially, we focused on the German market. In 2019, we started to expand to other markets. Today, we manage booking platforms in several European countries, such as the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal, Austria and Switzerland.
So it is a very international team?
Indeed. We run the operations for all the international platforms from our Berlin office. That means we have a German, Dutch, French, Spanish team, and so on. From university, I am used to an international environment and also privately, I have lots of international friends. I speak five languages – German, English, French, Spanish and Russian – and it has always been my dream to work in a multicultural company. Hence, Juvigo’s international roll-out is a very special story for me.
But does the international expansion also make sense from a business perspective?
Of course! Running multiple platforms increases the overall revenue potential and puts us on a stable long-term growth path. On top of that, more platforms lead to higher risk diversification. Just to give you one example: during the corona crisis, the Dutch government communicated very clearly that summer camps would be allowed. Once the customers had this sense of security, they started booking. In Germany, however, customers seemed to be more reluctant. The strong performance on our Dutch platform could therefore outweigh a relatively weak performance of the German platform in 2020.
What did you do before founding Juvigo?
I studied Economics. So Juvigo is actually my first „real“ job – apart from various part-time jobs during my studies.
So you don’t have a classic apprenticeship or a degree in tourism?
Exactly. Before founding Juvigo, I actually had no relationship with the travel industry – except from the fact that I love travelling. In that sense, I’m a real career changer.
What does a typical working day look like for you?
I never really had a “typical” working day as my tasks changed a lot over time. That’s mainly due to the fact that I did most of the tasks on my own at the beginning – which is something my colleagues benefit from, because they know that I quickly understand their problems and questions. Today, I am more concerned with strategic issues: How do we deliver outstanding service for each and every one of our partners? How do we guarantee the extremely high Juvigo quality that our customers value so much? Despite strong growth and advancing internationalization, we should always hold firm to these basic value propositions because they are the foundation of our business model.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
Generally speaking, the international roll-out has shaped our company culture tremendously – not just because the team has become much more diverse and international. But also because we learned to help and trust each other much more than we did before. We operate in several European countries. While doing business there, we encounter so many different cultures and habits that it is literally impossible to develop strategies that equally work in all of those countries. So, a culture of empowerment, trust and decentralized decision-making is key to success. To finally answer the question: building a strong company culture, empowering people and helping them to grow both professionally and personally, is what I enjoy most about my work.
So there is lots of autonomy for the individual teams?
The goal is to grant as much autonomy as possible. However, a good organisation always needs a functioning structure, a common organizational frame. The same holds for company values. They are universal across all countries and all business units. Only a company that is clear about its core values and that has a well-established organizational structure, can allow for a high degree of autonomy.
What are these universal values and how do you communicate them to the team?
We have a clear idea of how we treat our partners, customers, and colleagues – listen to each other, treat one another with respect, be empathetic, reliable and down-to-earth. Nothing fancy. No high-flying buzzwords. Just basic principles based on common sense. When you start working for us, you go through a training which is pretty much the same for all employees – without regard to position or nationality. After the initial training, we make sure you keep growing and improving. Our strong feedback culture ensures that you always know where you stand.
What do you enjoy least about your work?
There’s a good and a bad side to everything. On the one hand, one of the things I like most about my job is visiting our partners on site – both in Germany and abroad. You discover so many beautiful corners and meet lots of interesting people! On the other hand, what I find absolutely annoying are the countless hours that you spend in the car just to get there. So I would definitely be a so-called “first mover” when the autonomous cars hit the market so that I can finally make better use of the time in the car!
Juvigo is an internationally operating company. Yet the entire team is based in Berlin. How does that go together? And what are the advantages and disadvantages?
Having the entire team here in Berlin has two main advantages: First, it is easier to communicate and to coordinate when everyone is in the same place. Second, we have a very international atmosphere in the office and enjoy lunch breaks and afterwork activities together.
The biggest disadvantage is that we are quite far away from our local business partners, for example in Spain and Portugal. Personal relationships and regular exchange with our local partners are very important. That’s why we often go on business trips to these countries. I am very much involved in that personally, since I speak several languages and love traveling with my fellow colleagues to their home countries. Meeting our local partners is a very important part of our work. Only if we really fully understand their needs, a solid and long-term partnership will be the result. Of course, Juvigo fully pays for such business trips.
Where are your requirements for non-German speaking applicants?
At Juvigo, you will work in your native language. As native speaker, you will be responsible for our international platforms. That is, Spanish speakers work on our Spanish platform, French speakers on our French platform, dealing with Spanish and French customers, respectively.
Is it a plus to speak several languages?
First and foremost, we look at the mother tongue. Let’s say we screen candidates for the Dutch team, for example. Obviously, it is important that these candidates must be fluent in Dutch. In addition to that, a very good command of English is necessary to communicate with your colleagues. German is also a plus as the majority of the team is German-speaking. And in general, it is a huge plus when you are fluent in two or more of our operational languages, such as Dutch, French, Spanish or Portuguese. Bilingual people definitely have an asset in their application.
What is particularly important to you about your employees and applicants?
It has always been important to me that my employees show a genuine interest for our product – holiday camps, youth trips and language trips. For this reason, almost everyone in the team has already experienced such a trip – either as a counselor or as a participant. Authenticity, credibility and a huge expertise in the field of youth travel are the driving forces behind the enormous trust that we have earned with both customers and business partners in recent years. In addition, a new colleague has to be fully professional and fit into the team.
How do you decide if someone is a good fit for Juvigo?
First of all, I don’t make that decision alone: every applicant goes through a multi-stage application process and comes into direct and intense contact with two or three team members. Together with them, I try to get a detailed picture of the candidate before making a hiring decision. The application process is one of the few operational areas in which I am still heavily involved. I see it as one of my main tasks to find, train and retain the best people for my company. At Juvigo, I want to create an environment which allows them to be successful and to develop their full potential.
Is Juvigo looking for experienced people or young professionals?
Needless to say that relevant work experience is a huge plus and I am very happy to already have some experienced tourism professionals on my team. But even university graduates, interns and trainees can really make a difference at Juvigo and quickly take on a responsible position. An elementary part of our company culture is to trust young people and to encourage and strengthen them in their development. It starts with interns, dual students and trainees. But I also clearly expect that our young colleagues are not afraid of assuming responsibility and show much willingness to learn. In short: we support young people, but we also challenge them.
What perspective do you offer to non-German applicants?
Our international colleagues are often still enrolled at the university and do their compulsory internship with us. The vibrant city of Berlin is a very exciting place for a stay abroad. We help them to settle down and give advice on administrative issues. At the same time, we challenge them at work and trust them with important tasks. We look for people who can imagine staying in Berlin for longer and continuing to work for Juvigo. If you learn quickly and demonstrate above-average performance, we are very likely to offer you a permanent position after your internship. We want to offer security and a long-term perspective.
What is the salary?
I see our employees as our most important asset. Juvigo has grown very strongly in recent years. And a company can only grow if its employees grow with it. Then wages and salaries also grow. For me, growth on these three levels – company, employees, salaries – is inseparable. For internships, we have a fixed remuneration scheme depending on your academic degree. For a permanent position, we offer competitive salaries. Additionally, you will benefit from flexitime, homeoffice, full overtime compensation and a very central office location.
Have you ever gone through crises?
Sure! I think every company goes through that at some point. The greatest challenge apart from the classic “birth pangs” of a start-up was certainly the corona crisis. However, our business model has proven to be extremely crisis-resistant. I think it’s important to stick to your values, especially in times of crisis. In my case that means: a long-term thinking, a culture of empowerment and a deep belief in both our team and our business model. It was also important to me to be a reliable partner, both externally and internally. Externally, we deferred commission payments for bookings that we already had generated and thereby helped our business partners to stay liquid. Internally, I kept my word towards my employees and carried out salary increases promised before the crisis. And despite the uncertainty, we also advanced with our internationalization plans.
Would you prefer to do something different sometimes?
The highs are higher, the lows are lower – I think that describes quite well what it means to build your own company. There have certainly been difficult phases from time to time in recent years. Nevertheless, at the moment I can’t imagine anything better than what I do every day: building a successful company and an international team in which everyone can develop their full potential and perhaps even grow beyond themselves.
You think that sounds very nice and you want to be part of Björn’s team? Click here to go directly to our job postings: Apply now for an international job at Juvigo!