Remote Work: “Work Wherever You Want” – Interview With Stefan Vetter in Context Magazine

By Stefan Vetter | November 6, 2017 (updated February 12, 2020) | General

Decentralized working is the trend. The agency “Wortspiel” relies exclusively on remote work. The team members are based in Zurich, Bern and Hamburg, among other places. They meet twice a year.

This text by Rolf Murbach was originally published in the magazine Context of the Kaufmännischer Verband Schweiz (Swiss Commercial Association). 

“Wortspiel” is located in an older stately residence in Zurich: an office community such as there are dozens of them. Large, bright rooms, a table for meetings, some desks with computers. It is the headquarters of the young agency. But not only.

The employees of three other small companies work here. Stefan Vetter is founder and managing director of “Wortspiel GmbH”. He plans, writes and makes phone calls here when he is not on the road or in his home office.

A large part of advertising has long since shifted to the Internet. Online presence is everything, but above all you have to be found. What good is a great offer if customers don’t come across it? This is where “Wortspiel” comes in.

The agency primarily supports start-ups and corporate start-ups with their Google AdWords campaigns. A goal is: Effectively placed advertisement on the Internet and winning new customers.

“Wortspiel” is an unusual company, because the team members come from different European cities, hardly see each other and work remotely, which means: where they want.

That is in Frauenfeld, Cologne, Wettingen or sometimes on a Caribbean island. An employee of “Wortspiel” prefers to spend his time by the sea, where he is really productive. “We need the office in Zurich mainly for meetings,” says Stefan Vetter.

Tedious Office Presence

Decentralized working was the concept of the company, which was founded in 2015, from the very beginning. Stefan Vetter worked for many years in various start-ups and agencies, most recently as marketing manager of a software company and AdWords project manager of a marketing agency.

“I learned a lot there,” says the company founder. “But I didn’t understand why most of them were fixated on a permanent desk.”

He thought: We offer digital services and at the same time submit to the dictates of the office presence. This is unworldly and a relic of industrialization.

The AdWords specialist had a clear idea: he wanted to found a company where people would work independently of time and place, a so-called remote agency. There were a few role models, such as the makers of WordPress, but in Switzerland “Wortspiel” is one of the pioneers.

Of course, Stefan Vetter’s motivation was not just a flexible work model, but also the high standards of the services he wanted to provide with his company.

He had a “boutique agency” in mind, as he says. AdWords campaigns are a demanding business and it is not easy to find top people in the Zurich area. The cracks lived in Berlin, San Francisco or Southeast Asia. “We can work with the best. Location is not a factor.”

“People get exciting jobs without leaving their familiar surroundings.”

Stefan Vetter looks out the window, thinks and says: “People get exciting jobs without having to leave their familiar surroundings, which is nice.

And he explains how the demands of Generation Y have changed compared to previous generations, how young, highly qualified specialists impose conditions on employers and are no longer willing to give up freedom for an attractive job. “They do not compromise on work-life balance or quality of life.”

Time for the Family

Since Stefan Vetter became a father just over a year ago, he appreciates working independently of time and place twice over. He is in his home office about three days a week.

No time-consuming commuting, no unnecessary meetings, but concentrated and productive work at home. And: “I spend a lot of time with my family, playing and eating with my daughter and watching her progress.”

The loneliness – the campfire groove of a shared office is missing, the exchange with colleagues, the chat over coffee, you hear when it comes to home office. This is only partly true, says Stefan Vetter. And it depends on how you organise yourself.

On several days he is in the office where he meets others. Not his employees, but specialists from small companies. That is stimulating. Vetter is thus realizing what has been a trend for several years now.

In many cities there are so-called coworking spaces with workstations that can be rented for individual days. They usually differ from the traditional 08/15 offices and are characterized by an inspiring ambience. Start-ups and freelancers work here and exchange ideas.

Meanwhile, larger companies also send their teams to the coworking spaces for inspiration.

Stefan Vetter also sees remote work as an opportunity for remote regions. In the past, specialized professionals were forced to move to a city. Today they can work in the provinces if they want to.

Rendezvous in Appenzell

Of course it does not work without exchange. At least once a week the workers of “Wortspiel” communicate via video chat, and twice a year they meet physically during a weekend.

In Hamburg or in Appenzell, as a little film on their site shows: a funny and tidy troop of AdWords cracks at the Alpstein.

In addition, depending on the project, there are bilateral meetings – online or in the Zurich office if necessary. “Wortspiel” has grown slowly, that’s also what Stefan Vetter has in mind.

Meanwhile, nine people work for the agency. They find new colleagues exclusively through the Internet: people who make their mark in a particular area. The classic job search and job placement is irrelevant here.

The company has also recently started to break new ground in the field of billing. “We have stopped working on an hourly basis.” The agency defines targets and only invoices if the job is successful from the client’s perspective. “So far, we’ve done well with it. We also bear part of the risk and thus create trust.”

What is important, therefore, is the consultation and common goals. And the assessment whether an AdWords campaign can be successful. This requires that the agency is up to date.

Target-group-specific marketing on the web is demanding. User behaviour, data analysis, copywriting and the relevant algorithms are complex. And everything is subject to constant change. So “Wortspiel” must continue to rely on agility. With remote work, the agency obviously finds this easy.

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Stefan Vetter is CEO and founder at Wortspiel. He created his first website in 1999 and has been active in digital marketing ever since. Stefan is also the founder at Friendly, a Swiss provider of privacy-friendly marketing software.