The family business: “We live B&O!”

Family businesses are the cornerstone of the economy. They show the development from the past from parent to child. At the same time, as long-term companies, they look far ahead. In this series, MASTERS portrays family businesses with a story. This episode focuses on Bang & Olufsen Brussee, which started as a bicycle shop in 1930 and has since grown into a leading company in the field of sound and images. MASTERS visits Jobs Brussee and his sons Jeroen and Peter, the fourth generation, at the branch in Amsterdam, appropriately located around the corner from the Concertgebouw.
Bang & Olufsen Brussee
John van Helvert

Text Bart-Jan Brouwer
Portrait photography John van Helvert

The story begins on March 1, 1930. Tell us!

jobs: “On that day my grandfather, Gijs Roest, started a bicycle shop in Oegstgeest. He had two children, Anneke and Jobs. Anneke was my mother, married to my father Paul Brussee. My father took over the business together with my uncle, after whom I am named. I never knew my grandfather, he died quite young. That is also the reason why my father started the business at the age of 19. Married young and immediately took on quite a bit of responsibility. In addition, he gave birth to five boys within five years, of which I am the fourth. In total, the family expanded to seven children. And the bicycle shop expanded with washing machines, refrigerators, televisions... That was my father's inventiveness. He was always asking the question: how else can I help my customers?”

What are your memories of that time?

jobs: “That my father was always working, day and night. I had no intention of going into the business at all. After pre-university education, I, then 19 years old, actually wanted to play basketball for a year. But my cousin Jeroen, who was my father's right-hand man in the store, wanted me to take his position because he had another job and did not dare to tell my father. I thought he was crazy, but he said: 'Now order a TV for a customer.' I did this by telephone at Firma Rolf - 899206, I even remember the telephone number by heart. A Philips TV, 21 inches. It arrived that same afternoon. Hey, I can do that, I thought. I went into the business and never left. There have certainly been moments when I had doubts, but I always felt like a fish in water. I have always enjoyed dealing with customers in particular. In that contact we don't just talk about trade, we are interested in how someone is doing and what someone is doing. We look at the person behind the person. Then you can also provide much better advice. We often go to customers to take a look around the house and get a feel for it.”

How was working with your father?

jobs: “Incredibly cool. I did it together with my eldest brother Paul. There has always been a lot of work, with pleasure and great intensity. My father with his one-liners and oh-so-down-to-earth look. No distinction between people, just be yourself, be of service. Of course: no peaks without valleys, no peaks without valleys. Peaking means that we can do cool projects, the customers are completely enthusiastic and that we can earn something from it. But entrepreneurship also involves downturns. And then it is important to continue working with confidence. With and for each other. That's something I learned from my father: if something bad happens, forget it and move on. Don't keep looking back, but always 'look at the bright side'. Translated by me personally as 'switch and move on'.”

Paul Brussee with his seven children (bottom right Jobs)

In 2003 you started running the business alone.

jobs: “Until 2003, the three of us did everything and with father's retirement age approaching, new choices were made. That made everyone happier. In 2013 it was a very deep dip, which resulted in a restart. That was a difficult time for me and the people who had worked for the cause for a long time. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to continue with Bang & Olufsen together with a small team: my son Jeroen, my regular mechanic Piet Meijvogel. A friendly customer base has helped me incredibly with this. In 2015 we moved to Katwijk with Brussee Solutions. My biggest colleague from the region was there. He allowed me to take over his company. I bought his building and there was even room to renovate. It was already a beautiful store, but even more so. This way I could decorate it exactly the way I always envisioned it.”

What do you have with Bang & Olufsen?

jobs: “Bang & Olufsen is emotion! The way in which image and sound come together is unique in the world. Add to this the timeless design, the use of aluminum and wood, natural materials. Since I started in my father's business, I have done my best to get Bang & Olufsen added as a brand. This was not easy, because there are strict admission requirements. But since 1988 we have succeeded and the love for the brand has never gone away. First shop-in-shop and since 2013 with full focus on this beautiful Danish brand. We make our customers so very happy with it! The great thing is that we can also connect B&O to our customers' existing equipment. Relieving your worries is the top priority. We want our customers to be happy, no matter what. We never make things difficult and always look for a solution.”

 

“We sometimes see a television that is fifteen years old, and it is still so beautiful! As if it just came out of the box”

 

What sets B&O apart from other brands?

jobs: "Timeless Luxury Technology. Those are the three pillars. The luxury, the technology, the timelessness. We sometimes see a television that is fifteen years old, and it is still so beautiful! As if it just came out of the box. That's B&O. You should experience it yourself: the materials, the operation, the quality... It is so incredibly good. Moreover, B&O attaches great importance to sustainability. In fact, it is the first audio brand in the world with cradle-to-cradle certification. A recognition that it owes to the responsible way in which it makes more sustainable and circular products. For example, by extending the lifespan of products based on modular design principles. B&O has also had a partnership with the company that produces the best OLED screens for about six years. The screen is a separate component on our televisions. And because a screen is the part that lasts the least long, you can easily replace it and you do not have to purchase a completely new B&O system. This way you have a fully updated television with a relatively low investment. Insane! In this context, B&O regularly has trade-in promotions, where a nice amount is given back for older products. Firstly, to bring people to the latest model. Secondly, to remove components that are no longer made from older products and use them for customers who cannot say goodbye to their old installation. No other brand does that. Bang & Olufsen will have existed for a hundred years in 2025, making it the oldest audio-video brand in the world!"

What kind of finger does B&O have in the pie?

jobs: “B&O has a clear vision. We are and will remain one luxury brand. We are closely involved in this by the head office. In addition, we feel very appreciated, which is also evident from the award we recently received at the ISE in Barcelona, ​​from Jorge Aguiar, Vice President of Bang & Olufsen: the Interior Solutions Excellence Award 2024. Because we provide complete solutions ( may) make for our customers. Modestly proud of it, but more grateful for the trust of our customers. So for B&O the following applies: stores, employees and service, everything at the highest level. They support us in all areas. Customer experience is central here. And we are happy to fulfill this wonderful mission with the passion of our family business.”

The team, with from left to right Piet Meyvogel – Sandra de Jong – Jobs Brussee – Peter Brussee – Jeroen Brussee – Stefano Cuozo – Mark van Egmond

In addition to B&O Katwijk, B&O Amsterdam has also been part of Brussee Solutions since 2020. To what extent has head office been involved in this?

“Yes, it is really cool that we are now also in a beautiful store on Van Baerlestraat. Jeroen and Peter are doing well there. The boys were attacked by corona during a world trip. From Australia they managed to get home on the last flight. They then came to the store in Katwijk to help during these strange times, when stores were closed, but the service always continued. Of course, both boys grew up in a house with Bang & Olufsen. Curtains that opened with the B&O remote control, a Christmas tree where the lights were dimmed with the same B&O remote control, the latest was always brought into the home. At one point I received an email from the owner of the B&O store in Amsterdam: he was quitting. I called him and let him know that I was interested in taking over the store and having it run by my sons. The boys were immediately enthusiastic. Because I already had such a good feeling about it myself, I wanted to convey this convincingly to the management of Bang & Olufsen. I sent a nice email to the CEO with a photo of Jeroen and Peter with the text: 'Your solution in The Netherlands.' Because the city of Amsterdam is an important city in Europe for the brand. Within a few weeks we had everything done. And from day one it has only been going uphill.”

Peter, how do you do that?

Peter: “By being ourselves and giving advice like we would give to our best friends. Apparently, honesty and sincerity can go a long way.”
jobs: “And in the beginning we profiled the boys very much: young guys with an energetic appearance, full color. In the shop window, with large billboards in the city and along the A4. This has been well received. That is partly why the brothers were so quickly accepted and found in Amsterdam.”

Bicycle shop on the Kempenaerstraat in Oegstgeest, 1930

What is it like working with your father?

Peter: “The nice thing is that we are of course family and therefore very similar. We understand each other, can laugh with each other, and that also helps with quick switching for customers. On the other hand, we really have our own qualities. Jobs is extremely experienced and will go to any lengths for his customers. Jeroen is unique in absorbing knowledge and can often help a customer with technical problems at any time or location via a telephone call.”Jeroen: “Exactly, and Peter is very strong in organizing and improving work processes. For example, the agenda for the technicians is no longer in handwriting, but digital.”jobs: “Last month the men gave a presentation to our team, in which they indicated what is expected of everyone and what needs to be done in the store. Then I am really proud and grateful that I can do this together with my sons.”

What is the future of retail? Will the physical store still have a right to exist?

Peter: "Certainly. In the field of audio and video, people want to experience the devices before they purchase anything. They enter the store with a question or they are curious about a specific model. We try to offer them top quality service, which starts with a good conversation and a cup of coffee. We then take plenty of time to let them experience Bang & Olufsen. This is also possible thanks to our unique home cinema. Whether they buy something or not, they leave with a smile on their face and an experience richer. And then we are satisfied. You can't get that experience online. ”jobs: "Absolute. Once upon a time there was a man who wanted to hear our top model, the BeoLab 90 speakers. He asked if I could put on a piece of hardcore. And that was possible! The good man became very enthusiastic and we were able to install the BeoLab 90 for him. In his real 'cellar man for music lovers' he had only one chair – 'my wife doesn't come here' – amid a few thousand Blu-rays and CDs. He said, 'Jobs, I have never heard such a beautiful sound.' And when you stand there like that, I enjoy it just as much. Goosebumps, music can be so beautiful. And yes, that makes me happy.”

In what areas could B&O expand?

Peter: "The current product range is the best we've ever had – we have a solution for everyone. And sometimes it happens that we miss something, but then we find that solution together.”

Three generations of Brussee, of whom the eldest, Paul, died last year

What is the difference between the stores in Amsterdam and Katwijk?

Peter: “Both stores have the complete range, and the quality of the service is high in both Katwijk and Amsterdam. What is different is that Amsterdam has a larger walk-in. Tourists also come here to buy wireless earphones or a small Bluetooth speaker. Katwijk really is one destination store, where people come more often by appointment.”

You have been at MASTERS EXPO for several years. What does the fair add to your company?

jobs: “The power of recognition. There are all kinds of high-quality companies, all of which invite their best customers. As a result, you have a crowd of 60.000 people in five days, who all have a nice outing, are extremely well cared for, everything is just right... A nice environment to welcome new customers. It remains wonderful to experience that first reaction when people qualify for our product. The TV opening, the speakers turning on, the perfect picture quality. At the next edition in December we will present a cinema room. So that guests can optimally experience the B&O feeling.”

What are your ambitions for the next five years?

Jeroen: “We notice that many people are still interested in our brand. And we recently added Haarlem. A cool store in a busy shopping area. The location came up and we jumped on it: it fits perfectly in our street: Katwijk – Haarlem – Amsterdam. A beautiful area! We expect to open there in April.”Peter: “Continue to focus on quality in a fun way, with a great team.”jobs: “We do not experience this as work, more as a pleasant hobby with wonderful contacts. Of course you sometimes run into something or something is wrong. But even then we always look ahead. After all, as far as I'm concerned, it's never about the problem, it's always about the solution! We have beautiful and groundbreakingly beautiful equipment, in-depth contacts with our customers, do many different things in one day - it is a very dynamic profession. We live B&O!”

MASTERS Magazine

This article is from MASTERS Magazine. How passion, craftsmanship and enthusiasm can excite the senses. That is the common thread of the spring edition of MASTERS, which takes you through many catering entrepreneurs: from the big winner of the recent Michelin ceremony, Jurgen van der Zalm van Vinkeles, to 'Horecatering Entrepreneur of the Year' Herman Hell. Speaking of Michelin: what is actually the impact of the green star, which saw the light of day in 2021? MASTERS posed that question to six prominent chefs. During a business lunch in Bridges restaurant, Dennis Albada Jelgersma explains how he farms as a winegrower and celebrates life: “Not with a block of cheese and a lukewarm pipe.” The appetizing creations in Culinaire Couture prove that a good outfit is like a feast for the eyes. David Yarrow's fascinating photography is also a feast for the eyes. We get into the Lucid Air Touring to experience whether the electric car can have the same effect on the senses as the combustion engine. And we enter heaven for audiophiles: Bang & Olufsen Brussee. In short: plenty of stimuli for the reading buds. A song to enjoy!

Order MASTERS Magazine #57 here