After several years successfully running an international hotel cosmetics company’s Asia-Pacific office, one of the industry’s most popular and charismatic personalities has branched out on his own. Profile by Daniel Creffield
I’m happy to be the age I am now. I wouldn’t want to be a 25-year-old, rushing into things, making mistakes, things I don’t do any more,” laughs Oliver Schuhmann, managing director and owner of os2asia ltd Hong Kong.
Schuhmann would be the first to admit that across a hospitality career that has included roles as a chef, waiter, front office, procurement and purchasing, hotel general manager and sales director, not everything has always run smoothly.
He was in his first GM job at an 80-bed, high-end boutique property, having previously worked as an area procurement manager for Hyatt Hotels based in Cologne, his home town, and as an assistant manager at the Excelsior Hotel, also in Cologne, when he was headhunted by ADA Cosmetics, a leading German producer of hotel cosmetics.
It was a move which was to shape the rest of his career.
“I didn’t plan to be on the supplier side; it was never my intention, but it turned out to be exactly what I really like to do,” Schuhmann insists. “I wouldn’t have gone for it if it hadn’t been dealing with the same industry – not for any other kind of sales-orientated job. But I wanted to stay in the hospitality supply industry environment.”
He started with ADA as director of sales for Germany, quickly becoming VP sales export, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia and UK. By 2009 he was a shareholder, and part of ADA’s top management. When the company needed someone to come out to Asia to develop the Asia-Pacific market, Schuhmann was first in line.
“I just wanted an exotic experience, that was the driving force,” he recalls. “I always had a crush on Asia. But those early years were a very bumpy ride! With all the ups and downs Western companies experience when they enter Asia and try to run a successful operation.”
A combination of quality products and a determined management approach meant that initial challenges were swiftly overcome. “We developed well over the years – staying small but enjoying a reasonable market share and reputation, especially in negotiating international corporate contracts.”
Last year, Schuhmann resigned from ADA Cosmetics and started his own business – while remaining a ‘freelancer’ – continuing to handle international key account business for the company.
“This arrangement has given me the freedom to do other things and allowed me to make a smooth move into my new entrepreneurial life!”
Other than ADA, he is representing Duni AB, a Swedish stock-listed company and leading European supplier of innovative products for table setting and take-away as well as patented linen-like tabletop tablecloth, napkins and more.
In addition, os2asia exclusively handles the Asia-Pacific corporate hotel chain/key account business for Aliseo, a leader in hospitality research and development.
“I value my role as an independent. I’m working harder than ever but on my own terms. And I escaped from the corporate rat race!”
Schuhmann has been married to Julia for 14 years, successful in her own right with a dog breeding business. “She came out from Germany with me and has supported me with everything. Without the right partner on your side you can’t do this. I’m very grateful for her support, also her entrepreneurial spirit, giving me the room and freedom to develop.”
The couple have two boys, three and 14.
He says going it alone takes maturity – to leave the comfort zone of the pay cheque and do something of your own.
“Especially when you have a family. You need experience to take this leap. I am sometimes surprised to find things are working out so well! But at the same time I always believed in myself, that I could make it fly. It really helps if you have everything in place. My kids are very secure, and there are values in place that you don’t always see in Europe – it’s a safe place to grow up.”
Schuhmann and his family live in Hong Kong’s countryside, far out of the bustling city centre. “We live outdoors – contrary to the glamorous luxury world of five-star hotels and hotel amenities,” he smiles.