Roland Dürre
Saturday September 15th, 2018

Manifesto of Life

Currently, you get manifests like mushrooms sprouting from the soil, for example the Manifesto of New Work (Manifest zur neuen Arbeit) as a Microsoft (!) denomination on #newwork.

Inspired by #PMCampBER and beautiful discussions in the last few days, I now came up with a manifesto of life. Naturally, the agile manifesto (this time you get the link to the English version), stood in as a model.
Here is how my proposal for a manifesto of life:



Manifesto for Life

We are looking for values that make it possible to live in joy and with courage
and we try to live said values in our own lives and when in contact with others.
Looking for these attitude of mind, we learned to appreciate:

  • Self-responsibility and self-organisation beat being controlled by others and immaturity!
  • Values and positions (mind-set) beat morals and dogmata!
  • Love and peace beat hatred and war!
  • Freedom and abstinence beat suppression and extravagance!
  • Trust and transparency beat distrust and secrecy!

Signed by

Now all we need is a few equally minded people who wish to sign!?
(recommendations for improvements welcome)

(Translated by EG)

A short time ago, Dr. Marcus Raitner came up with 10 google theses for “good leadership” (10 Thesen von Google für “Gute Führung). They might be a good basis for a “leadership manifesto”.

Roland Dürre
Saturday May 14th, 2016

Letterbox Companies and More of the Same … (Series) #4

Come and work for me – make me rich!

The following experience of mine is one I consider a display of particularly bold behaviour. It will be the last article of my series (Serie) on corruption for the time being. But it was definitely a very attractive offer and it was by no means easy to say no.

What happened did not happen as long ago as what I related in the other three articles. My memory is of it happening early or in the middle of the 1990ies.

At the time, we were a respected and also well-known supplier of support and service for products of the best hardware and software producers. We provided service and support their customers in the name of the producers. As a general rule, both parties behaved like good partners, which made for nice “win-win” situations.

During those days, new enterprises with special software solutions in the service and security fields grew like comets, both in the USA and other countries. And, of course, it was our goal to service different producers and all varieties of technologies. After all, we wanted to have a broad range of products on the market and thus remain independent from individual producers.

One day, as a total surprise, a famous and very successful technology provider called us, asking if we were interested in servicing exclusively their products in huge parts of DACH (Germany, Austria, Switzerland).

Es ist immer schön, wenn das Bargeld in der Kasse klimpert.

It is always nice to hear money jangling in the box.

Of course, this sounded fantastic. Today, I know that you always want to be sceptical if you get this kind of offer, because in entrepreneurial reality, miracles just do not happen (or if, then very, very rarely). And if they happen, there is (always) something (very much) wrong. As a meeting point – surprise, surprise – they proposed the lobby of an airport hotel.

We were curious and wanted to test the chance by all accounts. So we agreed to the appointment. And it was all true. The Europe support head of the enterprise welcomed us very kindly and hospitably and told us convincingly why he had chosen our enterprise as a candidate for a future partnership. He offered to hand us the service for his products and customers exclusively for a very attractive region. The necessary training of our colleagues for his products was offered for free, we only had to provide the time. It all sounded like a new and wonderful partnership.

Then came the glitch. Our business partner pointed out that, with such a model, we would have no sales costs and could still realize excellent prices. After all, all the orders would come directly from and be paid for by his enterprise. Consequently, it would be only fair and in no way against our interests if we paid a 10 per cent sales fee for all the turnover with our new customer. We would get invoiced at regular intervals from a sales enterprise in Switzerland and all we would have to do is pay on time.

We asked for time to consider and drove back home. And then, with a heavy heart, because the turnover we missed was absolutely relevant, we rejected the offer. Incidentally, the company in Switzerland was also some sort of letterbox company. Who knows where the money ended up.

During my rather long professional career, I witnessed quite a few very definite kick-back transactions. Mostly, persons from the middle management of rather famous and also German enterprises expected a “little back” from their service providers – and received it, too. Mostly, this was also done through letterbox companies. But I never knew such a bold procedure as the one I just told you about.

(Translated by EG)

I took the picture from Wikipedia. 
About bank notes: Hermann Eidenbenz for the Deutsche Bundesbank. Coins by various artists for the German Federal Republic – bank notes: edited by the Deutsche Bundesbank. Coins: edited by the Federal Republic of Germany, PD-Amtliches Werk.

In the country of horse-trading …

After previously having written in my last two articles (1 and 2) about what generally happens, I will now continue this small series on corruption by relating to you two things that actually happened to me. Here is one example of what I experienced.

As most of you know, I founded an enterprise more than thirty years ago and was its managing director and board member.

Even as early as in the 1980ies, cars were highly subsidized in the FDR as business vehicles. Since in those days it was a matter of course that everybody went places by car, we offered our employees to get a so-called business car as part of their salary if that was what they wished. If you buy a “business car”, you save the entire added value tax, you can deduce all (!) costs, such as the purchase of the car, repair parts, tyres, additional gadgets, insurance, maintenance and repairs, service and the entire cost of gas as normal business expenses. This is how you can economize on the entire added value tax and more company taxes (income, trade).

Calculated over the entire life of a vehicle, you can save an enormous amount of money in taxes, even with a medium-size car. The sum is considerably higher than the money the employee has to pay in taxes for “money-worth advantages”. Especially if the employee has only a short way to go from his home to his work place. And “prudent” employees usually have a short way from their home to the work place, even if sometimes only on paper.

The subsidized profit (difference between the added value tax you saved and the tax the employee has to pay for “money-worth advantages”) can easily be divided between the employee and the enterprise, which means both sides will profit from the car-industry subsidy. And since in those days I was still rather naïve when it came to driving cars, I used the incentive “you will get a business car” frequently when looking for new employees.

Thus, the number of business cars grew as massively as the number of employees in our firm. After a short time, the term “small fleet” was actually adequate when we talked IF cars. And it kept growing in size (10, 20, 30 …). If you have a fleet, the car salesperson will come and talk you into a fleet contract, pointing out the many advantages of same. So I also signed said contract.

Auch die Rückseite dieses Scheines hat manches Herz erfreut :-)

The opposite side of this bill, too, has delighted many

Well, now I believed that, since we had a fleet contract, we would get the cars cheaper than private buyers. But as it turned out, this was not the case. Again and again, I heard from friends who had “privately” bought a car, that they had been granted a higher individual discount – after long and intense negotiations, but still – than I got for the fleet. This annoyed me.

Additionally, the fleet contract salesperson made all kinds of promises, but the service was abominably poor. Consequently, I sometimes changed suppliers, once even the brand. The negotiations were always a disgrace, because the salespersons always used their entire sales repertory in an offensive way, which, to me, was very disagreeable.

And when I absolutely refused to continue, the super salesperson came to see me. He entreated me to remain with him as a supplier and with his brand. Everything was going to get better. And he also offered me a special extra treat, one he only offered to his very best customers:

He offered to pay 5% of the value of every car I would buy in the course of the fleet contract into an account of my personal choice!

I was shocked and replied that I had no account for this kind of purpose. His reply was that he could help me when it came to starting such an account – preferably abroad. Did he mean a letter-box company?

This was a time when InterFace had high growth rates. We always renewed our car fleet early and consequently ordered 10 cars for the year. I am sure that the total value was more than 250,000 DM. Consequently, the 5 % he had offered would have easily equalled 12,500 DM. Well, that was 12.5 times the bill you see on the picture – and in those days you actually got quite some material for this kind of money. And it was all tax free and would have had a tendency towards growing in the future. …

I declined, because for me such behaviour would not only have been bribery, but also fraud against my partners and employees. Today, I am very happy to have refused the then very seriously made offer. I will not tell you the brand and the supplier, because I assume that this was not usual business behaviour but the individual activity of one person. But then: who knows?

(Translated by EG)

I took the picture from Wikipedia.

Roland Dürre
Thursday April 21st, 2016

Letterbox Companies, Corruption and More… (Series) #2

Today: Bribery & Secret Accounts

When I was still generating application software, I always had to do requirement engineering. Well, the term had at least the advantage that the word “management” was not part of it. Today, one would probably call it “requirement management”. Now, however, I prefer the more agile approach of a system outline with “user stories” and “use cases”.

Regardless of how you name it, you will always find something like Entity-Relationship-Models (ERM). Objects, or rather classes of objects, are described along with the qualitative relationship between said objects or classes of objects.

For me, the best example of an ER model is love. You have the lover (entity E1), love (relationship L->) and the beloved (entity E2), also E1 L-> E2. Of course, it is true for both sexes.
And as soon as the relationship is symmetrical (<-L->), you get a “Happy End“.

Even the doubtless very clever Jesuits as the best thinkers of the Catholic Church used exactly this same metaphor in order to make the incomprehensible and often doubted Trinity Dogma look humane. They simply made God the Father the lover, the Holy Spirit love and Jesus the beloved one.

:-)Those were the days when we still kept this sad piece of paper in our purses, neatly folded and deeply buried as a last resort.

🙂 Was waren das noch für Zeiten, als wir diesen tristen Schein sauber gefaltet und tief versteckt als eiserne Reserve in der Tiefe unseres Geldbeutel hatten.

Bribery can also be defined as an entity relationship model. There is a briber, the bribery and the bribed person. As early as a few decades ago, we had a controversial discussion and debate during a Rupert Lay – at the time he was considered the doyen in business and society – seminar.

All managers present agreed that bribery, at least if a German civil servant is concerned, is an absolute “no-go”, because it is definitely forbidden by law. However, bribing a buyer in a society that is definitely corrupt – for example in order to preserve jobs – might well be ethically acceptable. After all, someone else might otherwise do the bribing. And besides, our tax offices accept a declaration where “special expenses” are permissible up to a certain amount of money without giving the name of the recipient.

So much on the management concept of the 1980ies. Personally, I saw – and still see – matters a little differently. One reason is that such reasoning would make any behaviour acceptable, even using other unethical means – for instance violence. Another reason is that this kind of bribery would just make the wheels of corruption turn even faster.

How does bribery look in (real) life?

As a general rule, corruption consists of a system of illegal accounts. After all, it can only work if the briber (E1) and the bribed person (E2) remain unknown. Consequently, you have to take the money out of the enterprise circle as early as possible and transfer it into the shadow realm of illegal money.

In this realm, there are no rules – or rather, individual persons make the rules. As we all know, individual persons are weak and can easily be tempted. Especially if their social background is a corrupt system like the illegal account system showing them how to do it.

Humans love themselves most. And their sense of justice will protest if a corrupt person from an alien world is to get such a huge amount of money on top of everything. Consequently, they take a considerable sum out of the bribery money for themselves – which, in my opinion, is easy to understand. Any other behaviour would be more than stupid.

I assume that (more than) half of the bribery moneys paid never reach the bribed persons. Instead, it remains with the bribers. That is what makes bribery so problematic. Because all of a sudden, the ERM becomes symmetrical. The briber wants the bribery as much as the bribed person, because they have become accomplices. The lie “you have to bribe because it is the general rule” becomes even weaker than it already was.

It goes without saying that the money that has been paid to both parties must end up somewhere – and, again, it gets clear why so many fake companies exist. This is how we get back to my first article of this small series. In my next two articles, I will describe in detail how I was to be bribed.

(Translated by EG)

I took the picture of the 1,000 – Euro bill fromWikipedia.

Tuesday October 6th, 2015

My Friend, the Software Cheat …

Yesterday, I received mail from Hans Bonfigt. Hans is much appreciated by me for being an excellent software and IT man. He is quite famous for his stubbornness and drastic language. This morning, he wrote to me:

Dear Roland, I hope you are fine!

A short time ago, I wanted to reply to your recent forum comment on the VW affair and your assumption that it is probably a novelty for software being used to manipulate. During a longish train trip, I took down a few – unstructured, brainstorm-like – observances on my blackberry. The final result gave even me pause.

Even if I probably do some damage to myself and although it is still a little early for a life confession at 55: here is a guest article for your IF blog.


Hans Bonfigt

I, the Software Cheat.

betrugThe relevant part of my life can easily be summarized in one sentence: quite often, I successfully combined basic insights from scientists like Newton, Gauß, Boltzmann, Steiner, Euler and Shannon with the technological knowledge of my customers in order to generate programs that were supposed to help the experts towards working more efficiently.

This is how, with exactly said paradigm as a mental concept, I started developing software in 1980 – for calculating electronic motors, parable springs or lifting ranks, or for controlling temperature, passage, pressure and location.

As far as I was concerned, things might have continued endlessly in that way…

As early as in the 1970ies, my old man had made fun of the “academic proletariat” by pointing towards an FAZ cartoon: loser type wearing doctoral cap is holding the door open for decadent opera goers and the title is, “Dr. rer. pol. Rolf Wüllweber, dissertational thesis supervised by professor Steiner, ‘The socio-cultural meaning of the Loden coat with special focus on the late Weimar Republic seen in the light of modern insights on socio anistrophy and abstraction analysis‘. Maybe he should have listened to his professor Steiner when he said: “Wüllweber, all you can do with this dissertational thesis is become a doorman.“.

All of a sudden, everybody studied something and nobody had any use for those affected pseudo theorists. Those empty nuts could not be used for doing a good day’s work, consequently they made their clandestine ways through the companies in the departments documentation, “communication”, internal regulations (note by the lector: product planning) …

At Siemens, this species allegedly even invented a “greeting order”, telling people who had to greet whom first where, when and following which protocol determined by rank (next note by lector: I definitely knew the regulation about which rank was entitled to having curtains in their office …).

But then, something happened that was called “QM”: Quality Management.

Nobody wanted it and all enterprises I know willingly conclude that the quality of their products definitely got worse after they introduced quality management. Well. There are at least two ways for dealing with this kind of news:

For instance the Russians and Italians simply took their DIN/ISO badges and glued them onto their products – and that was it. The same happened to the UL and CE badges. In Germany, this is something you cannot do. Hundreds of thousands of morons who had never worked in their lives, were “trained” to become ‘quality managers‘. During the time that followed, they came up with the most abstruse of regulations, none of which had anything at all to do with what the final product was actually supposed to do. Yet all these regulations made the production more and more expensive, thus driving another nail into the coffin of the already existing location disadvantage Germany was suffering from.

No enterprise can suffer a technocrat without fantasy for more than five years (let us leave VW and Carl H. Hahn out of the equation for the time being). Consequently, the hot air merchants, following the principle ‘promoveatur ut amoveatur‘, moved on to become managing directors and – even worse – to sit in all sorts of norming committees as lobby-affine lackeys. This is how works like the “DIN EN 1570″ were generated. I personally had to spend quite some time professionally with this regulation. It is a lot too specific when it comes to details and far too wishy-washy when it comes to important criteria.

And this is where my personal sin originated:

Since the norm annoyed me enormously, I started to misinterpret it intentionally and make use of all the many gaps therein. Because both the European and world-wide competition could not have cared less about this great new Euro norm – yet the products of my customer were controlled following it. Before that time, I had been proud to have produced algorithms that actually were a model of reality – now I manipulated the model by using definition gaps.

And as I am writing this, it suddenly dawns on me that, in fact, creating a wishful image, rather than modelling reality, was something I started a lot earlier than I thought.

For instance, there was the carrier who was notoriously victimized by the police and the authorities: they kept sending control brigades who took a really close look at the trip recorder discs that had to follow strict archiving regulations. Any violation was detrimental both for the carrier firm and the driver – and the grapevine said: “if you want to keep your driver’s licence, you do not want to work for W.”.

Well, what can I say? My connections to KIENZLE were quite good, so I got myself a tachograph, modified it in such a way that it got a V.24 interface and designed a computer program that expected the time, driven kilometres, starting and destination points and then “faked” a disc that was in accordance with the StVO regulations.

We also developed other devices that significantly increased transport safety for the same industry: I am sure you, too, know someone who, at least once, almost or actually hit the car in front when the driver of said car abruptly hit the brakes on seeing a radar trap? Using our active RadarJammer, you could continue driving at the same speed as before, because it interfered with the then used “Multanova 6F“ and “Traffipax“ through phase interference.

When all those impossible “intrastate” messages became compulsory for many enterprises, we were the ones who wrote a module for the then used analysis software “CBS/IRIS“. It provided the statistics experts with pure random numbers. We were especially proud to have managed printing with laser printers on forms that had to be ordered – if I remember correctly – from Saarlouis. It had been desired to concentrate on following product groups, but that was not a must. Consequently, many of our customers sent us entire boxes full of forms addressed to the statistics authorities. However, no OCR system in the world would have been able to read all these different fonts and – naturally – the dark-grid background.

We also offer solutions for the “Elektronischer Gelangensnachweis“ and for the “reverse charging“ – turnover tax procedure, but since these are currently still used, I cannot write about them. So now, having reached the last third of my professional career, I have to accept to my own horror that one third of my “work” was directed at evading bureaucracy – to say it politely.

Of course, I have a motivation for all this cheating: for instance, if the UE finance ministers go on about those “criminal turnover tax carousels”, then why don’t you abolish the entire turnover tax? You could considerably reduce the burden of the enterprises and put taxation on those who in actual fact are exclusively the ones paying it: the famous “men on the street”. So what happens instead? The already complicated and complex turnover tax regulations, incidentally without legal foundation, are added to by more harassment, which again has a detrimental effect on the competitiveness of German enterprises.

This is where civil disobedience becomes our first duty as citizens!

But there is also an opposite side of the coin. I want to illustrate it with a real-life example: it is next to impossible to build a certain type of spring with a tolerance of less than 15% – the inner friction is too high and even as you assemble it, the radius and thereby the springing rate will change. I cannot give you the type of spring I mean, because knowing it you would be able to conclude who it has been built for. Everybody knows that the norm is idiotic, the required precision is unnecessary and the assumed weight is totally unrealistic. Consequently, the quality control person of the customer will visit regularly for acceptance tests, criticise the part of the springs that are beyond the tolerance scope, take the bribe and disappear.

As I see it, the worst about it is that the bribe is ridiculously low, since it typically consists of one crate of the least expensive spirits available. I saw the crate myself but refrained from trying. Because: this acceptance lackey will also betray himself and his job for truly safety-relevant car components the characteristics of which really should be within the tolerance range in order to avoid serious accidents.

Mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur — there is really no other way to explain the VW “scandal”. Well, VW always cheated, and I mean in a very blunt way. I never dirtied my hands by doing anything for their products, because VW actually is an insult to the intelligence of all mature persons.

Let us remember the mid 1980ies. While BMW and Mercedes used reasonable exhaust gas treatment systems for their vehicles, for instance an air-mass controlled BOSCH Motronik with lambda regulation that produced a stoichiometric mixture in all active states, VW kept using the mechanic primitive injection with pressure plate and flow divider. The concern proudly announced: “We drive without a catalytic converter because that is what we believe in”. And for those customers who were obstinate enough to still want one, they had a full load enrichment switch everybody could see clearly on the control slot guide of the throttle valve.

As soon as the driver really asked his “Power-Through-Joy-Car” to show what it can do, the gas/air mixture was overly lubricated through full-load enrichment in order to prevent the primitive proletarian vehicles cost-optimized at the lowest possible embarrassment borderline from collapse due to overheating. Now, unburned fuel would end up in the catalytic converter, which has the effective surface of a soccer field. Now, as soon as the VW driver goes back to part-load, the oxygen can flow back to the catalytic converter which is now full of fuel. Due to its small specific heat, the ceramic substrate was not capable of discharging the energy of the strongly exothermic reaction, which means that the platinum layer evaporated.

After a few thousand kilometres, the VW catalytic converter was totally damaged – and everybody knew it! But that is only half of the story. Through targeted lobbying, not just by VW, they managed to abolish exhaust examinations for cars with catalytic converters – un unimaginable farce, but nobody noticed.

I could not believe my eyes when, in 1988, I saw a Volkswagen with a decent fuel-injection system in California. When I asked one of the VW employees, he told me: “Yes, of course, we know that our fuel injection is crap. Consequently, we reduce the power of our US models and take an injection system that actually works. Because in California, the cars have to undergo regular checks and if a catalytic converter is defunct, we have to replace it at our own cost “.

And now do not tell me you could not have known any of this, because almost everything I have been writing here was published in the daily newspapers. At the time, Lutz “Luigi“ Colani got carried away and was heard with the bonmot: “VW is a dungheap on top of which [Carl H.] Hahn is sitting“. Any intelligent person who wanted to know it knew: VW is the automobile pendant of Microsoft. For people without culture, brains, taste and the capacity to judge.

Basically, compared to the cheating I just wrote about, the current affair is ridiculous, isn’t it? They come up with a regulation that is far from practical and VW complies by doing something that is far from practical in their tests. That means they passed the tests, didn’t they? So what?

You can see the sad state of affairs when remembering that, nowadays, Audi is building “sound design” into their cars near the exhaust pipe. Besides taking up space and weighing something, they have no use whatsoever except to create a “full sound”. Because the typical AUD-iot will be satisfied with dummies.

Cheating on such idiots – well, I would have no scruples — mundus vult decipi. Secretly, I am still hoping that my manipulation would not have been discovered.

This article has been published verbatim for and in the name of Hans Bonfigt. And many thanks to Hans! – RMD

(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Wednesday September 23rd, 2015

Stories-Meal – Very Old and Totally Modern.

Ganz einfach aber sehr lecker - die Verpflegung beim

Very simple, but extremely delicious – the food at “Stories-Meal”.

Katrin Frische and Sacha Storz had invited us to a “Stories-Meal“ (Erzähl-Mahl) in the offices of TechDivision. I like both, so I gladly went.

Another reason to go was that the TechDivision is well-known for regularly nice events happening in their offices – sometimes the background of these events is more on the technological side, sometimes more on the social side. The last time I was there was during a “Munich Web-Week” on an agile topic.

A “stories-meal” is a little like an ancient Greek symposium where everybody is busy “comfortably and socially drinking”. Even the ancient Greeks enjoyed mental pleasures of discourse and debate, and perhaps even a little more of the good wine, both during and after the meal. In other words: at a symposium, you were eating and drinking well and enjoying life. And at the same time, you were being philosophical and seeking wisdom.

Sacha - unser Gastgeber im schönen Gebäude an der Balan-Straße von TechDivision.

Sacha – our host in the beautiful TechDivision house on the Balan Strasse.

The “Stories-Meal” is a lot more sedate than a symposium and promotes an ancient culture of communication that goes as far back as the times of hunters and gatherers. Like in those ancient days around the camp-fire, the people tell each other stories. And according to our moderator Katrin, it is actually not about debating and discussing things. Instead, it is about listening and relating.

Our “stories-meal”, too, was only full of nice things. The delicious food prepared by Katrin was supplemented by a huge variety of soft drinks and a number of beer brands from the TechDivision refrigerator. It was like paradise.

We were only seven, because three of the guests who had already registered could not flee from their everyday-stress, after all, and had to cancel. If only they knew what they missed! For the remaining participants, it was so much the nicer and more exciting.

Katrin, die Veranstalterin hört moderiert und macht mit.

On the right, you can see Katrin listening, moderating and actively participating.

Katrin had prepared six wise questions on three sheets of paper. You could almost say she composed them. Two questions per sheet constituted a couple, so you got a triangle of topics. There were three to six catchwords with hyphens for each question, all of which was to make us thoughtful.

Let me tell you one of the pairs of questions – questions three and four, along with the catchwords:

Question #3:
Think about:
Question #4
Think about:

I will not tell you more than this. After all, we want to keep up a little of the suspense. But it can be concluded:

Auch mein Nachbar hört mir aufmerksam zu.

Carsten, my neighbour, too, is listening attentively.

It was a very successful evening. Inside me, it moved a lot. I would like to thank all the participants who, during this evening, gave me so much with their stories.

For me, the “Stories-Meal” turned into a “Think-Meal”. Because the many stimulating reports told from a different perspective really made me thoughtful. Consequently, I also told a lot about myself – and learned to understand more about myself in the process.

It was a very private evening. It was dominated by a huge amount of sympathy and – I would almost say a special development of empathy.

Und I am quite sure that this will not have been the last time I attended a “Story-Meal” at Katrin’s.

(Translated by EG9

Roland Dürre
Tuesday March 31st, 2015

Our Civil Law and its Time of Payment for Services

EuroIn March 2012, I wrote about how it  annoyed me that huge concerns insist on the long times of payment for the suppliers of services. After all, our civil law says that services are to be paid directly after they have been rendered.

With good reason:
A supplier who delivered a product can – at least to some extent – have protection through still maintaining ownership. If things go wrong, he can take hold of his product, because as long as it has not been paid, he is still legally the owner.

Of course, someone who delivers a service does not have this option, because as soon as the service has been rendered, there is nothing to take hold of. I learned that as early as during my school days at the Business Grammar School Jakob Fugger in Augsburg in the subject Economic Studies. But it seems that the law is only taken seriously where violations of same are severely punished. Otherwise they are often ignored, as described in my last article.

What “good old times” were the years around 1984 – when we founded InterFace. Siemens was our first customer. And, of course, being a newly installed entrepreneur and managing director, I told the very nice Siemens salesperson all I knew from school. In those days, the time of payment for services was four weeks (!) at Siemens and the salesperson sounded quite convincing to me when he told me how he needs those four weeks for processing and also that Siemens was the most reliable payer in all of Germany.

A short time ago, in a supervisory board meeting, we again discussed that huge customers often have extremely long times of payment. Our business consultant then told us about the law in Poland. If a rendered and approved service is not paid within a short time, the tax benefit is no longer available. And he said that this simple regulation actually works wonders as far as paying morals are concerned.

However, if the competition from Poland delivers to Germany, then this is not much help. He will still have to wait for his money. At least that is what I assume.

(Translated by EG)

I took the picture from Wikipedia (common property; upload by Blackfish) (common property; upload by Blackfish)

Roland Dürre
Monday March 30th, 2015

Laws. Sports. Meaning.

“The FC Bayern is one of the world’s most successful soccer clubs.”

What a beautiful superlative.

But if you look really closely, then this statement is rather imprecise, isn’t it? FC Bayern München is a registered club with many members. Additionally, there is an enterprise in the entertainment business also named FC Bayern München AG. As an incorporated company, the FC Bayern München AG  is a subsidiary of the soccer club.

Other shareholders are the concerns Audi, Adidas and Allianz SE. So, basically, the FC Bayern München AG is first and foremost a very normal business enterprise with turnover and profit and consequently it has to do a balance sheet at the end of each year. And for this enterprise, the same legal rules apply as for all others.

Andreas Voglsammer im Spiel gegen Chemnitz 2012

Andreas Voglsammer during the 2012 match against Chemnitz

And like all enterprises, the FC Bayern AG also has and needs employees with varieties of tasks in varieties of roles. Among others, the FCB needs persons who kick a ball – the soccer players.

If an enterprise is looking to employ new people, German law gives them only limited freedom for shaping the contract. Either their new recruits are salaried, then they are employees (long-term or temporary) or they are paid a fee, quasi as service providers. Then they would be freelancers.

Due to our laws, the freelancer concept is an absolute no-go. Even if you would interpret the respective legislation very broad-mindedly, you would have to assume that the soccer players employed as freelancers would be fake self-employed (taking orders, being dependent, etc.).

Consequently, the only alternative is to make the same sort of salaried contract with the soccer players as with all other employees. Actually, the FC Bayern does the same as all other soccer clubs. Consequently, the professional soccer players are employed like all other employees. For many decades, the soccer clubs have been drawing up temporary contracts with their soccer players. Those contracts will then be extended according to need and situation, sometimes to cover more time, sometimes less.

Blick auf die Hauptribüne - da bin ich bei jedem Heimspiel.

View of the grandstand – from where I watch all home matches.

And this is where the problem lies. Because temporary contracts are employee’s contracts with a fixed end! And those underlie strict legal rules as written down in the “part-time and temporary employment act”. It covers all employees, be it craftsmen, engineers, programmers or soccer players. Consequently, the law could not care less about the actual income or the kind of work involved. For temporary contracts, you have laws and those have to be adhered to. NO TWO WAYS ABOUT IT! Those rules used to be a lot more restricting than they are today, which means that violations of the law were rather more obvious than they are now!

In fact, this concept in sports contracts already stroke me as illegal and unjust when I founded the InterFace Connection GmbH in 1983. I never understood why something that is forbidden for normal enterprises should be fine in professional sports. Just like one of the reasons why Wolf and yours truly, when we founded the company in 1984, chose to develop a product because we were not sure how long the system would continue to tolerate the practice of “body leasing”, which clearly violates the AÜG law (fake self-employment).

Und noch mal der Andreas, der jetzt beim FC Heidenheim spielt.

And again Andreas, who is now playing for the FC Heidenheim.

Now we are more than 30 years down the road – and suddenly something happens in the area of “fake self-employment”. Because now, the legal service departments of the huge DAX enterprises (as we know, some of them are shareholders at the FC Bayern AG) have found out that what has been common practice over decades was not always in accordance with the law of employee rental. Now they are looking to protect themselves.

And now, a soccer player actually found out that the contracts of employed soccer players often violate the “part-time and temporary employment act”. It is true that this law is mostly ignored in professional sports. The former major league goal-keeper Heinz Müller – or perhaps some of his cunning counsellors – now had the idea to sue the club at the Mainz Labour Court. The Mainz Labour Court – simply following the clearly written law – allowed the procedure and came down with a favourable judgement. This judgement rules that the prevalent practice of temporary contracts in professional soccer is clearly a violation of the law.

Because the goal-keeper had had a three-year-contract with Mainz between 2009 and 2012. The contract was prolonged by two more years in summer 2012. And that is clearly against the law. After the first contract, Heinz Müller sued for “stating that the temporary contract is now automatically a non-temporary contract” and, naturally, the judgement was in his favour.

Kampf um den Ball im Sportpark

Fighting for the ball in the Sportpark

Mind you, with this article, I do not wish to annoy professional soccer playing or even the great FC Bayern München. Basically, we all know that such an unimportant person as Roland Dürre cannot do so, anyway. But I would like to show what nonsense some laws are. Because they simply no longer meet social reality.
These kinds of laws are then ignored and circumvented by “reasonable contract parties” (like here professional clubs and professional soccer players). Until someone like here Herr Müller violates the secret codes by suing for what is legally possible. And those are situations that, naturally, you do not only get in professional sports, but also in many other sectors.

Being a cunny entrepreneur, I am offering three different ways how to solve the problem. In applying them, you can both meet and circumvent the current legal requirements.

Leased Labour:
In order to satisfy German law, you could solve the problem by calling the phenomenon leased labour. The soccer players would have to be employed as regular employees by an enterprise, for instance the FCB, the German Soccer League (for example BFV). And then they could be leased by the clubs following the leased labour rules.

Legally, this would be a very simple procedure – however, the dismissal protection might cause a future problem for the DFB.

A special labour agreement:
Just like in normal business, they could come up with a special labour agreement between an employees’ organization and an employers’ organization, both of which would have to be created. 
If something like this would be practicable in a system reigned by the FIFA, UEFA and DFB is another question.

Soccer players become managing directors:
If the employer, such as the FC Bayern AG, is an incorporated company, then the problem can be avoided elegantly. All you have to do is make the players managing directors. For them, temporary contracts up to five years are permitted. And on top of this, you would avoid having to pay the social insurance for the placers. This might not be what the law actually intended, but it would be perfectly legal. 
After all, Thomas Müller is certainly qualified to become managing director, isn’t he?

The last three proposals are correct; however, they are not really meant seriously. Yet you can see what absurd ideas a sub-optimal legal situation can give you.

There will be another new law which will affect professional sports – the minimum wages. If you measure the working time correctly, quite a few youngsters among the professionals will end up working more than fifty hours each week (with all the practice, matches, travel times, additional training, coaching, homework).

Incidentally, I know quite a few pupils and students who spend a lot more than fifty hours each week working for their education and future. Yet for them, the minimum wages and working time legislations is not relevant.
But only fifty hours per week makes more than 200 hours each month. That would mean an income of 200 times 8.50 €, which is at least 1,700 €. And I assume that quite a few clubs cannot or do not wish to spend this kind of money. But then, the education of young soccer players or other athletes is already a profound violation of various laws, anyway.

(Translated by EG)

The first picture was taken during a home match of SpVgg Unterhaching against Chemnitz on November, 23th, 2013. The picture was taken by Stefan Kukral in the Sportpark. The other pictures, too, were taken by Stefan. The SpVgg gave permission to publish them in the IF Blog.
With these pictures, I want to remind you that the SpVgg is my club. I also wish to ask as many friends and readers as possible to come and watch the last three home matches of this third-league season in the Sportpark. We need to support the team in its struggle against relegation.

Security Streamlined.

My father was a railway employee. In some way or other, this pushed me towards the railway system. There came a time when I discovered that there was also a railway police. As I saw it, they were responsible for the railway stations and other facilities of the Deutsche Bundesbahn. However, I did not understand why we needed them.

After graduation from high school, I had to serve in the army. There were military police. It was easier for me to understand why they were needed. After all, soldiers must be pretty tough fellows if you want to win wars with them. And consequently, you cannot treat them with as much consideration as normal citizens.

At Siemens, we had plant security. Among other things, they supervised venue security and patrolled along the fences. Just like the guards at the armed forces “secured” the barracks and military areas. For me, plant security at Siemens was something like the Siemens AG railway police.

Today, you hear that, for instance, Gasprom has its own small private army for this and other purposes. Yet, I still do not really understand the necessity to have plant security. Just like I do not really understand the justification for having a Gasprom army.

When they privatized the German Railway System, the railway police was not converted into the railway police of the Deutsche Bahn AG. Instead, they were made part of the border patrol. After all, trains are mobile and as such they are always something like a sort of “border”.

For me, border patrol was always a very special police. The very meaning of the word indicated what I clearly understood to be their purpose. They were supposed to secure and defend our borders in times of peace, just like it used to be the intended task of the German Armed Forces in times of war.

Today, the border patrol has other tasks, as well – such as tracing illegal employment. In the near future, they are supposed to also control if the “minimum wage legislation” is adhered to. The tax revenue offices also have their own police – the tax fraud investigators.

Now we have many private polices, as well. And they, too, have one thing in common – they wear uniforms and drive around in cars imitating police vehicles.

Well, I really do not fully understand it. Basically, we have a law, don’t we? So why is not one police force sufficient? It could do its job according to the distribution of tasks and regional responsibility and see to it that the law is kept and the citizens are protected against violations, couldn’t it?

😉 Or do they intend to install separate police forces for each individual piece of legislation?

Mind you, I am not even talking about police-like systems such as the German Intelligence Service. Naturally, they do not wear uniforms. The plans to legalize the Armed Forces for “action inside the country” is something I prefer not even to think about.

(Translated by EG)

On October, 24th, I spoke at the University of the Armed Forces. Since what I talked about is extremely important to me, I had the presentation video-taped and published in Youtube. Here it is:


(Translated by EG)