In the Spotlight: Oliver Baumann
Our monthly Spotlight Series highlights Germans, German-Americans and Americans with a German connection who have made a difference in their communities or have an interesting story to tell.
Enlarge image Oliver Baumann founded Baumann Consulting in 2006. The firm is celebrating its 10 year anniversary this year. (© Oliver Baumann ) For ten years, Oliver Baumann has lived in the United States, advising companies and institutions how to make their buildings more sustainable and energy efficient. In just a decade, the German-born CEO transformed his company from a one-man show to a multimillion dollar firm with 25 employees in four locations.
The young CEO was born and raised close by Biberach an der Riss – a small town in the German state of Baden-Württemberg. He studied mechanical engineering at the Technical University in Munich and worked at a large Munich-based consulting firm for ten years. But in 2006, he took a leap of faith, moving to a new country to launch his own company in its capital – Washington, D.C.
“I felt that the time was right to move,” he says. “I felt that with the background and expertise that I brought from Germany and German engineering, the US would be a good market.”
Enlarge image Baumann receives the Merlin Award 2014 for Outstanding Service Provider. The award was presented to Baumann Consulting, Inc. by the German American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest, Inc. (© Oliver Baumann) And he was right – but it took one to two years for his business to take off. In the beginning, Baumann says he worked independently from the basement of a townhouse near Eastern Market. After three months, he hired his first employee. Every few months, he added another employee to the company.
At first, Baumann relied on the support of the city’s German-American community to find clients. He joined the German Executive Roundtable, which consisted of executives, restaurant owners, and entrepreneurs who gave Baumann legal and cultural advice, as well as companionship.
“I found people that I could ask questions or just hang out and drink a beer with in the evening,” he says.
“When you move to a new country and find yourself in a new culture, you give quite a few things up and you win other things, but you have to adjust and find your place in the new society that you’re in. And that group was a home base that I maintained.”
The German-American Chamber of Commerce also gave him opportunities to give presentations on energy efficiency across the country, thereby winning him clients and support. The growth of his company was steady, and Baumann Consulting now has offices in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Denver and Frankfurt.
The consulting firm helps buildings become more energy efficient and sustainable. Baumann often works with design firms and his employees also go into existing buildings to conduct energy audits.
“We look at buildings, how they perform, how old the equipment is, whether an energy efficiency upgrade would be feasible, and we help the client go through that process,” he says. Many of Baumann’s clients are German companies with offices in the U.S., such as Siemens, Mercedes Benz and BMW. Other major clients include American University, George Washington University, the U.S. Department of Defense and the Department of the Treasury.
Baumann Consulting heavily markets German engineering. Consequentially, about one-third of its employees are German, another one-third speak German and only one-third do not.
Enlarge image Oliver Baumann with his wife, Cynthia Cogil, and children. (© Oliver Baumann) And Baumann, who is still an active member of the German Executive Roundtable, continues to be involved in the German-American community and has not forgotten those who helped him when he started out.
“Over time I became a mentor to new members in the group and helped them in the way that other people had helped me a few years earlier,” he says.
His involvement with this community – as well as business trips to his Frankfurt office – has helped him hold on to his German culture and keep homesickness at bay.
“I enjoy the life here in the US, I enjoy the fact that I don’t have to give up my culture and my relationships in Germany, and that combination is very valuable to me,” he says.
By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany