“Everything Worth Fighting for Unbalances Your Life” With Roger Ruegger, Editor-in-Chief of WatchTime Magazine
“There is no such thing as work-life balance. Balance means compromise, or as Swiss-born British author Alain de Botton said during a speech at the Cannes Advertising Festival: ‘Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life.’”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Roger Ruegger, Managing Director of Ebner Publishing International and Editor-in-Chief of WatchTime magazine. Roger has been writing for and about the watch industry since 1999 and was responsible for several award-winning projects for watch brands. He launched his own digital watch publication in 2000 and has been engaging with collectors and enthusiasts online long before the term ‘social media’ was coined. Having grown up in Switzerland, he benefits not only from being geographically close to the Swiss watch industry but also from an education in both the German and French parts of Switzerland. He has previously worked in Switzerland, Germany and the UK and is a registered journalist in Switzerland. He has contributed content mostly for special interest magazines and has been quoted in books, newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, Finanz & Wirtschaft, Swiss National Television and SWR3 TV in Germany. Due to his vast experience in digital, he is a frequent speaker and serves as a judge for several national and international award shows, one of them being the annual Watchstars Awards.
Yitzi: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I consider myself extremely lucky to have more or less always known what I wanted to do for a living: writing stories. This not only allowed me to focus very early on becoming a writer (I think I was 12 or 13 years old when I knew what I wanted to do), but most importantly to pursue my career with much less competition: This way, for example, I was able to become the youngest member of the Swiss Copywriter association and also one of the first Swiss writers to specialize in web content in 1995.
Yitzi: Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I have the privilege to regularly travel in my job, mostly between the US and Europe, which I believe allows me to have a much more objective view of both continents, their cultural differences, and their individual advantages and characteristics. I did, however, struggle massively when I was trying to figure out how to wear a Yukata in Japan, and barely escaped a similar experience in an Onsen (a traditional, communal outdoor Japanese hot spring bath, no bathing suits allowed). I was able to abstain thanks to having two tattoos (and therefore having a convenient excuse for ‘not having been granted access’)… On a more serious note: spending so much time travelling means that I can literally work from anywhere now. The downside is getting used with being short on sleep, something that has the potential to result in messed up hotel reservations or stuff being left behind (still trying to get my beloved iPhone 6 back). Most importantly, I requires finding new ways to work with your team remotely. But I would say that the most interesting part is the people I get to work with and meet.
Yitzi: So what exactly does your company do?
We produce and publish the leading end-consumer magazine in the US about watches and help watch brands to better interact with collectors. For instance, WatchTime has developed watch boutique events around the country, most notably, shows like WatchTime New York. This October, we welcomed over 1400 watch collectors to Gotham Hall in Manhattan to see the latest watches from 30 leading watch brands. The show has fast become the #1 consumer watch show in America, and a launchpad for brands to unveil new products for the first time to a targeted, intelligent and engaged US audience. The show also allows collectors to meet watch industry heroes, to learn more from experts and thought leaders in our industry, and to meet other enthusiasts from around the world. These “real-life events” are really an extension of WatchTime’s mission to create exciting content and meaningful interactions for both the brands we cover and our audience.
Yitzi: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I believe that getting the right people into the right seats on the bus is essential to any company’s success, and we are very lucky to have a small team of dedicated people who are as passionate about the products we cover, as the people who collect them and want to learn more about watchmaking with our magazine. On top of that, we have always focused on the magazine’s editorial integrity and independence, which pays off in the age of paid influencers. Also, I have never had a closer relationship with my readers than with WatchTime magazine.
Yitzi: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
I feel very fortunate to have had a lot of good bosses and amazing parents, but without the support of Rolf Bollmann (former Swiss soccer player and CEO of Basler Media Group) who was instrumental in getting me my first job, my career would probably have been very different.
Yitzi: How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
That, of course, depends on how you define “goodness”, and I certainly am not working ‘in the field’ for an NGO. But I do try to have a positive impact on as many people as possible. In my closest environment, I try to be a good dad for my two kids, and a fair boss for my employees, not only by trying to create a better working environment for my team, but to lead by example. Additionally, I teach and mentor future generations whenever possible.
Yitzi: What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
1) As a creative person, I am used to come up with an infinite number of good ideas for clients; as a manager however, it sometimes can be frustrating how few of them will actually survive. Therefore, I first had to learn to focus on one or two great ideas instead — and on how to sell them. One idea brought to life is better than 1,000 ideas on paper.
2) It is absolutely essential that you have the support of your partner or your family. A battle on two fronts will most certainly lead to failure.
3) It’s definitely not lonely at the top, but it does get a lot more difficult to get honest feedback. Which is key to getting better and making less mistakes.
4) There’s a difference between being passionate about making money, and being passionate about doing your job. If you are a creative person (and thus passionate about your job), you need to make sure that someone else does not take advantage of you (which is why artists have agents).
5) There is no such thing as work-life balance. Balance means compromise, or as Swiss-born British author Alain de Botton said during a speech at the Cannes Advertising Festival: “Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life.”
Yitzi: Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this :-)
German film score composer and record producer Hans Zimmer would be very high on my list. Two reasons: Music is probably the only art form I will never be able to create myself, and no one manages repeatedly to give me goosebumps (or move me to tears) faster than Zimmer.