On July 15, 2016 the OutDoor trade show and the European Outdoor Group (EOG) paid tribute to a man who has made an outstanding contribution to the outdoor industry. During the OutDoor show, Bernd Kullmann, former managing director of backpack manufacturer Deuter and industry veteran was presented the OutDoor Honor Award 2016. TV presenter Michael Pause, who presided over the celebration at the exhibition grounds, spoke of Bernd Kullmann’s achievements: “Despite over 100 years of history, Deuter would not be where it is today without Bernd Kullmann.”
There might not be a Kullmann backpack brand,
but for more than 25 years, the names Deuter and Kullmann have been so
inseparable in the outdoor industry that you could be forgiven for thinking it
was a family-owned business and that he was the founder. However, the man
himself would be quick to dismiss any such notions. He might be seen as “Mr
Deuter”, but Bernd Kullmann always saw the backpacks and the team that
developed them as most important. “I only did what I was best at – climbing and
mountaineering,” he once said of himself. And he really was good. At the age of
24 he climbed Mount Everest carrying a rucksack and wearing jeans – no mean
feat. But the mountains are just one of the three main pillars in Bernd
Kullmann’s life. “Family, work and climbing – they all have to be in harmony,”
says Kullmann, who is also a Karlsruher SC fan.
On joining Deuter, he quickly became known for
his new ideas and initiatives and as managing director he demanded the same
from his team – creativity. Bernd Kullmann quickly realised that a career in
teaching was not for him. Despite his excellent qualifications, he left the
education sector to be able to better combine climbing with work. In 1986 he
started with Deuter as a travelling salesman for backpacks. He was able to test
the products that he sold himself. His genuine, authentic nature has always
been one of his major strengths. His other major strength is his innovative
spirit. We have Bernd Kullmann to thank for example, for the development of the
first adjustable child carrier with TÜV product safety certification and bike
rucksacks back protectors.
Bernd Kullmann quickly progressed from
travelling salesman to product manager and then became head of backpacks before
being appointed as managing director in 2006. Bernd Kullmann is a team player
who believes that a team functions best when it enjoys the work that it does –
and has the right environment to work in. It was thanks to his initiative that
the Deuter team moved to new and more appropriate premises in 2012/13. And
typical of the man, he involved his employees in deciding on how their new
offices should look, right from the planning stage.
Bernd Kullmann was always quick to think outside
the box. From 1993, he actively promoted a working relationship based on genuine
partnership with a backpack manufacturer in Vietnam. He believed that fair
working conditions were important in Asia too and that this could only have a
positive impact on product quality. Today Deuter is a member of the Fair Wear
Foundation where it has achieved leader status.
Bernd Kullmann was also quick to emphasize the
importance of protecting the environment and sustainable production. He was
actively involved in the outdoor division of the German Association of the
Sporting Goods Industry (BSI) and the Kuratorium Sport & Natur e.V.
In 2013 Bernd Kullmann handed over the reins to his successor and now serves as a brand ambassador for Deuter.