“My life turned into a rollercoaster from the moment the media stumbled upon my agency.” Bernd Dressler
"To many people in Germany self-employment really is the last solution.” Bernd Dressler
A few years ago Bernd Dressler instantly became a worldwide celebrity. Known as the ‘Break Up Broker,’ Bernd helped people end their relationships. A framed front page of the London Times, with a younger, smiling Bernd on it, reminds him of that period: “My life turned into a rollercoaster from the moment the media stumbled upon my agency.”
Sitting in his office in Berlin’s southwest Zehlendorf area, Bernd explains that his ‘Break Up Service’ was actually one of the first business concepts that he was selling at the time. Bernd, who was past his forties at the time, discovered it was very hard for many people his age to find new jobs: “I lost my job myself at an insurance company in 1998. I sold my house and for a while I could live off the unemployment money. But when the moment came that I had to look for a job again – I couldn’t find anything.’
45+ and unemployed
He noticed that many people his age faced the same problem. He decided to start his own company, something not many people his age dare to do. With his business he aimed to help 45-year olds and older start a business of their own – instead of being rejected time after time at job interviews. “I decided to be self-employed and to offer my ‘partners in misfortune’ the same option.”
Bernd, now 59 years old, provides several business models and a detailed guide that helps the client to be self-employed. The guide explains where to register, how to talk to potential clients and how to write letters. In a thick dossier, it is all spelled out. He makes a living with selling licences of his business concepts.
Break Up celebrity
His Break Up Service was actually also meant as a business model for his clients to buy. A Break Up Broker would make the last phone calls for its clients, pick up their clothes or give a partner a very last warning. Bernd’s life turned upside down when media discovered it. “I had camera crews in my office, got invited to talk shows, and was featured in many newspapers. And after an article in Spiegel Online, the entire international media started calling me.”
After a while Bernd stopped with the Break Up Service. “It was a bit too silly. I actually found a different concept from the Break Up Service that I now offer to my clients. It is called ‘the Break Up Help’. I noticed that many people are in such a shock when they are going through a break up or divorce, that they need somebody to help them organize their lives again.” But it is not only the Break Up Service Bernd has in store: “I have much more to offer.”
Today Bernd offers 12 business models. “I started my company in 2004, the very first business idea I had was a media agency,” Bernd explains by showing something that looks like a giant mirror and switches it on. “You can show posters digitally here, and place this ‘marketing mirror’ in the local cinema for instance. It’s a very useful marketing tool with good local reach.”
One thing that strikes Bernd time and time again is how scared people older than 45 are to take the step to self-employment. Bernd explains: “People here are very focussed on social security. They need to know that they get paid every month and they want to make sure that in a few months there is still money coming in. People don’t choose to be self-employed, to many people in Germany it really is the last solution.”
On a trip to the United States Bernd noticed the different mind-set of people towards self-employment. “It’s not a bad word there. Due to the lack of social security systems there, a lot of people are self-employed. We are very lucky in Germany to have these social systems. But a bit of a mental change towards self-employment would be good here.”
Bernd’s clients come from all over Germany. “I also have clients in Switzerland and Austria. Strangely, there are not that many Berliners who knock on my door.” This is quite odd, as the unemployment rates in Berlin are among the highest in Germany.
Bernd: “It’s probably because Berliners think they know everything better. We have a high opinion of ourselves. West Berliners were once living on this isolated island, in the middle of the GDR. The whole world looked at us. We were very outspoken. Maybe therefore my generation Berliners doesn’t want to be self-employed. They think they are too good for that.”