Munich Energy crisis, consequences of war and faltering banks: The situation for the economy has not been so complex for decades. This was also made abundantly clear in many discussions on Wednesday evening. “On the one hand, there are the acute crises,” said Handelsblatt editor-in-chief Sebastian Matthes at the celebratory gala on the occasion of the Hall of Fame of family businesses in Munich. “And the underlying long-term disruptions like industrial decarbonization that will change our economy as much as the Industrial Revolution did.”
At a time like this, it is all the more important “to reflect on where innovations, growth and ultimately the future are made,” said Matthes. All of this does not arise in Berlin or Brussels – but in the companies.
The Handelsblatt, together with the auditing company KPMG and the Foundation for Family Businesses, has therefore once again honored outstanding entrepreneurs. They have shown that they quickly recognize and seize opportunities, take their employees with them and are therefore more agile than others.
The managing partner of the cable and adhesive tape specialist Coroplast, Natalie Mekelburger, and the founder of the corrugated cardboard and paper manufacturer Progroup, Jürgen Heindl, were newly inducted into the Hall of Fame. dm founder Götz Werner was honored posthumously for his life’s work.
While Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz was talking about the new Germany speed and a new economic miracle, entrepreneurs were increasingly asking themselves how attractive Europe still was as an investment location, according to Handelsblatt editor-in-chief Matthes. “Has that arrived in Berlin yet?” he asked.
When the federal government speaks of a new speed in Germany, “it tends to amuse entrepreneurs”. They experienced an increasingly paralyzing bureaucracy and everyday entrepreneurial life that was becoming more and more complicated as a result of new rules and laws. However, when it comes to the digitalization of business processes and automation, Europe has a “fair chance”, said Matthes.
After two years of the pandemic, the more than 170 family entrepreneurs met again in Munich at The Charles Hotel for the first time, after the event had taken place virtually in 2021 and in Berlin last summer. These are the 2023 winners.
Progroup: Advantage through the latest technologies
The founder of the Progroup, Jürgen Heindl, seized the opportunities offered by digitization and automation more than 30 years ago. The paper manufacturer had set up an online ordering and information service as early as 1991 – “long before the internet found its way everywhere,” said Vera-Carina Elter, Head of Human Resources and Family Businesses at KPMG, in her laudatory speech. “Competitors say appreciatively: ‘He saw things in the market that we didn’t see.’
This foresight runs like a red thread through Heindl’s entrepreneurial life. He created an industry giant with around 1700 employees in twelve corrugated board plants, three paper factories and a logistics company.
At the beginning of the year he handed over the management of the Progroup to his son Maximilian and proved with long-term succession planning that he can also let go. When asked by ZDF presenter Kay-Sölve Richter, who led the evening, how often he got involved, Heindl answered with a laugh: “Less and less.”
>> Read the portrait here: From nothing to a billion-dollar company: How Jürgen Heindl made it through in the paper industry
Coroplast: Extremely flexible
Coroplast boss Natalie Mekelburger has recognized that she has to make the cable and adhesive tape specialist “extremely flexible” so that she can be prepared for everything. “We don’t know how the Russian war is developing, we don’t know what’s happening with Taiwan or whether there will be decoupling,” Mekelburger said on Wednesday. That is why the great adaptability of companies is so important.
Angelique Renkhoff-Mücke, managing partner of the awning, blinds and roller shutter manufacturer Warema, said in her laudatory speech that Natalie Mekelburger had constantly promoted the topics of innovation, digitization and sustainability. “Coroplast is playing a leading role in the transformation towards e-mobility and is the first to supply high-voltage cables for Tesla.”
Coroplast was also very early on when it came to charging cables and plugs. There is only one line of sight for the entrepreneur Mekelburger, said Renkhoff-Mücke: “forward”.
>> Read the portrait here: Natalie Mekelburger: The pugnacious voice of medium-sized companies
dm: “Think revolutionary, act evolutionary”
The founder of the drugstore chain dm, Götz Werner, has thought a lot about leadership as the number of his branches has steadily increased – there are now 3,945 stores across Europe, with 72,000 people generating 13.6 billion euros. His insight: If you only look up, you don’t look ahead.
If you want to learn something about leadership and transformation, said laudator Handelsblatt Editor-in-Chief Sebastian Matthes, you can read many clever books, book seminars or complete coaching – or deal with the life of Götz Werner, who died in 2022: “Think revolutionary, act evolutionary ‘ was his creed.
Werner not only transformed the industry and his company, but also himself as an entrepreneur. This was also confirmed by Christoph Werner, who received the certificate for the Hall of Fame on behalf of the family on Wednesday. His father was carried by a “constructive dissatisfaction”. But he was also aware that the implementation of ideas takes time, i.e. an “evolution”.
>> Read the portrait here: The formula for success of dm founder Götz Werner
Today it is becoming increasingly important for companies to communicate their purpose in society in an authentic and transparent manner, explained Alwine Mohnen, Professor of Corporate Management at the Technical University of Munich, in her presentation “Purpose: Larifari or profit contribution?” in the evening.
With her research, she was able to prove that employees are actually willing to work more or earn less if they see the purpose of the company in society.
According to laudator Matthes, dm founder Götz Werner recognized very early on how important it is to arouse enthusiasm in employees. That means “giving the other person a reason to surpass themselves,” Werner once said.
More: Read all about the Family Business Hall of Fame here