WHY PROFIT AND GROWTH ARE ALSO IMPORTANT VALUES FOR SOCIETY.
“The task at the very top of a company’s agenda is to offer secure jobs and use growth to create new jobs. This is an area in which companies play a key role for society. And it goes without saying that this task goes hand in hand with growth. If a company is to remain profitable in the face of an overall increase in costs while not endangering any jobs, then it has no other option than to grow, even if some voices in society are critical of the corporate pursuit of profit.”
WHY COMPANIES THAT GROW REMAIN YOUTHFUL.
“Businesses are living systems. And like all living things, they have a life cycle. The painter Giovanni Segantini depicted this in his triad of “becoming, being and passing away”, and I repeatedly refer to the symbolic power that I recognize in his paintings for the corporate world, too. Business history has seen countless examples of first-rate companies that were brimming with growth and profits and yet still passed away after a period of becoming and being. My aim is to make sure that my company stays in the state of becoming for as long as possible. After all, the process of becoming means youthfulness. In a company, you are surrounded by young people with boundless energy who want to forge ahead and accomplish something. I want to stop the Würth Group from transitioning to the phase of being, the stage that is just about ticking boxes and neatly managing everything, like in a government institution.”
CAN THERE EVER BE SUCH A THING AS ENDLESS GROWTH?
“There is still no definitive answer to the question of capitalism, which relies on growth. Obviously growth cannot continue for all eternity. It has to end at some point. But I want Würth as a company to stay in the phase of becoming for a long time to come. And this is where I believe my central task lies: to stop the aging process at the company for as long as possible.”
WHY PROFITS ARE NOT EVERYTHING AND VALUES MAKE A BRAND.
“Art and culture shape the values of Würth as a company – this has created a positive company image across the board. Würth is mentioned not only in the business section of newspapers but also in the culture supplement. We take a broader view of the world and do not just focus fanatically on our products, on boosting our sales and maximizing our profits. Art and work are entwined with each other at Würth, and many of our employees who had never had anything to do with art in the past can now experience it first hand. I am proud when I hear people, who I do not even know, saying that we make a significant cultural contribution to our region. A top-rate cultural program makes our rural area, located far from the country’s major cities, a great place to live.”
WHY SOCIETY NEEDS ART AND CULTURE.
“Art and culture are really important ways of building bridges between different areas of society. Museums, especially our museums where admission is free of charge, are open to all of society. Every citizen is equal in this respect, regardless of his or her social status. In this respect, art and culture help to foster social cohesion. Without culture, our republic would be more aggressive. Competition is left out of the equation. Cultural areas are areas for moderation. There is no bawling like you would hear in a football stadium. Culture has no place for wannabe strongmen.”
WHY SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE SHOULD NOT ACT LIKE BIG SHOTS.
“In my 70 years in the working world, I have seen more than a few careers and businesses really take off. It is incredible how people’s characters change, and how they suddenly abandon their friends and their roots when they move into positions of power or find themselves blessed with money and success. They lose touch with who they are. Arrogance is one of the most nauseating human traits. In my company, I try to get the message across that acting like a big shot is not how we deal with our success. Rather, here at Würth, we stay humble and grounded.”
WHY SUCCESS IS ALWAYS A TWO-WAY STREET.
“I took over the business with two employees in 1954. Today, we have more than 78,000 employees working for the Würth Group worldwide. I could never have managed it alone. I rely on each and every employee and they are all deserving of my thanks. That is the one side of the coin. On the other, the question arises as to what would have happened to the company without me. That is one that other people will have to answer for me. But the success story was not written entirely without my help, if I can say that with all due modesty.”
WHY A COMPANY IS NOT FORCED TO REACT TO EVERY SINGLE CHANGE.
“Sometimes, I look at certain changes and think that it is best to adopt a traditional stance and simply sit back and let a fad run its course, like the trend of top managers not wearing ties to demonstrate how laid-back they are. I myself will definitely continue to regard wearing a tasteful tie as a sign of politeness and as a way of distinguishing work from leisure time.”
WHY CHANGES ARISE BETWEEN THE GENERATIONS.
“There are significant differences between old and young people that clearly have to do with our changing times. When I was young, the country was on its knees and everyone was trying to earn a bit of money to be able to travel, build a house, or buy a car. Nowadays, people are inheriting quite a bit, we all actually have enough and money is not the motivator it used to be. It is more of a necessary reassurance. While people are naturally looking for the “right” salary, it is not as important as it once was. If employees could choose between a salary increase and more time off every year, half of them would choose the time off. That is a trend that is obviously leaving its mark on the company.”
WHEN COMPANIES SHOULD ADOPT A FORWARD- LOOKING APPROACH IN RESPONSE TO CURRENT CHANGES.
“Naturally, there are developments and changes, such as digitalization, that we cannot afford to ignore. But that does not mean adopting a hectic approach and thinking that it is going to be the end of the world as we know it. We are looking at certain topics of the future, such as digital industrial technology, known as Industry 4.0, within our company. We have more than 1,000 IT specialists in our workforce. We do 20 percent of our business via online shops. So in this respect, Würth is definitely keeping up with the times. But when I look at the economy as a whole, there are obviously developments such as the 3D printing of fastening and metal components that we are keeping a very close eye on. This is not a case of us merely reacting to a future trend. Rather, we are working in collaboration with scientists from the universities in our innovation center to help shape these trends.”
WHY WE SHOULD NOT TRY TO STOP SOCIETY FROM PURSUING NEW AVENUES, BUT SHOULD NOT LEAVE THESE AVENUES UNQUESTIONED EITHER.
“It is not just the corporate sector that is pursuing new avenues with digitalization. Society is also in the midst of a process of massive change. I no longer have to be interested in every little detail. After all, at 85 years old, the biggest part of my life is behind me now. We naturally cannot stop digitalization from making inroads into every area of our lives. The fact is that, yes, in today’s society our children are glued to their cellphones. Doctors might well be able to tap into a completely new business area: neck vertebrae repairs. But I think that when we start thinking about abolishing old cultural techniques like handwriting, then that becomes a problem. Whether or not that is really the future is something I dare to question.”
WHY IT IS NOT ONLY ENTREPRENEURS BUT ALSO POLICYMAKERS WHO NEED VISIONS FOR NEW AVENUES.
“The economy would be lost if our policymakers did not create the right legal framework for us to operate in. A lot of laws are important and make sense as a way of regulating how we trade, and indeed live, in a society. But in interpreting these laws, the executive often gets lost in meaningless trivia and that sort of approach holds a vibrant economy back. The most recent example of this is a law requiring sausage vendors to print a receipt for every single hot dog they sell. This is a prime example of useless red tape. Luckily, Baden-Württemberg is a very business-friendly federal state. In our North Württemberg district, the district council and the district chief executive interpret the statutory provisions so as not to create obstacles. Instead, they focus on making things possible. While we are very pleased with our coalition government made up of the Green Party and the Christian Democrats, our policymakers really need to become a bit more open-minded in their approach and keep any regulation frenzy in check.”
WHY GERMANY NEEDS MORE DEDICATED EUROPEANS TO PURSUE NEW AVENUES.
“We can see a trend emerging towards more and more people turning their backs on the grand concept of the European Union and believing that they can pursue new avenues with a nation-state mindset. We have to understand that we will all lose out if we do not do everything in our power to promote and support Europe. I really regret the lack of truly dedicated Europeans in Germany to contribute their visions and show a passionate commitment to the European Union. What happens when the new President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen tries to gain support for her “Green Deal” and a new approach to climate protection? Berlin says right away that it is not prepared to make the financial contribution that the EU would like Germany to make. And what about Emmanuel Macron, whose visionary strength I almost marvel at and whose ideas for the Europe of tomorrow are shown the cold shoulder here in Germany? We are in urgent need of a political landscape that is committed to promoting the European project.”