Würth Group celebrates anniversary: 75 years of partnership with the skilled trades
The screw hardware store Adolf Würth was entered into the commercial register in Künzelsau on 16 July 1945: This date marks the beginning of a global enterprise. Today, the Group's 400 companies operate in 80 countries worldwide.
Künzelsau. He wanted to be independent. He wanted to make a living for his family. In June 1945, at the end of World War II, Adolf Würth decided to set up a screw wholesale business. Today, the Group that is based in Künzelsau, Baden-Württemberg, is the global market leader in the sale of assembly and fastening materials.
“Having observed and decisively shaped the development of the Würth Group over 70 years, fills me—nearing the end of my time on earth—and my wife with gratitude, as we can look back on a fulfilled life, above all because over 78,000 secure workplaces could be created in this time.”
Prof. Dr. h. c. mult. Reinhold Würth
The will sets the goal
Self-confidence and persistence made Adolf Würth reach his goal. It was not easy to procure goods in the occupation zones. It was hard to find rooms. Finally, a room could be found in an annex of Schlossmühle (castle mill) in Künzelsau: The globally operating Group saw the light of day in an area of just 170 square meters.
With a handcart on the path to success
The first screws were transported with a borrowed ox cart. Today, 90 trucks, 2,250 pallets, 49,000 parcels and 750 tons of ordered goods leave the loading area of Adolf Würth GmbH & Co every day just for customers in Germany.
The first sales trip took Reinhold Würth to Düsseldorf in 1951 and it was clearly pointing the way—out of the region and into the world. He returned with sales of around 2,000 German mark. His father did not show too much enthusiasm in view of this result. Behind closed doors, however, he said to his wife Alma: “Not too bad at all. Looks like this little scallywag got a sweet deal there!” a statement, which his mother did not pass on to Reinhold Würth until much later. “The five years of apprenticeship with my father were highly valuable for me,” Reinhold Würth says of the short time with his father today. In 1954, Adolf Würth passed away unexpectedly. At the age of just 19, Reinhold Würth took over the two-man business.
In 1962, Reinhold Würth set up the first company outside of Germany, in the Netherlands. Today, more than 400 companies in over 80 countries form part of the Würth family. “You have to look beyond the mountain and around the next corner,” has always been the motto of Reinhold Würth. Another milestone in the history of the company was structuring the Group into the divisions Metal, Automotive, Wood and Construction. Searching for solutions, recognizing opportunities, advancing courageously while assessing and taking risks was the maxim of the two Würth men. It still determines entrepreneurial decisions today.
“It is part of our corporate culture to celebrate anniversaries. Last year, my father celebrated his 70th work anniversary. This year we celebrate his 85th birthday and the 75th anniversary of the company. This continuity creates trust. Our 3.7 million customers worldwide trust in Würth as a reliable partner and our over 78,000 employees trust in Würth as an employer. We are very grateful for this,” said Bettina Würth, Chairwoman of the Advisory Board of the Würth Group.
The experiences at the end of the war and in the years of reconstruction have left a deep mark on Reinhold Würth. Not giving up, persevering, setting oneself concrete targets and visionary thinking mark his personality and thus the company’s character. It matters a lot to him to pass on these attitudes.
Change as a tradition for success and a bright future
The year 2019 was an anniversary year and a year of success for Adolf Würth GmbH & Co, the parent company of the Group: With 7,000 employees the company generated sales of over two billion euros. The Group as a whole achieved a new sales record of 14.3 billion euros and 78,000 employees worldwide contributed to this success.
“This is an incredible success story,” summarized Norbert Heckmann, Chairman of the Management of Adolf Würth GmbH & Co. KG. “Turning a small screw wholesale business into the world market leader in such short a time is something that still amazes us and fills us with humility.”
From a dealer to a manufacturer—from direct selling to a multichannel strategy
Now as before, the partnership between Würth and its over 3.7 million customers is extremely strong. The direct contact is the decisive factor for the trustful cooperation. This is why around fifty percent of Würth’s employees work in the sales force, which is about 33,000 worldwide. They have their ears close to the market: Würth products have exactly what Würth customers need. The development of new products is directly influenced by the valuable expertise gained in workshops and at construction sites. A distributor’s brand becomes a manufacturer’s brand.
Würth considers the future and is a reliable partner for the trades and the industry: The potential of the multichannel strategy became obvious under the conditions of the coronavirus pandemic. All available channels were used to supply customers reliably with goods in spite of the contact restrictions. This shows how sensible it was to push the digitalization of processes and to establish over 2,000 shops in the course of the past years.
A strong set of values does not have to fear change
The corporate culture plays a major role at Würth. It is the all-embracing framework. This year, the company experienced first-hand how important values like reliability, predictability, honesty and above all a down-to-earth mentality are. These values, often seen as traditional values, have ensured the cohesion that carried and still carries the company through the current crisis.
“Adolf Würth GmbH & Co. KG is the Group’s flagship,” said Robert Friedmann, Chairman of the Central Managing Board of the Würth Group, describing the signal effect of the parent company. “The dynamic exchange between the parent company and its subsidiaries is extraordinary. It is almost a natural phenomenon.”
Art and culture as connecting element
Domestic music has always been important for the Würth family. Alma Würth played the harmonium very well, Reinhold learned to play the violin and the family used to meet with good friends to sing together. In 1941, Reinhold Würth accompanied his parents on a business trip to Vienna. “The splendor of Schönbrunn Palace left quite an impression on me as a small boy,” he said. In the early 1970s, Reinhold Würth discovered his passion for the visual arts and started collecting art.
“Art incredibly enriches your life. It conveys what is still possible,” says Prof. Dr. h. c. mult. Reinhold Würth.
Today, the Würth Collection consists of over 18,300 pictures and sculptures spanning a period of about 500 years. The entrepreneur, however, did not only enjoy the works of art for himself. He started opening museums and galleries in 1991, thus opening the window to the arts for his employees as well. Every year, about 500,000 people visit the now 15 art venues in Europe, which are all open to the public. From time to time, individual loans or even complete exhibitions of the Würth Collection travel the world. In 2020, Museum Würth 2 opened its doors. It displays a permanent selection of works from the Würth Collection. The museum was designed by David Chipperfield Architects and forms part of the Carmen Würth Forum in Künzelsau. The museum annex also houses conference rooms for up to 700 persons. Since 2017, Carmen Würth Forum is also home to the orchestra Würth Philharmoniker and houses two halls for comprehensive cultural activities. Innumerable sponsoring activities in the arts, music and literature round off the immense cultural commitment of Würth.
“Dealing with the arts has incredibly enriched my life,” says Reinhold Würth. “It often showed me what else is possible in this world.” This is because art and culture breathe new life in your thinking and acting. Cultural activities are thus a reflection of permanent change. “This company would be dead if it was static,” is Reinhold Würth’s deep conviction. “It actually has to be reinvented every week without its roots being torn out and its history being forgotten.”