“The Board of Trustees is the guardian of long-term thinking.”
Dr. Andreas Hünerwadel has been a Member of the Board of Trustees of the HOERBIGER Foundation since 2009, and its President since 2016. In this interview he explains why, to him, HOERBIGER remains a family business, what influence values and culture have on the success of a company, what the responsibilities of the Board of Trustees are – and why he is setting goals for himself for the next few years as President of the Board of Trustees, but does not have any priorities for the 2023 fiscal year.
HOERBIGER achieved a good operating result in 2022. How do you rate the result from the view of the Foundation?
Dr. Andreas Hünerwadel — With the restructuring phase headed by Dr. Jürgen Zeschky, the Group created a sound basis for entering another growth phase under the leadership of Dr. Thorsten Kahlert. The 2022 fiscal year is now showing the first results, with increases in revenue and profitability. The shareholders of the Group will likewise make their contribution to profitable growth and earmark the majority of the profit generated in the past fiscal year for the company, so that corporate management can invest this profit in innovation projects and acquisitions.
A foundation that serves as the majority shareholder of a technology group remains a rarity. In your view, what are the advantages, and are there perhaps also disadvantages?
AH — I always refer to HOERBIGER as a family business, without the usual problems that come with a traditional family business. The Foundation ensures stability, and our family shareholder creates an identity. Mrs. Christiana Hörbiger is a dedicated family shareholder who embodies this family-like character in exemplary fashion and thinks solely in terms of the Group. This kind of ownership presents a unique starting point.
As a Foundation, we lack the ability to take advantage of the benefits of the capital market. As a result, we ourselves have to generate the means that fund our growth. At the same time, we do not experience the pressure from the outside that publicly traded companies are subjected to. The advantage is that we can take a long-term view in our thinking and action. In turn, we must set ambitious goals for ourselves. The expectations of the Foundation towards the Group are both defined and documented.
„The Board of Trustees is committed to continuity, stability and a calm atmosphere, so that corporate management can focus on the business and our customers.”
Technology groups need technological progress and innovation to thrive. However, values and culture are equally important for HOERBIGER’s success. Can you share your view with us on this?
AH — Similarly to any other company, HOERBIGER is an organization of people who work together to achieve common goals. In the process, a company’s values determine the manner in which the employees do so. Ultimately, the company’s culture is the reflection of this action. The HOERBIGER culture, which has evolved from a strong history and is based on the values we practice, plays an important role in the day-to-day working relationship – regardless of whether you work for HOERBIGER in China, India, the Americas or Europe. The culture and values – Courage and Pioneering Spirit in particular – are also intended to create the framework in which HOERBIGER’s employees assume entrepreneurial responsibility and drive innovation. Additionally, they ensure that we will also have people working for us in the future who are a fit for HOERBIGER and move the company forward.
„Similarly to any other company, HOERBIGER is an organization of people who work together to achieve common goals.“
Everyone is talking about sustainability. Where does HOERBIGER stand in this respect, and what is the view of the Foundation on this topic?
AH — Any reasonable entrepreneur will attach importance to responsible management of its people, the environment and the society surrounding the company. This has always been true at HOERBIGER. Sustainable business management is the prerequisite for safeguarding our long-term existence.
However, what is new – and we are effectively at an inflection point in this regard – is the formal requirements that we have to meet today. Since HOERBIGER is not listed on the stock exchange, it previously was not subject to many regulations. Everything we did was done out of conviction and responsibility. Now, we are being measured by much more formal standards, since customers or lenders require us to comply with the same regulations that they are subject to themselves. This regulatory enforcement compels us to formalize and document things we have always done. This is a prerequisite to be able to play in the league of our major customers in the future.
What priorities does the Board of Trustees have for the 2023 fiscal year?
AH — None, because the HOERBIGER Foundation thinks in terms of periods, and not in terms of fiscal years. The Board of Trustees is the “guardian of long-term thinking”. We pursue long-term objectives, which we defined and documented in 2016. The HOERBIGER Group entered a new growth phase in 2022, which we expect will bring us considerable revenue growth as well as a marked increase in profitability. The responsibility for achieving these objectives lies with the Board of Directors.
What is the responsibility of the Foundation?
AH — The Foundation must ensure that the HOERBIGER Group will still exist in another 127 years, and beyond. To achieve this goal, the Foundation is primarily responsible for three things:
First, to create the general conditions for safeguarding the existence of the Group in the long term. We have documented the most important items in the aforementioned definition of our goals.
Secondly, the Board of Trustees is responsible for selecting sound corporate management. With the Executive Board in its new composition since the end of 2021 and the Board of Directors in its new organization effective July 2022, we have an excellent team.
And thirdly, the Board of Trustees has to ensure that corporate management is able to focus on its work and has the means to fulfill the expectations of the owners.
You have served on the Board of Trustees of the HOERBIGER Foundation since 2009 and as its President since 2016. What personal goals have you set for yourself for the coming years as President of the Board of Trustees?
AH — My primary objective is to ensure continuity. Together with the family shareholder Mrs. Christiana Hörbiger and the other Members of the Board of Trustees, I am committed to stability and a calm atmosphere – two key basic requirements for corporate management to be able to focus on the business and the customers.
This, in turn, is an important prerequisite for realizing the increases in growth and profitability we have set for ourselves.
Only profitable growth will ensure the long-term existence of HOERBIGER. Thanks to our profitability, we can invest in our growth. And growth provides development opportunities for our employees. If we can offer these opportunities, we will also be able to attract the best employees for HOERBIGER in the future.
„The Board of Trustees has to ensure that corporate management is able to focus on its work and has then means to fulfill the expectations of the owners.“