VDMA Board of Chairmen: The candidates introduce themselves

On November 10 and 11, 2016, the focus of the VDMA General Assembly in Berlin will be on electing the new Board of Chairmen.

Carl Martin Welcker manages, develops and strengthens his company. These tasks result in numerous responsibilities to employees and partners as well as suppliers and neighbors for the Managing Partner of Alfred H. Schütte GmbH & Co. KG, based in Cologne.

Welcker: Dedicated out of a sense of conviction

Welcker, born in Cologne in 1960, sees this as a task with family tradition. You see, the machine tool engineering company Schütte of today was founded in 1880 by his great-grandfather and has since been owner-operated for four generations. “Family businesses get a particular DNA from their owners alone," Welcker explains. This applies to how employees are treated but the same goes for products and the design thereof all the way to sales practices and the dress code. This is why it is so important to know the family traditions and characteristics and to build on them for a company's further development. “My great-grandfather's motto was 'Be innovative in technology and conservative with balancing accounts.' We try to live out this idea to this day,” he says.

Welcker has been involved with the VDMA since 2001. From 2004 to 2010, he headed the Verein Deutscher Werkzeugmaschinenfabriken (German Machine Tool Builders’ Association, VDW) and has been Vice President of the VDMA since 2010. He took the step towards his involvement in the Association more than 20 years ago in the Marketing committee of the machine tools department. For the trained machinist who studied industrial engineering, a society is only as good as the dedication of its citizens. The way he sees it, entrepreneurs often show their dedication through their business dealings, be it by creating jobs, inventing products or designing rooms or buildings.

Though Welcker believes that entrepreneurs do not have to take a stand for every political topic, they can contribute data and facts to make discussions more objective.

What troubles Welcker is the growing instability of economic framework conditions. This is also where he sees the greatest challenge facing entrepreneurs. This applies to the increasing volatility in demand and to how unpredictable political decisions can be, be it trade or export barriers, in new laws or prohibitions or even boycotts. Planning economic activity will become more difficult, Welcker admits.

Haeusgen: Lifelong learning

Karl Haeusgen, Speaker of the Board of Munich-based Hawe Hydraulik SE sees the company as a social system. For the 50-year-old economist, this can only be achieved if the company manages to balance the requirements of different perspectives. The company is no end in itself for him, but instead serves the people who carry the responsibilities – the employees, owners, customers, investors, the environment and community, the state and society. Haeusgen emphasizes that the responsibility of the entrepreneur lies in searching for balance between all these stakeholders, evaluating it all and securing it through company action. “An entrepreneurial task arises from this, which always entails new issues. Continuous learning and always handing risks and responsibility is a sure thing,” he determines.

Haeusgen has been active with the VDMA since 1994. He was part of the Board of the VDMA Fluid Power department, was Chair of the Board of VDMA Bavaria from 2008 to 2014 and has been a VDMA Vice President since 2013. The way Haeusgen sees it, “the more intensively I work in the Association, the better it is for Hawe Hydraulik SE.” Haeusgen manages the company in its third generation and has done so for 20 years. The grandson of one of the company's two founders explained that the goal has always been to position the company in such a way that it can withstand blows, even if one of the managers or even the company family leaves.

He is also of the opinion that the perspective of entrepreneurs plays far too small a role in political and societal discussion. He urges entrepreneurs to bring their perspectives and demands for other systems that serve the community to the table. However, the businessmen need the VDMA as a coordinator, supporter and propagator in this. He sees one of the greatest challenges being in finding balance between defensive measures in the cost structure, risk minimization and offensive measures for company growth in product development as well as in international sales and marketing.

Haeusgen thinks that the likelihood of risk occurring and the corresponding effects have risen. “For as many opportunities as global networking of companies offers, it also comes with just as many risks. I want Hawe to be prepared for that, both defensively and offensively.”

Basler: Productive and bold

Norbert Basler is new to the line-up of candidates for the Board of Chairmen. The chairman of the supervisory committee of Basler AG, based in Ahrensburg, has been involved with the VDMA since 2013. He works in the Research and Innovation committee and was elected to the Board of VDMA North in 2015. While studying at Technikzentrum Lübeck, the mechanical engineer founded Basler and Berendsen GmbH, which turned into Basler AG later on, together with a classmate. In spring 2000, he moved from the Board to the supervisory committee and was elected as its chair in 2003.

As for his professional experience, Basler can say: The task and responsibility of an entrepreneur lies in recognizing opportunities and in developing and implementing ideas. In his eyes, a businessman balances supply and demand and adjusts economic activity by replacing existing structures and creating new ones. For the mechanical engineer born in 1963 in Berlin, however, one thing is certain: An entrepreneur carries both political and social responsibility, primarily in making sure society also profits from long-term success, personal dedication and proper behavior and action.

He cannot shy away from important political topics, such as inheritance tax or TTIP. Basler criticizes that people are not sufficiently aware of things such as the importance of free trade for the economy and prosperity or the importance of family-owned business or the particularities of business assets. He thinks that direct dialog between policy-makers and entrepreneurs is particularly suited to fostering this understanding. After all, every businessman can be involved in politics or associations.

Achieving company growth and continuously improving employee productivity are among the greatest challenges facing companies, as Basler sees it, together with long planned transfers between generations and keeping the company in the family. The prolonged and unpredictable political debates and processes for taxing business assets during inheritance are not exactly helpful here, is Basler's evaluation.

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