Handelsblatt Hall of Fame: The family secret behind Germany‘s economy.
At the eighth annual Handelsblatt Family Companies Hall of Fame awards, three of Germany’s most successful family-owned companies take home top honors
Germany’s family-owned companies form the backbone of the country’s economy. Often tucked away in small towns and little known to outsiders, many of these“hidden champions” are global leaders in their respective industries.
The Handelsblatt Family Companies Hall of Fame has been recognizing Germany’s best family companies since 2009. At the annual award ceremony in Munich this year, three of the country’s most successful family-owned companies took home top honors.
Sennheiser is known to audiophiles the world over for its high-end headphones. When CEO Jörg Sennheiser took over the company from his father, he had to fight the family patriarch to let him build an international distribution network in the 1980s. That turned out to be the key to explosive growth. Today, foreign sales generate 85 percent of Sennheiser’s €635 million annual revenues. Though it is a global company today, Sennheiser is still based in the family village outside Hanover.
Even more than Sennheiser, Trumpf stands for German industrial high tech. Almost invisible to anyone outside the world of manufacturing technology, the family-run firm has been a world leader in industrial laser technology for over a generation. It has quietly built an industrial empire, with annual sales of almost €3 billion. It also stands for a successful family transition. Nicola LeibingerKammüller, the daughter of long-time owner and CEO Berthold Leibinger, has been at the helm of the company since 2005, where she’s driven Trumpf ’s further expansion.
Roland Mack has also found his special market niche and taken it to the next level. His company, Mack Rides, builds roller coasters and rides for amusement parks from the U.S. to China. For his newest models, he’s experimenting with virtual-reality glasses whose effects match the ride’s every movement. Mack also operates Europa-Park, Germany’s largest amusement park, which doubles as a testing ground for new rollercoaster models and draws 5 million visitors a year.
Like many of Germany’s highly specialized, mid-sized companies, Mack Rides draws on old family traditions. Mack family roots in craftsmanship go back to the 1780s, when an ancestor in the village of Waldkirch near Freiburg began to build horse-drawn carriages. The family business has had to reinvent itself many times since then. That kind of capacity for reinvention is a good model to follow — in Germany and beyond.
Jörg Sennheiser has turned audiophile headphones into a €635 million company.
OF BUSINESS FAMILY COMPANIES HALL OF FAME
Nicola Leibinger-Kammüller produces cutting-edge laser technology used in factories around the world.
Roland Mack builds rollercoasters and tests them in his own amusement park.