« It is not worth a nail … Reinhold Würth must smile every time he hears that expression, sitting on the deck of his 85m-long yacht he bought himself by signing a check for 110 million dollars. When not sailing aboard the Vibrant Curiosity, the octogenarian flies aboard one of his five planes which are parked in a former US military airport which today bears the name of his father, Adolf Würth. The 12e Fortune from Germany is also a great art lover and has a collection of… 17,000 works. Each year, he invests between 10 and 99 million euros in pieces signed Picasso, David Hockney, Max Ernst, Henry Moore, Andy Warhol or Edvard Munch. This father of three children nevertheless keeps a soft spot for the Danish sculptor Robert Jacobson. Some of his works have been placed on the forecourt of the head office of the family business.
Würth… The name probably doesn’t ring a bell. All plumbers, electricians, carpenters and building professionals know the red and white logo of this real empire of industrial hardware. Screws, plugs, bolts, cables, connectors, drills, blades, cutters, fasteners, pliers, torches, rails, rivets but also nails, this group offers, in more than 80 countries, a catalog of 125,000 references. Last year, its turnover exceeded 11.8 billion euros, while it flirted with the symbolic bar of 10 billion euros five years earlier. Its net profits have jumped 60% since 2012, reaching 462 million euros. Reinhold was barely 10 years old when his father founded his screw and nut company in July 1945. Four years later, Adolf asks him to leave school to learn the trade on the job. Like what studies are not always the key to success … ” My father knew that studying would lead me to a dead end, as is often the case today, explained the patriarch to the magazine Le Point. We are in the process of building an intellectual proletariat while we lack apprentices. »
A simple sales employee in the family SME, he discovers the job of hardware store when a tragedy disrupts his career plan. His father died of a heart attack on Christmas Eve 1954. Barely 19 years old, Reinhold took over the company, which then had only two employees. ” One of them left after my father died, tells the octogenarian in an interview given to the financial daily Handelsblatt. For him, the future with me was too uncertain. I am still in contact with the second. He does not live far from here with his wife, whom he met at the company. By the way, he still owes me something for it! This remark alone sums up the character of this character with the piercing blue eyes.
Würth : dmethods from another time
This old-fashioned boss – which may seem a bit normal for a man born in 1935 – is a bit paternalistic. To motivate his salespeople to sell more screws and bolts, he promised them, for a while, that he would give them a Mercedes if their goals were met. Once a year, the boss awards his most deserving employees Hands of Honor in silver, gold or diamonds. The billionaire, whose fortune is estimated at 10.7 billion euros according to the magazine Forbes, however, is not gentle with the unions. His group has no works council or collective agreement. Furious at the “miserable” rise of 3.3% in its turnover recorded during the first half of 2012, Reinhold Würth even threatened in a letter addressed to his staff to lay off salespeople who were not profitable enough. Accusing them of working only 60 to 70% of the day, this Stakhanovist, who has worked ten to fifteen hours a day 7 days a week, also asked his employees if they were with their first customer from 7:30 a.m. each morning. Because despite his immense fortune, man knows the value of money.
Germany would be nothing without its family businesses
Würth is a perfect example of those family businesses which are the real lifeblood of the German economy. These companies represent over 95% of the country’s businesses. These independent legal entities, almost all of which are unlisted, range from small businesses to global giants. The ten largest fortunes in Germany, whose assets exceed € 161.4 million, are all at the head or shareholders of companies they founded or inherited from their ancestors. The Albrecht and the Schwarz have created the discounters Aldi and Lidl; Susanne Klatten and her brother Stefan Quandt control a good part of the capital of BMW; Georg Schaeffler and the group of the same name as well as Heinz Hermann Thiele – who drives the world leader in Knorr-Bremse braking systems – are automotive suppliers. Hasso Plattner is one of the founders of the SAP software specialist and Klaus-Michael Kuehne chairs the logistics leader, Kuehne + Nagel. Like Reinhold Würth, these leaders are often Protestant, discreet and… stingy. The key to success ?