Well-positioned for the future even in times of crisis
Family businesses such as EWM strengthen the region
Regions with a high number of family businesses are doing well. They provide jobs and apprenticeships, preventing people from moving away and ensuring more inhabitants. Family businesses are innovative, too, according to the latest German Economic Institute (IW) study dealing with the significance of family businesses for rural areas (entitled “Die Bedeutung der Familienunternehmen für ländliche Räume”). The key to this success? Hard work and personal engagement of employees and managers in the companies, according to EWM AG Management and Supervisory Boards in Mündersbach.
EWM is a traditional, rural family business and is what’s known as a “hidden champion”. Since its foundation in 1957, EWM has grown from a small welding machine component manufacturer into Germany’s largest and one of the world’s leading suppliers for arc welding technology. Thanks to its own Research and Development department, managed by Deputy President Michael Szczesny, Head of Technical Development since 1980, and his son, Jan Szczesny, EWM is now one of the world’s leading innovators of technology, constantly driving the welding industry forward. The company is one of the largest employers and an important support for the region, as well as being an attractive training company, responsible for producing countless highly qualified specialists every year. The company has 350 employees at its headquarters in Mündersbach alone, a village with a population of just 800. EWM employs a further 400 at its 16 sites throughout Germany and seven sites across the world
Backed by family
Both sons of company founder Edmund Szczesny, Bernd and Michael Szczesny, ran the company together for many years. In 2013, EWM was converted into an Aktiengesellschaft (public limited company). The company has been passed down through the family ever since with each generation heading the Executive and Supervisory Boards. On 1 September 2020, former Chair of the Supervisory Board, Susanne Szczesny-Oßing, was appointed as the new President. Her mother, Angelika Szczesny-Kluge, was appointed to the EWM AG Supervisory Board and has now taken over the position of Chairwoman. The Finance and Controlling department is headed by Wiebke Szczesny-Bersch and her husband, Michael Bersch. Robert Stöckl is in charge of Sales and Stefan Szczesny completes the Management Board as Site Manager for the EWM locations in China and Russia.
Short communication channels and team spirit
With such a breadth of experience across the Management and Supervisory Board, EWM has been able to overcome many challenges, including the 2007 financial crisis. Just like all companies, however, the year 2020 and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic pose particular challenges for the family company. “We are witnessing first-hand just how quickly basic conditions can change – and not just for the economy. Successful companies learn to react in an innovative, flexible way,” explains Susanne Szczesny-Oßing.
And EWM is doing just that: Thanks to short communication channels and the unconditional support of its employees, the company was able to quickly adjust its course. The previous decision made in the summer of 2019 to focus more heavily on direct customer contact in 2020 was almost a premonition of things to come. The plan proved to be a success – despite lockdown. With the technology to go ahead with the plan in place, videos and chats temporarily replaced welding machine demonstrations and sales and service employees could and can still be reached at any time, continuing to travel to customers whilst complying with new hygiene rules. Video conferences and online training sessions are now used more intensively and more frequently than ever. Presentations are now given in livestreams and online. The company even made positive use of reduced working hours.
The first signs of success are beginning to show. Turnover is stabilising. “We are working continuously to steer EWM from a strong position in the present towards an even better position in the future. As we’re seeing now, putting in the work in times like these pays off,” says Angelika Szczesny-Kluge.
You can read the study from The Foundation for Family Businesses in Germany and Europe here in German: https://www.familienunternehmen.de/media/public/pdf/publikationen-studien/studien/Die-Bedeutung-der-Familienunternehmen-fuer-laendliche-Raeume_Studie_Stiftung-Familienunternehmen.pdf
Date: 08. September 2020
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