Mr Meiser, you can look back on over 60 years of company history. What was the thing that made you want to start your own company?
Edmund Meiser: When I was 18, I passed my examination as a commercial clerk. I had already decided that I wanted to be independent, free and my own boss one day. I got some contacts in the local steel mill when I was working at the sand quarry. The steel mill supplied hexagonal rods for the quarry because we didn’t have any drills to make holes for explosives. Demand for building materials in the 50s was very high and was growing all the time. I was given special permission to qualify as an explosives expert before I’d even reached the legal age of 21. I earned a lot of money with explosives, with the demolition of a church over a period of two weeks making me 1 million French francs alone. I used this money to buy my first machine for processing reinforcing steel. Steel was very much in demand at the time, particularly reinforcing steel.
We mainly delivered to customers in West Germany. Then the steel mill approached me one day because they had a lot of strip material as a sort of by-product of steel production and they were looking for buyers for it. I then bought a machine from Georg for 30,000 Marks to straighten these strips so that I could sell them to metalworkers as bar material. When the machine was delivered a year later there was no more excess strip material iron in the steelworks. I turned adversity to my advantage and found out that strips were used in grating production. After visiting STEB in Stuttgart, which at the time had a good reputation in the grating industry, I decided to look at the subject of gratings more closely. A few years later we then got our hands on our own galvanising plant. We needed this because there was only one galvanising plant in the area in Saarlouis, but we had to endure long waiting times.
Why do you think MEISER has managed to grow continually and quickly?
Edmund Meiser: You have to have an objective, work hard and be thrifty. You have to look around, be far-sighted and notice where the demand is.
How do you see the continuous growth of the last few decades, and what has changed as a result?Edmund Meiser: There has been a major change every ten years. You’ve got to recognise the sign of the times. We often made investments during a recession because it was generally cheaper to do so. And when the economy improved again, we were ready for it.
You have created and passed on a corporate culture at MEISER. How did you manage it and what does being an entrepreneur mean to you today?Edmund Meiser: Being a role model, that is what is important. In the beginning, I worked with my employees from six in the morning until seven in the evening. I was always focused on my objectives, even as a young man.
Question to Mrs Meiser: You’ve had to share your husband and then also your sons with a company. How was that for you and how did you manage to bring up a family despite it?Ursula Meiser: I immediately saw that my husband wanted to build something. So I thought about how I could help him. I took care of the children, organised the family and supported my husband. It was no great hardship for me – I was keen to do it from the very beginning. And he was always there for the family from Saturday afternoon until Sunday evening. He always enjoyed telling me what he had been doing in the company. So I always knew what was going on there. We were delighted that Wolfgang and Ulrich showed so much interest in the company so early. The way all three of them are now tackling the transition is exemplary. My husband is giving our sons a free reign. And because he’s still working, I still have plenty of time and space for myself which my friends are rather jealous about.
There is a generation change currently taking place at MEISER. What advice would you give the next generation?Edmund Meiser: There are no problems with the transition, it’s all going very smoothly. What advice would I give them? Be a role model. In addition, we are practising Catholics. That gives us values and provides a basis for what we do, including our social commitments, however it is not our focus to advertise this extensively nor do we seek headlines or increased attention by the media.
What you want for the future? What plans do you still have?Edmund Meiser: I’d be very pleased for things to carry on as they are for a few years yet. The important thing is that we both stay healthy. We have sorted out the succession, the financial basis is solid – we have always invested the money that the company has earned back into the company. We have an important responsibility for everybody who works here. We want our employees to know that they have a secure future at MEISER. I’ve got a few other plans as well. We are looking to make a major investment at Oelsnitz. But to do everything we want to do, we will have to recruit people more and more from outside our borders.Ursula Meiser: I’d like to spend lots more happy years with my husband and family. I want to continue to support my husband and look after my 15 grandchildren. In addition, I am very committed to our Statio Dominus Mundi which combines faith and art wonderfully.