You are now leading MEISER further towards globalisation. What are the next steps in this respect?Wolfgang Meiser: We are looking at markets where we are not yet present, for example the USA, India and China although we also have to look at current developments. We’re not going somewhere simply because we should be there, but because we believe that there is a promising business model there for us.
Is it difficult to find staff for this?Ulrich Meiser: That is actually the main difficulty, finding people with whom we can implement our plans. We can erect buildings and buy machines, but finding people who have their own ideas and want to implement them is the most difficult task.Wolfgang Meiser: The stable economy in Germany is generally very positive, but makes it difficult to recruit highly qualified staff to come to rural locations such as Limbach and Vogtland.
“We maintain a very familiar atmosphere and have close personal contacts with the management staff.”
Does the MEISER philosophy help here?Ulrich Meiser: We maintain a very familiar atmosphere and have close personal contacts with the management staff. We are not anonymous and are available to everybody. This enables us to recruit staff for our company and to keep them in the company in the long term.
What are you doing to recruit new employees?Wolfgang Meiser: Above all, we are using our personal contacts to approach potential employees but we are also using conventional media. It is important that the person fits in with MEISER and therefore with our philosophy and corporate culture. Specialist qualifications are easier to develop than a certain mentality.
Ulrich Meiser: Training and promoting young people is very important to us. We have a high number of apprentices and trainees in the company, and our BA course also plays a crucial role. Some BA students have used this sandwich course as a springboard for a career with MEISER. Overall, this has proved to be a very good model for us to recruit management staff in the medium and long term from within our own ranks.
What role does MEISER play in the global market today?Wolfgang Meiser: The grating market has always been, and remains, a niche market. You could say that MEISER is one of the largest suppliers of gratings, perhaps even the largest. However, that in itself is not a title worth striving for or a particular stimulus for us. We know exactly which regions we are not present in and we do not yet regard ourselves as a global player. We are well on the way but a certain amount of humility and above all keeping our feet on the ground is always a good idea. We are always open to new products and entrepreneurial challenges.
So is diversification important?Ulrich Meiser: Absolutely. Diversification is an important part of what we do. Finding similar and new products has proved to be a successful model. Naturally, gratings remain our core product but it makes sense not to place all our eggs in one basket but to have several irons in the fire so that we can cope with the volatility of the markets and economic fluctuations within the group.
“Gratings remain MEISER’s core product. The opportunities for global growth and development are still enormous. We want to defend and build on our leading position.” Wolfgang Meiser
How will MEISER develop over the next few years?
Wolfgang Meiser: Of course we have an idea about how we want to develop over the next few years and we are also pursuing actual projects in this respect. Nevertheless, we do not believe in planning every single detail and we only have an outline budget for them. The grating business can change quickly within a year and that is what we have set ourselves up for. We would like to focus on continuous organic growth over the next few years. But we are also not ruling out the possibility of takeovers if the opportunity arises. We have a stable financial basis. We are not looking for any adventures which may undermine this financial stability.
Is the MEISER philosophy a global one?Ulrich Meiser: Definitely. We will not give up our values to enable us to grow more quickly.
How would you describe the philosophy?Ulrich Meiser: I use the term familial, but it is also performance-based and ambitious.Wolfgang Meiser: Demanding, oriented towards the long term, coupled with scope and individual responsibility for the workforce.
Is there anything family-run companies can do better than other types of company?Ulrich Meiser: Family-run companies have a much flatter hierarchy. We can take decisions much more quickly when necessary, including overnight. That is also our pledge when we recruit staff. We can give them much more scope than large concerns.
So more responsibility, too?Wolfgang Meiser: If somebody has a good idea, can present it in a plausible form and it appears to be promising, we make him responsible for putting it into practice with very little bureaucracy where possible.
We encourage a climate of trust. And the same is true of relationships with our customers.Wolfgang Meiser: Of course that is what we try to do. More and more frequently, our customers regard us as a real partner. Major projects naturally have a certain attraction and we are also fighting for this business. In our everyday business, we want to enthuse our customers through our reliability and personal service. That is the only way to create long-term customer loyalty.How do you view the social responsibility of the company?Wolfgang Meiser: First of all, we are a large employer in a very rural area so we certainly have a good deal of responsibility. Our roots are in Saarland and Vogtland and we have given a clear commitment to these two sites in Germany. We stand by our employees and their families, and rely on their expertise and experience. We demonstrate our social responsibility outside the company by supporting lots of small and large religious and cultural projects. Ulrich Meiser: It is also part of our philosophy not to attach too much importance to publicising our image. The fact that we have fitted out the refugee centre in Lebach, support the Tholey Monastery, etc. is important to us but we do not feel the need to proclaim it from the rooftops.
What vision do you have for MEISER?Ulrich Meiser: Today, we are three times larger than 15 years ago. But this growth has also required internal consolidation to ensure that we remain flexible and competitive. MEISER is an international industrial company but we still want to maintain the family’s Christian values. We want to give MEISER an even greater global presence.Wolfgang Meiser: The whole team has to become more experience and develop an even more entrepreneurial approach. We want more shoulders to help carry the load of our growth. We are open to more diversification and we are not ruling out the possibility of starting in a completely new industry. But we would prefer to remain in our familiar steel industry.