In the company’s anniversary year 2020, the Würth Group continues to be the world’s market leader in assembly and fastening material. But how did this come about in the first place?
There are two reasons to celebrate this year—the Group’s 75th anniversary and Prof. Dr. h. c. mult. Reinhold Würth’s 85th birthday, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Würth Group’s Family Trusts. This is the perfect occasion to look back on our company’s phenomenal history: Today, our product range includes 125,000 products, and over 400 companies have joined the Group’s ranks both at home and abroad. The hub of Würth’s activities is its corporate headquarters in Künzelsau, Baden-Württemberg: The region of Hohenlohe certainly lives up to its reputation as the land of inventors. A company need not operate from a headquarters in Paris, New York, Tokyo, or Berlin in order to be successful, or to grow into a global corporation over the course of many decades.
Entirely different things are required for this purpose, such as “collegiality, respect, trust,” as Reinhold Würth likes to reiterate. And this requires “Values. Changes. New Directions.” The title of the annual report from this memorable year captures Würth’s credo in a nutshell. The family business has grown continuously around Reinhold Würth and thanks to his efforts. Even to this very day, the “Lord of the Screws”—as best-selling author Helge Timmerberg dubs him in his biography, which was released in April—feels a sense of responsibility for his company and his employees.
IN HIS FIRST FISCAL YEAR, REINHOLD WÜRTH ACHIEVED DOUBLE-DIGIT SALES GROWTH
Indeed, Würth’s origin story sounds almost like a fairy tale. The main character of this story: Reinhold Würth, born on 20 April 1935 in Öhringen, Germany. And this is how it all began: At the age of 14, Reinhold Würth started his commercial training at his family’s screw business. He learned the ropes from the ground up, watching over his father’s shoulder and gaining insight into the trade. His sales training consisted of trips to visit their customers together with his dad. In 1954, following the death of his father Adolf Würth, the 19-year-old took over the company with its two employees. He closed the first fiscal year under his leadership, 1955, with a double-digit increase in sales and an annual sales volume of roughly DM 170,000. A good start. From then on, the milestones in the company’s history stacked up one after the other, as if success were the most natural thing in the world.
In 1956, Reinhold Würth married Carmen Linhardt. On her 80th birthday, after 61 years of marriage, Reinhold Würth dedicated the Carmen Würth Forum to her, designed by David Chipperfield Architects as a token of his appreciation and love. The multi-functional convention center was inaugurated on 18 July 2017.
In the intervening years, Würth had long since risen to become a thriving global corporation: In 2019, the Würth Group reported a sales volume of EUR 14.3 billion with over 78,500 employees. In its core business, the sale of assembly and fastening material, the Group evolved from a distributor to a manufacturer. Its research and development activities were expanded considerably: An in-house innovation center in Künzelsau was built to pool together expertise from the realms of science and trade under one roof.
Reinhold Würth, the recipient of numerous honorary doctorates, champion of culture, and fervent supporter of a common European identity, has remained a driving force behind the Group’s current orientation—for him, retirement is a synonym for regression. Furthermore, he is considered one of the largest art collectors of our age. The Würth Collection now contains more than 18,300 works of art. “We always talk about the difference between the rich and the poor,” said Reinhold Würth shortly before a cultural event in Stuttgart. “Art allows us to set aside this discord entirely. With free admission, everyone is equal inside a museum. It was my desire to create oases where this is possible.”
As fate would have it, a virus turned the whole world upside down at the start of the 2020 anniversary year. As was the case at most other companies, the headquarters in Künzelsau were thrown into disarray by the consequences of the pandemic. Nevertheless, Würth is well positioned to ride out the corona crisis with its multichannel strategy, which offers customers a wide range of options to cover their needs via its online shop and the Würth app. Particularly in July, September, and October of this year, it was back to great business as usual at the parent company, which even managed to achieve record sales. Torsten Elias, Managing Director of Sales at Adolf Würth GmbH & Co. KG, commented on the company’s tactics: “We reacted dynamically to the circumstances, re-evaluating the situation on a daily basis. At the same time, we proved how agile we truly are by adapting, changing, and digitizing our processes.”
The sales force, which was suddenly thwarted in its field sales activities, seized its opportunity: the telephone. Torsten Elias: “Right from the outset of the pandemic, the sales team began organizing phone battles each Friday. With an increase of around 6,000 orders compared to previous Fridays, it quickly became clear that this held enormous potential.” The foundation for this success during the lockdown was the personal relationships built on mutual trust, which had been nurtured over many years, and even decades in some cases. Meanwhile, the head of sales is delighted by the spirit at the company: “The employees worked together to develop creative solutions for how we could ensure a continued supply to our customers.” This led to new forms of customer communication. “In individual sales areas, we are testing ‘digital customer visits’: In a type of video conference, customers can experience live the world of Würth that is most relevant to their business model.”
DURING THE CORONA CRISIS, THE PHONE HAS PROVEN TO BE A SUITABLE MEANS OF MAINTAINING CONTACT WITH CUSTOMERS
But whether it is digital or personal contact, both Reinhold Würth and Torsten Elias are sure of one thing: “The business relationship between our customers and our sales representatives is our greatest asset.” That was the case in the earliest days of Würth and that will remain the case in the future. Maybe that is the secret.
CHAIRMAN OF THE CENTRAL MANAGING BOARD OF THE WÜRTH GROUP
“In this special anniversary year, it is fascinating to see how the company Würth has developed over the last 75 years. In addition to his many economic successes, Professor Würth took the social obligations that come with being a business owner seriously very early on. In 1987, he founded the non-profit Würth Foundation together with his wife Carmen, which has since financed numerous projects in art and culture, research and science, education and training, and the integration of refugees and immigrants. Würth’s commitment is visible in the entrepreneur’s home region with a wide array of different initiatives. However, despite his success, Professor Würth has stayed true to his roots, cherishing values such as modesty, appreciation, and pragmatism. Regardless of whether sales curves and statistical results are on the rise: He continues to remind us of our duty to serve our customers professionally and amicably, not only to ensure that they are satisfied but also to inspire their confidence in Würth. During all of his years on the job, Professor Würth has demonstrated to us that Würth’s customers and employees are its most valuable resources. This attitude has characterized our business, and we are proud to be part of this company.”
Interview mit BETTINA WÜRTH
Read more on the topic in our interview .