“Back in 1988, when the first vision was published with the goals of an IPO and DM100 million revenues by the year 2000, I, like many others, was sceptical”, admits Harald Lorch in conversation at the Bechtle headquarters in Neckarsulm. The 60-year old was there from the start. The only people that were in the picture before him were the founders—Professor Klaus von Jan, Gerhard Schick and Ralf Klenk plus Günter Weber and Rose von Jan. He was employee number three and recently celebrated his 35th anniversary ...
In 1988, Harald Lorch had been at Bechtle for four years. He stumbled across the company in 1984—one year after its founding— in Heilbronn’s City-Süd Center. A retail outlet. 70 square metres. “We had fixed opening times. When the customers came in, they were amazed by the computers and diskettes”, reminisces Harald Lorch. He joined the burgeoning company by chance. He had other career plans. The singer and guitarist wanted to go into music and he was already earning quite well with it, but, after completing a commercial apprenticeship under Jürgen Schäfer’s father, he was looking for something a bit more reliable. “So I sold computers. Back then, my mother didn’t have a clue what that meant,” he says. At that time, his knowledge of computers wasn’t exactly extensive. “I knew how to turn one on, but I had no idea what you could do with it or how this technology would change our world”, says Harald Lorch.
Gerhard Schick and Ralf Klenk “recognised the potential and backed the right horse. They were visionaries, but in a down-to-earth, Swabian way that still characterises Bechtle today”. Harald Lorch was there every step of the way—the first expansion within the City-Süd Center, the move to Fügerstraße and so much more. “I recently tried to write a list of every time I’ve moved with Bechtle”, he explains. “That proved impossible as it’s not just about changing locations, but also moving within the offices.”
The first few years were quite interesting as there weren’t any structures “At the beginning, Bechtle was like a playground—a big experiment for our founders that we were allowed to a part of. Back then, everyone did everything: making coffee, buying printer paper, delivering goods IT consultation, problem solving. “We’d call that Managed Services today.”
The working conditions at Bechtle Platz 1 are much better than they were back then. “A hot summer’s day was a struggle. We used to have to put a bucket of water under our desks to put our feet in,” grins Harald Lorch. But he wouldn’t change these experiences. They’ve made him what he is, as have the founders Gerhard Schick and Ralf Klenk. While he was impressed by their work, he couldn’t foresee that Bechtle would grow into a company valued at billion Euros. “Oh my God,” he says, continuing: “Nobody had any idea that that small company would grow into what we have today.” And that’s despite the early successes. The IBM deal in 1985 immediately comes to Harald Lorch’s mind. “This was the trigger that sent sales figures sky rocketing.” According to him, the period that followed was the “gold rush”. Years of constant growth. Years in which the hardware defined the business. Years that were all about computing power and speed. IT became acceptable to the wider society. The developments in technology were unbelievable. Looking back, it’s hard to believe what the crazes were. It was insane when Intel first introduced the Pentium processors. Every three months, there was a new processor delivering more power that everybody bought, changing their entire IT because it was faster. That was nuts. Everyone was mad about hardware. All hell broke loose when a new laser printer came onto the market that could print two more pages per minute”, remembers Harald Lorch.
Harald Lorch found his place in consultation and product management in the first Bechtle structures and departments in the late 80s. He received lots of offers to leave, but Harald Lorch continued to stick by Bechtle— for the security, stability and enjoyment. “I am able to say that I made the right choice each time”, he says, looking back over 35 happy years at Bechtle. Most of his colleagues know that he’s been at the company for a long time, but only a few are aware that he was the third employee. “I don’t want to shout about it,” he says, “but I am proud”. He’s been there every step of the way, is inextricably linked to the company and continues to put his faith in Bechtle.
The goal for 2030 is to achieve €10 billion in revenues—an incredible number given that in 2018 they were “only” at €4.23 billion. “That number doesn’t scare me”, says Harald Lorch, with his experience of 35 years and four visions. “I’m sure Bechtle will manage it.” The reliability with which Bechtle has been fulfilling its self-imposed goals for almost four decades is unbelievable. “In this respect, we could be unique.”
What’s the reason? Harald Lorch knows a few. “Then, as now, this is down to those responsible—their skills, their leadership style and their ability to anchor a vision within the company—to make it visible to every employee and to live it themselves.” He is also grateful for the combination of drive and restraint that characterises Bechtle.
“We work in an incredibly dynamic environment and are right at the forefront, but Bechtle also has another side that has greatly contributed to its success. We take stock, hold back when necessary and think things through to the end before committing ourselves”, he explains. Whilst Harald Lorch has always enjoyed working at Bechtle, he’s also looking forward to retirement—to spending time with his wife, mowing the lawn at home, experiences with his six children and to the music that has continued to be a big part of his life. One of his sons also works at Bechtle Platz 1, so the family name will live on even after retirement.
Harald Lorch has another four years until he can start collecting his pension, unless he decides to go a bit earlier. He’ll discuss that with his supervisor. In his own time. And with mutual respect and huge appreciation for the experiences shared. Data centres and their infrastructure, racks, power supplies and climate control will then be things of the past after over 20 years in product management. After more than half a lifetime at Bechtle.