Dr Thomas Olemotz on the meaning of the new Vision, what it consists of and the future of the company. The CEO is convinced that the new blueprint for the future will bring orientation and drive in our high-paced era.
Dr Olemotz, our lives are becoming increasingly fast-paced—and disruption is a prominent feature in virtually all sectors. Against this backdrop, does it even make sense to formulate a vision for the next ten years?
Dr Thomas Olemotz: It’s exactly in times like these, characterised by speed, volatility, uncertainty, complexity and constant change, that we need a vision. Our Vision 2030 gives us direction and provides guidelines and orientation. The precise timeframe, however, isn’t set in stone—perhaps we’ll have to review the aims after a certain period of time. The fact that we’ve formulated our Vision for the coming ten years is, above all, in keeping with a tradition, because Bechtle’s first three visions also each spanned a decade. What’s important is its longevity that’s not dependent on specific dates. That’s the difference between a vision and a strategy, which is something that’s designed for the short to medium term and defines concrete goals and measures, whereas a vision should offer orientation beyond our daily, quarterly or annual business.
Looking to the next ten years, hot topics such as artificial intelligence, connectivity and New Work will continue to grow in importance. How will this affect us as a society?
Rapid technological advancements have made it very difficult to make any reliable predictions on how a society will develop. For me it’s more about understanding the opportunities and risks that come with these advancements and making decisions based on them that will directly affect our private and professional lives. Open constructive criticism and creative drive—this is the order of the day, in my opinion.
But you probably have a picture of how Bechtle will look in 2030…
Bechtle will look different to today, but will still be unmistakeably Bechtle. I’m absolutely convinced of that. The way we work as a company will change, in much the same way as the areas in which we do business. Consequently, so will processes and structures. But that’s nothing new. In order to succeed, Bechtle has always had to evolve—and this will continue into the future. But we represent clear values and have a corporate culture and philosophy that will be clearly visible in 2030, despite all impending changes or even disruptions. I would even go as far as to say that our present identity will also be the core of what makes Bechtle in the future, too.
What effect should Vision 2030 have on the people at the heart of the company—the employees?
In addition to the orientation I have mentioned, the Vision also instils motivation. We've formulated a goal that is realistic to attain, that will spur them on and that merits the work we put into it. It’s not just a far-off peak we’re asking them to climb; it’s one we’re going to reach together. And embarking on this journey together is something that we are absolutely allowed to enjoy, just as reaching our defined goals should make us proud of our success. Our employees are the most important players in our Vision, because they are the ones who will make it happen—with passion, dedication and commitment. It’s therefore very important to me that we succeed in firmly anchoring Vision 2030 in our enterprise, just as we did with our previous visions.
One concrete aim set out in the Vision is: “Growth and foresight underpin our success.” What does that mean?
Growth and foresight have been closely intertwined at Bechtle for decades—and that’s not something to be taken for granted. Young companies, in particular, often set more store on fast growth at the expense of profitability. I firmly believe, however, that a successful company can look at these two goals separately only for short periods at a time. At some point they both have to come together, because a company needs to make profit. Only then can it invest in its future, be an attractive and solid employer, and fulfil the very valid expectations of all of its stakeholders. At Bechtle we have a saying that dates back to our founders. It describes this relationship very well: “A company that doesn’t grow has no future, and one that doesn’t make a profit has no raison d’être. Today, in relation to the profit I’d merely add “in the mid to long term”, but otherwise the expression is still as valid now as it was then.
You briefly touched upon the topic of investments. What areas does Bechtle need to invest in in the future?
The four essential fields for investment are quick to sum up: Leveraging technology, processes—against the backdrop of digitalisation, structures, and, above all, people. Education and upskilling will continue to play a big role in the future.
The often talked about struggle for skilled workers…
... is just one part of the triad of recruiting, retaining and developing employees. For us, it’s crucial to be able to find and inspire qualified individuals who identify with our values. It’s up to all of us to connect with and retain these people and encourage them both personally and professionally.
So the British entrepreneur, Richard Branson was right when he said: “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”?
I can 100 per cent agree with him on that, but it doesn’t quite sum up all aspects of personnel development. In this context, for example, I find the following claim very true: “People leave managers, not companies.” We’re therefore also investing in developing our leadership. We prepare them so they’re better positioned to satisfy employee requirements and expectations. It’s our aim to maximise the potential of each employee based on their individual skills. promoting satisfaction and motivation in individuals and enabling the success of the company as a whole—it represents, if you will, the optimum situation.
Success is measured in numbers. The new Vision talks of an EBT margin higher than five per cent. Why will this marker continue to play such an important role in Bechtle’s future?
Firstly, I have to say that we didn’t arrive at this figure by crunching the numbers. Rather, it is based on experience. Historically, we’ve always been around this mark, but more than ever the development of the past two to three years shows that we can ideally fulfil the expectations of our stakeholders, including our employees, when we have the five per cent in our sights. And it’s not about zooming in on the exact decimals, rather about putting us in the right ballpark. Reaching this kind of profitability means we’ll be able to pay salaries in line with the market, a reasonable dividend, and—very importantly—invest in our future.
What measures do you want to use to reach and eventually jump this five per cent hurdle?
We want to boost efficiency in our core business even further by systematically embedding new technologies. For example, I’m thinking about automation of routine and administrative processes. We’ll also invest more heavily in activities that already show higher levels of profitability. This is integral to our strategy, as is the development of our core business, which will remain crucial for our company in the coming years.
To wrap up, let’s have a look at the big picture. What makes you confident that we can reach the goals in the new Vision by 2030?
That is, first and foremost, the Bechtle history. As a company we’ve proven time and time again that with our dedicated employees—whose accomplishments never cease to amaze me—we can make our visions reality.