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15th international
Starnberg Management Days
A brief review
November 25th and 26th, 2019
Leading upheavals entrepreneurially
Successfully managing transformation and day-to-day business, without forgetting the customer

The main questions were:

  • How can one successfully manage upheavals over a period of several years?

  • How can upheavals be managed from an overall company point of view?

  • How do you deal with the legacy of earlier times when you want to make a significant move forward?

  • How does sales accelerate the further development of business models?

  • How can the old and new worlds of IT be brought together?

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The most important statements of the event at a glance...

Develop as a company so much benefit from the upheavals that customers recognize the added value and are willing to pay for the newly emerging solutions.

In his opening speech, Werner Seidenschwarz emphasized that digitization only works if it leads to a benefit in the end product that the customer can perceive.  

Reinhold Würth emphasized that even in the phases of major upheaval at Würth, the principle always applies: "Growth without profit is deadly." Reinhold Würth and Werner Seidenschwarz agreed that only appreciation for the customer and good cooperation in the company also Opening the door to wanting and being able to change as a company.

With his appearance, Stefan Asenkerschbaumer embodied that for a CFO, “entrepreneurial competence with a correspondingly deep understanding of the operational business is indispensable today.” A CFO who is purely focused on numerical expertise will not be accepted in the company, especially in phases of upheaval.

Using the Future Combat Air System in particular, Dirk Hoke explained how a company based in Germany can assert itself and develop in interaction with European and German space and armament policy.

Peter Maffay described his experiences with the work in the Peter Maffay Foundation and how visions can be realized with music and social commitment.

Captain Lieutenant Michael Furtner used the example of "unlocking" special forces from submarines to explain how to cope with extreme situations without losing sight of the goal.

Axel Kaltofen told how a high-tech company from Klingenberg am Main was able to make a lasting impression on Super Bowl officials in the USA.

Jürgen Kunz gave the participants a strategy on how to set out into the new IT world and find the courage to cut off old braids in IT - which is not always easy, but can prevent immense costs from accruing if you act early - and if you don't - can cost a lot of money.

Holger Böhme emphasized the role of sales in orchestrating the upheaval from the product business to a complex solution business in material handling.

Wofür ist der Kunde bereit zu bezahlen.tif

Reinhold Würth, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Würth Group´s Family Trusts, Künzelsau, is the grand seigneur of sales in Europe and currently the outstanding entrepreneurial personality in Germany.


From a two-man business, he and his management team developed a global trading group with more than 79,000 employees in more than 80 countries around the world and a turnover of 13.6 billion euros in 2018 - in 70 years (!) of the company. The bare numbers speak for themselves - "And in 2019 we will close with €14.4 billion. That's really chic."

The creation and renewal of this management team is a very exceptional strength of the Würth Group. This is exemplified by such outstanding key players as Peter Zürn or Bernd Herrmann, the latter also a member of the Leading Sales Advisory Board of the Seidenschwarz management circles.

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In his contribution and in the intensive discussion, Reinhold Würth captivated the audience and took them on a journey of his most important principles, which over the years have always helped him in managing major upheavals.

Here are just a few of those he described:

  • "The most important statement for my business life is: growth without profit is deadly. We have grown at 20.7% annually over the years and even made a good profit during the financial crisis years."

  • "In our company, the sales force and sales organization has 95% importance. All other departments are only 5%." Someone from the other departments could certainly get the idea that they don't feel emphasized enough. But then I tell them: "None of the 79,000 employees is employed by Würth. They are all employed by our customers."

  • "Predictability, straightforwardness, honesty and gratitude are indispensable and necessary for a successful company because, after all, culture plays an increasingly important role. It gives the company great goodwill potential."

  • "Arrogance usually does not come strikingly like a tank with a loud rattle and a lot of noise. Arrogance has many facets that subtly float along under the covers and creep along, that you can often only feel and sense between the lines, without being able to prove directly that someone is behaving arrogantly. My biggest task today - even with 85 years - is to keep arrogance in any form away from the company."

Directly afterwards, Bosch CFO Stefan Asenkerschbaumer began to describe the transformation of the industrial giant into a digital player.

Stefan Asenkerschbaumer is deputy chairman of the board of management of Robert Bosch GmbH, where he is responsible for finance and accounting, controlling, planning and M&A, and taxes. He is also responsible for Purchasing and Logistics and the Global Business Services corporate center. He has been a partner in Robert Bosch Industrietreuhand KG since January 01st, 2018.

In his role at Bosch, he is characterized by a special understanding that is increasingly rare among chief financial officers today. He says: "Today, entrepreneurial competence with a correspondingly deep understanding of the operational business is indispensable. A CFO who is purely committed to numbers expertise will lose acceptance in the company in the future."

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And Stefan Asenkerschbaumer proved that a Bosch CFO can also emotionally engage the audience with his "fancy" introduction with the image video #LikeABosch, which has been watched more than 55 million times. That also made the invited and digitally-savvy young exceptional students feel right at home. ;-)

In order to be able to actively shape the digital transformation of Bosch on its way to becoming a leading IoT company, it is first necessary to do the major homework: for example, from 2020, all Bosch products shipped should be networked, and from 2025, all products should have "intelligence". By networking all products with each other and the individual business sectors with each other, Bosch - like other companies - will have more and more data at its disposal. In order to be able to use this data, standardization and homogenization are an indispensable prerequisite - a topic that often receives too little attention and which, if not addressed, can cause entire implementation programs to fail.

With three concise examples from Connected Mobility, Connected Industry and Connected Living, Stefan Asenkerschbaumer not only gave a deep insight into the currently much-discussed fields such as autonomous driving or e-mobility. It was important to him to objectify the hype discussions and to show, using the example of digitization and automation of the oldest Bosch plant from 1906 - still founded by Robert Bosch in Stuttgart-Feuerbach - that it is also possible to lead such a brownfield plant into the future.

It was impressive to see how Bosch's top management is itself facing up to the demands of digital transformation and engaging intensively in discussions with young computer scientists. These digital youngsters are also involved in management meetings - right down to reverse mentoring, in which the young talents even act as mentors for the top executives.

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Dirk Hoke, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Airbus Defence and Space, then addressed a highly topical and challenging subject: growing in a world of political change, based in a country that cannot quite decide where it stands on issues such as defense or climate policy.

With its four program lines - Connected Intelligence, Military Aircraft, Space Systems and Unmanned Aerial Systems - Airbus Defence and Space is not only active in the military sector. But in Germany, these topics are still not quite socially acceptable. It's all about defense, security and space - but as CEO of Airbus Defence and Space you are often referred to  as "Airbus' armaments director".

The regional distribution of Airbus divisions among the sites in Ottobrunn, Toulouse and Marignane helps the company in its dealings with its European partners to maintain a permanent dialogue with governments and to keep it in balance. Dirk Hoke described the developments using numerous concrete examples.

Airbus is Europe's number 1 in space. Today, every inhabitant of Germany uses an average of 7 satellites per day. And even the Americans used data from Airbus during the major fires in California, for example, in order to be able to extinguish the fires in a more targeted manner.

And with the election of Macron in France, Germany has entered into an intensified dialogue with the French on a more independent defense and security policy vis-à-vis the U.S., including projects such as the Euro Drone or the Future Combat Air System as the basis for a true European defense system: with its own 6th generation combat aircraft in a network of systems connected in real time, sharing and analyzing data - including artificial intelligence - and acting in a so-called Combat Cloud - integrating all European systems.

Such high-tech fields of work can also be increasingly used for civilian systems. However, the task today is to sustain the capabilities to be developed through contracts. The U.S. with $700 billion in defense spending compared to Germany's €40 billion, or the Europeans with their 63 drones compared to the U.S. with its 200-300 drones per year, show the differences.


And listening to Dirk Hoke's words, one can't help feeling that countries like China and the US are moving forward on a consistent path, while Germany as a country is still on a search.

However, the discussion in the plenary session was not about relying on American or Chinese policies, but rather that it is overdue to follow an own European path that will make Europe more independent of other, less predictable partners.

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Before Reinhold Würth, Stefan Asenkerschbaumer and Dirk Hoke, the host Werner Seidenschwarz had opened the event.


As a native of Starnberg and having grown up in Possenhofen, he recounted many personal experiences of major upheavals and asked the participants to start by looking inside themselves and considering everything they had already experienced and overcome in their lives. These experiences have a strong impact on one's later life, especially in terms of how one approaches and leads major upheavals.

During the 15 years of the international Starnberg Management Days, speakers and audience have experienced and discussed many major upheavals. The host highlighted a few examples:

  • The then Bayer boss Marijn Dekkers was a guest when the merger of Bayer and Monsanto was initiated,

  • the then RS Components leader Klaus Göldenbot led the company from 3% online sales share to 70%.

  • Probably the most emotional presentation ever given at the iSMD was that of Alfred Ötsch on the eve of Lufthansa's decision to take over Austrian Airlines,

  • similar to the evening guest Sven Hannawald, who reported on his burnout and how to get out of it.

  • Smuts Ngonyama, former secretary general of the South African ANC and Nelson Mandela's right-hand man for many years, talked about one of the greatest political upheavals as he recounted his personal experiences under apartheid and after.

Werner Seidenschwarz did not feel at all comfortable highlighting specific examples, as each individual contribution has provided great value over the 15 years and has strongly shaped the open culture of getting to know and talking to each other at iSMD.

He then named many current company examples and focused on a few points on current upheavals:

  • "Every change in a company only makes sense if it leads to an increase in the benefit of the end product, as perceived by the customer."

  • “In phases of major upheaval, it is primarily the apparently softer factors that ensure stability: lived values, a picture of the future that is desirable for all those involved, an easily understandable strategy and a change process that is characterized by appreciation for the past and an orientation to the future. A good change process always starts with setting an example and explaining why.”


Such ingredients are typically mastered by entrepreneurs and owner-managed companies, which is perfectly expressed by a quote from the founder of Winterhalter from Lake Constance, the leading company for B2B dishwashing solutions in the hotel, restaurant and catering sector: "An entrepreneur is only successful when he is manages to see things through the eyes of the customer. Only then a product becomes a real solution.”

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From his project work with his strategy implementation team, Werner Seidenschwarz has often witnessed how companies struggle with themselves when it comes to working out new unique selling points at the corporate level. However, changes in a company, e.g. towards solution partnerships, offer extraordinary opportunities for profitable growth. At the end of the day, customers are only willing to pay noticeably more for the added value of unique selling propositions.

Therefore, the topics benefit-led innovation, benefit-led price management and benefit-led sales are currently of special importance in the project work of Seidenschwarz & Comp.

The probably most influential concept is at present the service ladder for the development of customer partnerships for the solution business, which Werner Seidenschwarz also explained in detail using many implementation examples.

The world of digital helping hands supports the implementation measures in the companies today in many different ways - from Robotic Desktop Automation to Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Computing. The merging of these rationally designable systems with the often non-rational behaviors of humans still faces many tests. One of the aforementioned examples brought a smile to the ladies' faces: men change their behavior when a woman is present in the room. Conversely, women do not change their behavior when an attractive man is around ...

Otherwise, every company may always and every day also deal with the influences from the outside: With the increasing number of official bans (last year in Germany by 50% more), with the fact that "everyone communicates everything and immediately via the Internet without sleeping a night over it" and all this accompanied by a social trend towards hypersensitivity to contrary ideas and over-egoism as widespread attitudes in society.

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During the talk show in the evening things got emotional. In a somewhat more relaxed atmosphere, Werner Seidenschwarz talked to two very special guests. In recent years he has not only been a professor, management consultant and organizer of the Starnberg Management Days, but also the host and moderator of numerous management circles and top management events in companies.

He had therefore just ended his evening talk with rock star Peter Maffay in a correspondingly cheerful mood. When he handed over a donation check of the Seidenschwarz & Comp. GmbH for the Peter Maffay Foundation in the amount of 10.000,-- €, movement became noticeable in the audience.

An owner of a leading German tire wholesaler, visibly moved by the conversation, asked to be allowed to describe his experience with the terminally ill child of an employee. A foundation house of Peter Maffay had given the 7-year-old girl many happy moments, whereupon the participant decided spontaneously to increase the donation sum of the organizer to now 20.000,-- €.    


Further donations, for example from Trumpf, followed after the event.


Beforehand, Peter Maffay had calmly and profoundly let himself in to describe the great upheavals of his life: From the journey with his parents from Siebenbürgen to Germany, his beginnings in Munich, his first successes, his upheaval from pop singer to rock star, his commitment to traumatized, chronically ill, socially disadvantaged and neglected children and much more. He took a lot of time and completely infected the participants with his empathetic nature and what good he has done and is doing.

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It was actually a difficult start for the conversation with Captain Lieutenant Michael Furtner from the Naval Special Forces Command (KSM) in Eckernförde. After rock star Peter Maffay's extremely emotional performance, it wasn't easy at all to "bring the participants back into the game".

However, Captain Lieutenant Furtner earned the utmost respect and recognition for his unit that evening. With his extraordinarily personally engaging, always tongue-in-cheek, but factually determined manner, as well as his perfect interaction with the moderator, he went one step further and was able to completely enthuse the participants for his cause.

Dirk Hoke used great examples to outline the complex relationships between politics, defense and industry. With “Kaleu” Furtner, one was now directly involved in the implementation: holding one’s breath for three long minutes under water, “unlocking” – i.e. a team of four exiting the torpedo tube of a submarine with a length of 6 meters and 55 centimeters in diameter in total darkness or 30 km swimming with luggage in the rough Baltic Sea.

In particular, the outstanding capabilities of his team were highlighted in such a way that the top-class industry participants will remember KSM as a beacon of internationally operating military organizations - on a par with the Navy Seals of the USA!

And each industry participant was now able to measure for themselves how they would like to position the upheavals and challenges they have experienced in comparison to the KSM's missions. One or the other certainly went back to his "deployments" at home in the company with a lightness not felt before ... One had learned a lot about how to cope with extreme situations and act in a goal-oriented way ... in the true sense of the word outdoor.

Two really exceptional evening guests!

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Axel Kaltofen, Executive Vice President Industrial Instrumentation of WIKA Alexander Wiegand SE & Co. KG in Klingenberg am Main opened the 2nd day of the event. WIKA is an owner-managed €1 billion company that aims to double its sales to €2 billion in the next 5 years.

Axel Kaltofen described the upheavals that a technology-led company has to cope with today on its way to becoming a more sales and market-oriented company.

This was not difficult for him, as he had previously worked for the U.S. company Eaton and for Siemens in Germany and China. In addition, he was born in Chemnitz, or rather comes from the former Karl-Marx-Stadt, and later studied in Dresden. Both cities stand for a great tradition of technical universities. And both places that stand for the great German upheavals in the times before and after reunification.

WIKA itself is a real owner-managed family company with a long and multifaceted history - with an owner who was the first woman to be named Entrepreneur of the Year back in 1984.

After the step from a regional company to an internationally active player, WIKA is now increasingly entering the phase of global and digital growth and is going through the usual development steps from a product to a solution provider.

As one of the central key points of growth, Axel Kaltofen emphasized the comprehensibility of the strategy for everyone in the company and for external stakeholders: Being able to present a strategy on 1 page and communicate it in 15 minutes, and not overdoing the change in culture in the associated change management process - so that the strengths of the company with highly complex, variant-rich and high-quality production with batch sizes of 1 to 100,000 units and with measuring ranges of 0 to 15,000 bar can not only be maintained, but expanded.

Axel Kaltofen put a smile on the faces of the participants when he talked about how the WIKA service saved the American top event - the National Football League (NFL) Super Bowl - via remote access. The drone defense had blocked a sensor for the crane control, which would have prevented the stage systems from being raised shortly before the start of the event in front of a sold-out stadium. In B2B, German companies and German service technicians are just way ahead ... ;-)

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Then it was all about Oracle, a company that, beyond IT, also became known worldwide for a race in the Americas Cup, when it had a spectacular win against Team New Zealand: Oracle was already 1:8 behind when it won 8 stages in a row and thus still managed to win the overall race. The company has also got used to this pace for its own corporate development and the development of its customers.

However, this requires a sharpened eye for the upheavals and developments in information technologies - not least because the topic has become one of the main cost drivers today. Such a sharpened eye was shown by Jürgen Kunz, Senior Vice President Northern Europe, Oracle, Munich, a company that has become the main competitor of the "good old" SAP. Today, as Senior Vice President for the Northern Europe region, Mr. Kunz is responsible for the technology sales organization in DACH, BeNeLux and the Nordics. And he is a member of the international Oracle Management Board.

Customers have become more sensitive to IT systems. So they look very closely at how well IT providers can handle customer insights. There are reasons:

  • 1/3 of customers will leave a brand after just one bad experience.

  • Over 40% of customers are willing to pay a 20% premium if they have had impressive customer experiences.

  • And a little anecdote should also be mentioned here: 64% of employees would trust a robot more than their manager.

But Jürgen Kunz 's message was much more far-reaching: It's now time to cut old braids and habits in the IT landscape. "There is often so much legacy in the old structures, so much piecemeal work is done, but no real lift & shift." Jürgen Kunz sees Financial Services furthest behind. "And if something doesn't happen there soon, there will be very hard consolidation."

In a comparison between the USA and Germany, the Americans dare to try out more things, i.e. to establish the 80% that is new first and to work out the remaining 20% from scratch. Germany continues to insist on its 100%.


“This applies above all to the willingness to cut off the customized braids in the IT systems. And the companies are being slowed down in their insistence by entire industries that make their living from it - above all by the large system integrators. This is certainly also about re-evaluating the consulting services of many established players.”

"Now, if mid-sized companies are looking at a provider like Oracle with a U.S. home as an alternative to, say, SAP in Germany, and that mid-sized company may have previously ranked the German provider's location highly, how do you take the fear out of those prospects?" therefore asked Werner Seidenschwarz. And the answer was specific:

"First - and this does not distinguish the providers: the future is a cloud platform. And there you can analyze the ability of the individual manufacturers clearly and transparently. Here, one question in particular is of great importance: How does this fit into a hybrid landscape that you typically have in the enterprise? The fear of something happening to the data is gone. Because we as Oracle have a data center in Frankfurt - which, by the way, is also the largest data center in the world outside the US. The data is made available in a dedicated manner with the appropriate security layers. And many say, if Oracle as a data company can't secure data anymore, who can?"

And secondly, the critical questions about system development are increasingly coming from the CFOs of the companies to the providers: "Now what is really the added value of the new investments? What does an artificial intelligence or machine learning platform look like as the basis for an ERP system? How much intelligence do I get from such a platform? What intelligence is actually necessary to provide my digital platforms with such data? And is that also a certain automated process that enables me to consolidate these individual platforms in this way?” Or do you need armies of IT employees who then develop very banal reporting, let alone the necessary analytics that business nowadays does on a daily basis - or an hourly rhythm is required and do I have to constantly reprocess it? “It can't be that I get an analytics request from the department today and then it takes weeks before I have the analytics. It can't be that today I need a big data platform on top of the ERP system in order to establish an analytics platform at all. You can't do that in a modern world. It's too slow, not flexible, doesn't scale and the information content from it is zero from your own system. These are the big questions companies are asking themselves today.”

And of course there are employees in the companies who have worked with traditional systems for 30 years. You have to communicate that very well from top to bottom, why and what should change. Otherwise you slow down the change itself.

And last but not least: "If the processes don't fit, then no software will help to change the system."

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At the end of the 15th international Starnberg Management Days, Holger Böhme, Senior Vice President International Key Accounts and Customer Operations Management at Linde Material Handling GmbH, Aschaffenburg, emphasized the central role of key account management for the global orchestration of upheavals - sales as the driving force behind the change and further development of business models.

Holger Böhme is an old acquaintance at the international Starnberg Management Days. In 2008, he inspired the plenary session with the "Dacia story", in which he showed how one can assert oneself successfully and highly profitably in low-price segments by "concentrating on the essentials" in Germany even during a major crisis – without price reductions and with a high level of customer satisfaction. The joint article, which has by no means lost its topicality, can be found at

In the past, Linde Material Handling's business revolved primarily around forklifts. Today it is developing step by step towards autonomous driving, the increased use of electric drives and generally more and more into a solution business including the associated logistics automation solutions - up to so-called "black halls", fully automated and without light.

Based on these challenges, sales is increasingly moving in the direction of value selling and consultative selling. Topics such as solution consulting, safety, automation, energy management, digitization, fleet management, special customer applications, in-depth process understanding and customer reporting need to be reconciled.

Since not all of these topics can be addressed by the company itself, partnerships are also gaining in importance. These also need to be integrated explicitly and at an early stage in solution sales, solution development and execution. Internationally, these solution paths can differ fundamentally: New technologies such as geo navigation encounter different levels of infrastructure maturity in the countries or at the companies. Or autonomous driving is being driven out of different pain points: because of costs, because of driver shortages, or because countries no longer want to provide drivers for the vehicles at all ("Saudiation").


Nevertheless, even the simplest purchasing processes for the pure product business remain on the market, e.g. e-biddings, which are only about the price for exchangeable hardware. In the meantime, these approaches are losing their appeal for manufacturers. Many customers are also realizing that e-bidding can drastically reduce acquisition costs, but in many cases fundamentally increases the TCO.

The range of tasks that a KAM must master is therefore constantly increasing today. However, excellent KAMs are increasingly being heard within the company and are driving Linde's transformation from the customer landscape forward vehemently and sustainably. This is an opportunity for technology-led companies to develop solutions based more on customer requirements - instead of ignoring the market.

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So that the participants could take home three good ideas from the event again this year, which they can also implement directly!

Shortly after the event, we received the first feedback from our participants:

“It was a phenomenal event with great speakers, great organization and
great ambience. Everyone I spoke to absolutely loved it. The level is outstanding.

"As in the previous year, it was more than impressive to experience this excellence of leaders, entrepreneurs and top managers, your performance as a moderator with so much ease, wit and charm to juggle this wealth of topics and information ... - Chapeau! My list of ideas is long, there were clearly more than three that I took with me.”

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