Lecture Series “Innovative Entrepreneurs” (TUM on January, 14th, 2010 – Beatrice and Randolf Rodenstock)

The lecture series “Innovative Entrepreneurs” organized by UnternehmerTUM at TUM is highly recommendable. It takes place on a weekly basis, Thursday evenings between 5.30 p.m. and 7.00 p.m. The winter semester of 2009/2010 discusses “how to lead growth-oriented enterprises”.

The first external speaker had been Håkan Samuelsson. At the time, he was still chairman of MAN SE.

This time, the speakers were father and daughter: Beatrice and Randolf Rodenstock. They talked about “Innovative Continuance of an Enterprise – Strengths and Weaknesses of a Family Enterprise“.

Naturally, the topic was of special interest to me. Here is my report:

The first part of the event was totally dedicated to Randolf Rodenstock, born in 1948. In an entertaining and yet impressive, sometimes almost intimate, way, he described authentically how his life had unfolded so far. Having been born “with the golden spoon” and declared heir to the enterprise from day one, he let us share the stations of his life: his parents and grandparents, his attempts at escaping from what father intended for him, and eventually the long road over decades from being the junior boss of a very renowned medium-size enterprise to the moment when he had to take all the responsibility and later include an external investor.

I was particularly impressed by the phase of restructuring the enterprise. Here is a short overview:

Hard times caused by market and competition shifts, a conglomerate of individual companies that were the leaders in technology but not necessarily each others complement and hard to keep balanced, the necessity to change strategies, the decision to focus on one business area and thereby relinquish other areas, being accompanied by counselling firms such as McKinsey,  designing a new enterprise with a totally new mission (for a person’s face), high investment in order to become a global player, the inevitable backdrops, the association with a financial investor. All this included the unavoidable and apparently well-solved father-son conflict and sounded like an impressive and realistic company story.

I would like to thank Herrn Rodenstock very much for his openness.
Once in a while, however, I also heard Herr Rodenstock refer to things as they happen in the old world, which is a world I do not totally see eye to eye with.

In the new world quite a few things have changed. The presentation gave me some stimulation for my Entrepreneur’s Diary. Here are some phrases I intend to use in my future posts:

Globalization: “you can only eat one Schnitzel each day” (morally acceptable profit), the allegedly detrimental general conditions in Germany for businessmen, the ever-present problem of getting capital, the entrepreneur’s woes, “an entrepreneur always has one foot  behind prison bars already”, strengths and weaknesses of a family enterprise …

When her father had finished, it was Beatrice Rodenstock’s turn. She described her life just as authentically as her father had described his: she, too, was born the daughter of a family that had its own enterprise and there were expectations on both sides.
After graduation from high-school, her life started with the “inevitable time spent abroad”. Against parental expectations, she decided to study humanities. She told us about her first experiences in working life at a huge automobile producer in Swabia and her first years of learning with a start-up in Munich.

When this start-up failed after several rounds of financial support, she decided to become an entrepreneur, after all. After intense deliberations, she founded the enterprise NaviGet with two partners.  It does not have any connection with the famous family enterprise.

I found the description of how she combines family and enterprise especially exciting. She showed quite well that it can be done.
The event ended with wise (as usual) questions asked by students among the audience and an interesting discussion. For me, it was well worth going there. This semester, there will be three more interesting presentations – so do not hesitate: TUM-Stammgelände, HS 1100, Arcisstr. 21.


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