German Mittelstand – potential lessons for Kiwi firms

In the excellent summary on German Mittelstand by Professor Venohr, there are some key take homes on how German Mid-sized firms became and maintained their position as Global Champions. The main ingredients are: the mid-sized firms are family owned and run by professional management, they aim to be number 1 or 2 globally in their targetted niche area, they are world class in key processes and invest heavily in their staff to keep ahead of their global competitors. Other important factors include to be close to the customer, technology leadership (over 3.5% of revenue spend on R&D).

The German mid-sized firms (Mittelstand) are exporting over one third of Germany´s overall exports. The typical Mittelstand company has median revenue of €92.5m, employs 680 staff and exports 58%. This is of course much bigger than most Kiwi SME`s. However, with over 200,000 NZ SME´s there are some good, transferrable lessons to be learnt from their German peers.

Investing into good education like the apprenticeship programme is another important part in the international success of German Mittelstand. The country is starting to export their best practice apprenticeship model.

What can Kiwi firms learn from German world market champions:

  • set clear and ambitious goals
  • narrow focus and global orientation
  • focus on customer, customer driven innovation
  • let the best managers run your business (not necessarily the founder or her/his heir)
  • continous improvement – get better every day

At this year’s R&D Management Conference we hope to gain further insights on how to become more globally competitive and apply the best methodologies, processes, systems for Kiwi high value manufacturing firms.

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About Callaghan Innovation

Business. Technology. Success.
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