Haniel Group Conference 2014


On the search for the entrepreneurial spirit: This year’s Haniel Group Conference bore the slogan “Act as an Entrepreneur”. Watch the film about the event here.

This year’s Haniel Group Conference bore the slogan “Act as an Entrepreneur”. Watch the film about the event here.

“Who among you really believes you act like an entrepreneur?” This was the question with which Haniel boss Stephan Gemkow opened this year’s Group Conference last Thursday evening. Only a few of the 100 managers present raised their hands – not a surprise for Gemkow: “In terms of our character and our training, we are all managers, not entrepreneurs.” However, for Haniel’s continued success it is important that all Haniel managers leave the manager at home at least once a week and instead release their inner entrepreneur, Gemkow emphasised. For him, there are three major characteristics that make an entrepreneur: They are innovative or promote innovation. They take well-considered risks. And they are familiar with the increasingly confusing web of compliance rules.

Seek and you shall not find

The first day of the conference focused on innovation – a skill that Gemkow says is currently somewhat hidden at Haniel. He therefore urged all attendees to be open and try new things. Innovation is about finding things that you were not looking for, Gemkow explained with a few examples: “Porcelain was created in the attempt to produce gold. Viagra was originally a heart medicine. Columbus discovered America even though he was looking for India. And Conrad Röntgen was actually working on a completely different topic when he discovered X-rays by chance.” However, it is by nature difficult for managers to just set off, seemingly without a planned destination, “because we are restricted to a business logic of commercial exploitation.”

Failed entrepreneurs – good employees!?

In order to reveal new perspectives, Haniel invited a whole range of high-calibre speakers to the Group Conference, many of them successful entrepreneurs. Such as Dr Martin Enderle, who in his keynote speech on Thursday evening told how he created a brand new online business model with the Scout 24 Group – from real estate to matchmaking. On the second day, the programme included seven forums, some running in parallel. This concept had already proved very popular with participants last year. This year, for example, Dr Theodor Ackbarow was in attendance, who wants to change the German fast-food landscape with his company Sushi.Wrap. Another forum was led by Prof. Dr Heike Grimm, who educates future social entrepreneurs at the Willy Brandt School in Erfurt and arrived with two of her students. And so it is from young people especially that Stephan Gemkow hopes for new impetus for the company. He therefore called for a rethink of the recruitment policy: “The business school graduate doesn’t always have to be first choice. Instead, maybe it’s the former young entrepreneur, who may have failed spectacularly with his start-up but has learned a lot from it.”

Further information

A film was made about this year’s Group Conference and the forums. All additional information can be found here