Handtmann celebrates its 150th anniversary with employees, familiy, associates and numerous distinguished guests

Minister-President Winfried Kretschmann (2nd from the left) thanked Thomas Handtmann (3rd from the left), company director of many years and now President of the Advisory Board, for his achievements. Under his leadership, the group of companies has grown continuously. He took over the management of the company from his father Arthur in 1998. In the 25 years with him at the helm from 1998 to today, the company's sales revenues more than quadrupled, the number of employees almost tripled and internationalisation has been strongly promoted. The Minister-President wished the fifth generation of the family and the new management with Markus Handtmann (on the left) and Valentin Ulrich (on the right) much success and always the right touch in all their undertakings.

Minister-President of the State of Baden-Wuerttemberg Winfried Kretschmann praises the Biberach-based group of companies as an engine of prosperity

150 years Handtmann Group of Companies – reason to be joyous and to celebrate together. This past weekend, the fair grounds on Biberach’s local mountain Gigelberg were transformed into “Handtmann Mountain”, with a marquee in a league of its own and a Magic Sky canopy in the outdoor area. On Friday, the Handtmann Group of Companies’ owner family invited representatives from politics and business, banks and schools, managers and associates to a gala evening. In addition, a festival for the Handtmann staff and their partners and spouses was held on the same grounds on Saturday to express appreciation and gratitude to the workforce. “Every single day, our employees uphold Handtmann’s positive image in their dealings with customers and partners. Every single day, they develop and advance innovations, strategies and processes, making sure that we can still be on the cutting edge tomorrow. And every single day, many of our employees go the extra mile for us. We are well aware of this and strive to preserve it,” emphasised Valentin Ulrich, Managing Director of Albert Handtmann Holding GmbH & Co. KG. “These festivities are our way of saying thank you to our employees and putting them in the spotlight.”

Minister-President Winfried Kretschmann attends the gala evening

The Minister-President of the State of Baden-Wuerttemberg Winfried Kretschmann, one of the distinguished guests of honour and eulogists at the gala evening, was speaking of an extraordinary entrepreneurial achievement. In his keynote speech, he paid tribute to the evolutionary history of Handtmann. “In the days of the German Empire, they once started out as what today would be called a start-up.” He mentioned that in the many decades of its existence, times of war and crisis had repeatedly threatened the survival of the company. Nevertheless, it was all the more impressive to see the creativity, perseverance and effort with which the respective company heads at the time had managed to turn the situation in their favour. He continued that the world market leader, “with its approximately 4,300 employees and an annual turnover of one billion euros, is an engine of prosperity and an economic factor for both state and country”. Participation in various clusters and expert committees would also make the group of companies an important partner of the state government.

“The sound of successful transformation”

The Minister-President lauded further: “The noise of the machines in the workshops of Handtmann is the sound of successful transformation.” He continued that Handtmann today had its various areas of business in the automotive supplier sector, the food and beverage industry, in power electronics and in the field of engineering plastics. “Economic transformation also requires a sense of human fortitude, which in the case of Handtmann ties in with its strong Upper Swabian roots.” The Minister-President described Thomas Handtmann in this context as a resilient entrepreneurial personality. “Rest assured that the state government recognises that it is entrepreneurial spirit like yours on which the prosperity and wealth of our state and country are built,” he said. Turning to the future managing directors Markus Handtmann and Valentin Ulrich, he continued: “This is a fine house you will be handed over. Yet it takes intention and skill to work miracles!”

Global player rooted in the region

Mario Glaser, District Chief Executive of Biberach, was also full of praise in his speech: “In the past 150 years, Handtmann has developed into a true figurehead for the Biberach region, Upper Swabia and beyond. I believe the secret of success is undoubtedly its excellent management, spirit of innovation and the unwavering dedication of its employees.”

Looking at the history of Handtmann, the company had always grown with the town, noted the Lord Mayor of Biberach Norbert Zeidler in his eulogy. “The success story of the Handtmann Group of Companies is a pars pro toto for the development of the small, yet strong Town of Biberach in Upper Swabia.” He noted that whenever he would introduce the global players of Biberach to foreign guests and visitors, he always labelled Handtmann “the most primordial company of Biberach”. Handtmann had always stood for responsible, long-term and social entrepreneurship.

New honorary citizen of the Town of Biberach Thomas Handtmann is a “prime example of an Upper Swabian entrepreneur with a giant heart for his home region”

“The track record of 25 years of Thomas Handtmann at the helm is impressive.” He quadrupled sales revenues, almost tripled the number of employees, recorded an investment peak of 125 million euros in 2020 and consistently pursued internationalisation. “An achievement that cannot be overstated.” He always perceived 70-year-old Thomas Handtmann as a man for whom the family business always came first, closely followed by social responsibility and only then by his own person. The Lord Mayor referred to Thomas Handtmann as a prime example of an Upper Swabian entrepreneur with a giant heart for his home region. Despite all the pressure to grow the business, he would never forget that the heart of Handtmann beat first and foremost in Biberach, also reflected in the many voluntary activities for the benefit of his home town and region. “In all that, you have never put yourself even remotely in the foreground. You are quite simply a kind-hearted person.” As a token of gratitude and in recognition of his immense merits for the Town of Biberach and his lifetime achievements, the Lord Mayor concluded by conferring on him the title and right of honorary citizen.

Thomas Handtmann explained in his speech that the owner family had taken timely precautions to ensure that the family business would continue on its successful course. After 40 years in the company, of which 25 years at the helm, he handed overall responsibility of the family-run group over to his son Markus and nephew Valentin Ulrich with a symbolic handing over of the keys during the festivities. “You are excellently trained and you have plenty of experience. You have been working in your current and future position for half a year now. You split the tasks to your skills and talent. You have the full support of all partners and myself. And you are well respected by the employees of the companies. I wish you all the best.”

 

With this key, Thomas Handtmann (centre) symbolically handed over the management to his son Markus (on the left) and his nephew Valentin (on the right). The management duo will from now on be responsible for the currently 56 Handtmann companies, of which 24 are abroad. Thomas Handtmann remains involved with his companies as President of the Advisory Board.

People-oriented, innovative, sustainable, independent

“First of all, we are grateful to our predecessors and employees who built all this. We are also grateful to our family and in particular our spouses, who give us every support,” shared Markus Handtmann his feelings during an interview panel after the handing over of the keys. Valentin Ulrich added: “We look forward to very much everything and want to take this unique opportunity to shape and develop not only our group of companies and technologies in the industry sectors, but also communal life in the region and in society.” He further emphasised: “In everything we do, we want the spotlight to be on the people. Every single day.”

The two had been well aware of their responsibility early on. “We grew up in Biberach and with the company,” noted Markus Handtmann. He continued that they both had been well prepared for a smooth transition during the generation change. “The process was initiated at an early stage, so we had time to develop – even though the learning curve has always been very steep,” explained Valentin Ulrich. Which is something that could not be taken for granted, according to Markus Handtmann. “We had support from all sides. And we are truly grateful for this. In my father, we also have a predecessor who gives us leeway and who can let go as well.”

The two noted that nothing would remain the same in the future. “But it serves us well to preserve our virtues, our DNA – even in the face of headwinds and even in turbulent times”, added Valentin Ulrich. “The family business that Handtmann is should first and foremost be and remain people-oriented, innovative, sustainable and independent.” “And we need all of you for that,” Markus Handtmann appealed to both managers and staff. “We intent to tackle the next 150 years together with you.”

Solidarity as a factor for success – festivities for all employees

“We are all passionate about Handtmann,” emphasised Joachim Graf, Chairman of the Group Works Council, in his speech at the festivities for the employees the following day. He continued that most recently under the leadership of Thomas Handtmann, the group of companies had grown into a globally operating technology group with around 4,300 employees working in six business divisions. “This is something you, Mr. Handtmann, and all of you who contribute to the greater cause on a daily basis, can be truly proud of.” Each of the four generations of entrepreneurs to date demonstrated vision, audacity and perseverance even in difficult times. This would certainly also apply to the next generation. “We are counting on you,” the Chairman of the Group Works Council appealed to Markus Handtmann and Valentin Ulrich, wishing them a heartfelt “Glück auf!” for the next 150 years of Handtmann.

Harald Suchanka, CEO of the Handtmann division of Filling and Portioning Systems, and Wolfgang Schmidt, CEO of the Handtmann divisions of Light Metal Casting and Systems Engineering, also expressed their appreciation for these wonderful festivities on behalf of the entire management team. “Together we can celebrate 150 years of Handtmann today. We are celebrating 150 years of family business, 150 years of innovation, yet also challenges mastered. Above all, however, we are celebrating one thing: 150 years of growth and success,” said Wolfgang Schmidt. He continued that the financial year 2022, for example, had been one of the most successful years in company history, in which “the record sound barrier of one billion euros was broken”. Harald Suchanka posed the question of “How is such a success story possible after all?”. First and foremost because of Thomas Handtmann. “For us as a young management team, it is above all your way of giving us and the responsible committees ample space to actually shape things, which we appreciate very much. You put your trust in us – and in your impeccable gut feeling to also take decisions instinctively from time to time.” Wolfgang Schmidt continued: “Entrepreneurial success requires good instincts, a lot of skill, a certain willingness to take risks, and always a pinch of luck. A family business, however, requires above all one thing that is by no means a matter of course nowadays: succession.” It was a great stroke of luck that the Handtmann family’s strong sense of family ensured that the company management could remain securely in family hands and that Markus Handtmann and Valentin Ulrich would take on this immense responsibility in fifth generation. “We all wish to thank you, dear Valentin and Markus, for leading the family business, and with it the large international Handtmann family, into the future. And we are convinced that we will continue the success story together. Because the foundation of every successful company is its employees. We look ahead to a successful future together,” concluded Harald Suchanka.