The Mittelstand, Germany’s thriving strand of midsized, family-owned export champions, are the envy of the world. “We should all learn the lessons from the successful Mittelstand model,” George Osborne, Britain’s chancellor of the exchequer, told a business conference in Manchester last year.
But just what is the model? Conversations with executives of some of the best-known Mittelstand offer a clue to the qualities others might emulate.
Avoid debt, maintain independence and focus on the long term
Audio company Sennheiser’s state-of-the art facility in the village of Wedemark, near Hannover, sits just a few strides from the cottage where Fritz Sennheiser founded the business in 1945. The company has always avoided debt, partly to focus on growing at a pace it could manage but also to maintain its autonomy.