A real company has an identity that cannot be bought, but has deep roots in the company’s history – in the personalities of its founders, in its learning processes and successes. The things you can read in the mission statements and codes of ethics are put into practice as a matter of course: respect, trust, fairness, responsibility. Because a real entrepreneur knows what he is talking about, and knows his customers, what they do and where the real problems lie.
An industrial estate. Big buildings. Mirrored facades. It all looks fairly similar regardless of where you are in the world. The atmosphere is often interchangeable. A real company is different. It has a company building whose architecture says something and conveys the message behind the corporate values to the outside world. Its character blends into the character of the environment and also shapes it at the same time; this is precisely why Würth attaches so much importance to different designs for its company buildings depending on the region. Employees feel at home. They know, value and trust each other. Everyone knows that ultimately, everybody has to work in unity. A real company thinks and acts global, but still has its two feet firmly planted in the place it calls home, which is the source of its strength. This includes its innovative strength. Innovation does not originate from prescribed brainstorming sessions, but rather from a culture in which the meaning of something is important as opposed to just the current stock market value: How can we give the world what it needs? That is the motto.
The thing that makes real companies stand out is their long-term success. Success that more or less develops by itself because everyone is committed and everyone knows that their performance will be recognized. Employees live for the company that they know and value as their own. The company stands behind its people, supporting, promoting and challenging them. For success in real life.
Photos have their own reality. They do not just record things as they are. They also hint at what could be – and what might actually materialize later on. You do not have to know what Adolf Würth and his son Reinhold actually had to discuss when they took a walk in the woods back then, in the early 1950s. And you do not have to know what Reinhold Würth and his daughter Bettina were talking about either (photo on the right). And yet, both photos reveal something about the future, about big plans.
You can see the father smiling proudly, the up-and-coming screw wholesaler with a cigar in his hand. And opposite him, his young son, dressed in a suit like his father, standing at attention. He is alert, curious, prepared.
A young man about to make the leap into real life. When his father died suddenly on 14 December 1954 at the age of 45, then Reinhold Würth, who had just turned 19, really had to “leap.” He grew up in his father’s small company and accompanied his father on customer visits even as a teenager. He was familiar with the business from his apprenticeship. After his father’s death, the business had to continue. There was no time to lose. Things had to be done.
The company was there – that was the reality.
Reinhold Würth took over the business, pulled up his sleeves and got started. Barely a week after his father’s death, he set off on a sales trip to the Rhineland region. Initially, his efforts were focused on keeping the company afloat, on remaining solvent and creating a solid basis, following his father’s example. Very soon, one of the biggest strengths of the entrepreneur Reinhold Würth started to come to the fore – his sense of reality. He realized early on that trading in screws is no business for dreamers and fantasists.
But Reinhold Würth was not just a realistic thinker. He also had a knack for recognizing opportunities. He soon recognized the opportunities that the business had to offer, especially during the era of Germany’s economic miracle. And he realized that he could not increase his sales arbitrarily if he remained the only one embarking on sales trips. In order to better exploit sales opportunities, he needed new employees. And so he started setting up a dense sales force network – one that would form the basis for the company’s transformation into a global trading group.
But the ability to see both reality and opportunities also means thinking outside the box. And that is how, alongside the Würth Line – the conventional core business involving the distribution of assembly and fastening materials – a second operational unit emerged: the Allied Companies. These trading and production companies operate in similar fields of business and currently account for around 40 percent of total sales.
It is this combination of a sense of reality and opportunity that continues to make Würth what it is today: on the one hand, the sense of what is real, down-to-earth and reliable and, on the other, the “sense of possibility” as the author Robert Musil once described it: a feel for market opportunities, for the potential that individuals and relationships offer. Most importantly, however, it is the understanding that a successful, forward-looking company needs both of these elements – solid roots in reality and the ability to identify and seize opportunities.
Every company needs visions. But even the most adventurous ideas have to stand up to a reality check. Reality is the foundation on which possibilities are based. Only things that are real can hold out against an illusion. After all, only real products create real benefits, and only real customer relationships survive. Only a real company has a future.
The real thing about Würth lies first and foremost in its products. High-quality products that tradesmen really need to solve real problems. This includes a service that focuses on the customer’s needs. Customers know what they get from Würth and that they will get it. Today, Würth customers can order all of their products in the online shop. But they can also go to a branch office, touch the products with their hands and seek advice. The real sales situation, the real product and personal contact with sales representatives create trust and reliability. The Internet offers additional ease and convenience.
The "real" thing about Würth is its relationship with its customers. Würth wants to know what its customers want. It strives to understand their problems, their reality, their world. Customers have a face for Würth, and Würth has a face for its customers. The two do not just know each other, they share experiences: Does the product really help the customer, or is there a better alternative? What leaves a customer disappointed and what makes him happy? The best sales pitch at Würth is one that is not just about selling, but rather about the relationship between people. Real relationships like these are what shapes Würth’s core business to this day: every Würth sales representative effectively vouches for the brand, for service and quality. But at the same time, the Würth brand vouches for each individual employee.
The real thing about Würth is ultimately the company itself. Its history, its regional roots, its employees. In spite of the move towards globalization, Würth has remained tangible. There are no computer algorithms and data streams behind the Würth brand, but rather real people and relationships. And it was with these real people and relationships that it all began, with Adolf and Reinhold Würth, with the discussion they had in the woods that day.
The ideas passed down from father to son were then passed down by the son to his family and employees: stay realistic and down-to-earth, do not lose touch with reality – but recognize and seize opportunities all the same. As Reinhold Würth learned early on, a real entrepreneur is someone who is able to realize his possibilities.
Every reality, however, has its own possibilities, and every real company has individual opportunities that it can exploit in various ways. Reality can change and many things are possible. Things can turn out very differently than one might have imagined. It is this sense of possibility that is expressed by the photo of the Würth father and son – a sense of things that are yet to be, but could one day come to pass; the photo of Reinhold and Bettina Würth tells exactly the same story. The sense of a possible reality, a future that is yet to be created. Today, we know what these possibilities have been turned into – a very real global corporation. But we also know that the story will continue, with new opportunities, new photos – revealing a new reality.