References – HENN
Was the path to becoming an entrepreneur mapped out? Did you strive for it or did it just happen?

Being an entrepreneur has always been my dream, even when I was at school, at the commercial academy in Bregenz. Even then when people asked me what I would like to be when I grew up, I said: entrepreneur. I don’t really know why, neither my parents nor my siblings were entrepreneurs, it was just what I wanted to do.

So it sort of happened?

Yes, at the same time as my interest was developing the Young Industry Vorarlberg was founded, in which I was involved. I was lucky that my father was a representative of Vorarlberg industry in Vienna and so he was already involved. I became one of the youngest members of the Young Industry group at the time and was able to meet a number of entrepreneurs. At that time I had a kind of enlightenment, and please don’t take this the wrong way, but the realization that the successfull people round the table had no super powers, they had all once stood in my shoes, so this confirmed me in my goal.

Most entrepreneurs are goal setters, and look to acheive them consistently as soon as possible. How consistent is your approach to achieving goals?

I used to be a competitive athlete, tennis, and that requires consistency. Sport has shaped me, has helped me to shape my personality. Sport means working consistently towards a goal. And it shows you that you can’t always win. If you fail you just have to stand up again. Sport also teaches you diligence, which you also need. But you can’t do it without that famous little bit of luck. You have to be in the right place at the right time…

Which was obviously the case with you …

Vienna as a place to study was a good choice: I studied at the University of Economics and Business Administration and learned everything about corporate finance at Ernst & Young, then Südost Treuhand. That was my basic tool, so to speak.

Where could you use it for the first time?

In 1999 when Erwin Soravia gave me the assignment as CFO to take over the Dorotheum with “One Two Sold”. It was an example of the right place and a bit of luck. I got to know Erwin Soravia through Young Industry and he developed into a kind of mentor for me. At that time I took my first big risk.

To what extent?

I took out a loan to buy company stock. That could have gone badly. Luckily it didn’t and in 2005 I sold my shares to the management and put the money I made away. After that I worked for Soravia again and was responsible for building up the holdings. A good deal was a mineral water company in Bulgaria, which we took public. There I earned good money again and put it aside. And then the time had come for me to go my own way.

To finally start your own business?

Yes, at that time the Henn company was for sale and I saw this as my chance. I was assisting in the due diligence by the Syngroup, which I already knew from another project that was going on relatively simultaneously. I was juggling three different roles at the time, in 2011, and one of them was about mezzanine financing. We also needed due diligence for that, and for that I was recommended Syngroup. Right from the start I got fantastic value from the Syngroup relationship.

Why do you think you enjoyed working with Syngroup so quickly?

Of course, this has first and foremost to do with competence, but a great deal also takes place on a personal level. I appreciate the employees of Syngroup, there is a good relationship between them. You know what you are getting, which I also appreciate; the open-mindedness in dealing with their own core competences. When it comes to issues where Syngroup does not see itself 100 percent at home, they will take a step back. This honest approach, where the focus is not exclusively on the revenue, is something that I value greatly.

Now your company Henn, which you took over in 2011 with 25 employees and 17 million euros in sales, is running entirely according to plan. For 2021, 360 employees and 170 million euros are planned. Everything is working on track: Do you still need consulting?

There are always situations where we turn to Syngroup. This can be to deal with a capacity issue or it can also be more complex. For example, when I myself have the feeling that I’m at a loss, and there’s no one in the company who knows what to do with the problem, I turn to Syngroup particularly in operational matters. The people at Syngroup are very implementation-oriented, and that’s sometimes what it takes.

Your sales forecasts seem very optimistic, especially in the automotive industry: Do you believe in the continuous growth?

For me growth is essential, I believe that without growth there is no innovation. This should not be underestimated. Just take climate change: the solution will only be possible through innovation and nothing else. And when we talk about slowing down growth, it must be a global decision and this won’t happen. I am in favour of target growth, with the greatest possible conservation of resources, with new technologies that do not additionally destroy Planet Earth, but above all with brains instead of emotions.

In Short
  • Founded in
  • Location
    Headquarter Dornbirn, Austria
  • Agencies
    Brasil, China, France, Japan, South Korea, USA
  • Employees Henn Industrial Group
    approx. 300
  • Turnover 2019
    approx. € 64,6 Mio.
  • Export share 2019
    99,2 %
  • About HENN

    HENN manufactures high-tech connection systems for charge air and cooling water systems of the automotive industry and acts as a link between the participating suppliers of system components and the end customer. HENN connectors are used at all OEMs all over the world (Daimler, BMW, Porsche, Nissan, Hyundai, Renault, Toyota). HENN has customers worldwide from the USA to Japan.