On 14 September, Hamburg’s First Mayor Peter Tschentscher presented Volkmar Wywiol with the Hamburg Founders Award in recognition of his life’s work. This award, highly coveted in North Germany’s business community, is conferred for exceptional entrepreneurial achievements. It was issued for the nineteenth time by the bank Hamburger Sparkasse and the daily newspaper Hamburger Abendblatt.
The founder and managing partner of the Stern-Wywiol Gruppe, based in Hamburg, set up a business of his own in 1980 by taking over the little trading company Sternchemie. With his pioneering mentality, the unceasing urge to turn ideas into action and the ability to inspire his employees with his own enthusiasm, Volkmar Wywiol succeeded in transforming the “one man show” into a dynamic group of companies in the space of only 40 years. The family business is now a major player in the global market for functional ingredients for food and animal nutrition. The enterprise consisting of 12 specialist firms in Germany, 17 affiliates abroad and a total staff of 1,650 achieves an annual turnover of more than half a billion EUR. It is now managed in the second generation by the founder’s son Torsten Wywiol since 10 years.
What is the secret of this entrepreneurial success? Volkmar Wywiol has more than one explanation for it: “Ultimately, numerous factors have to come together at the right moment. But for me, it all revolved on three things: courage, creativity, und the thirst for action. Then there was my curiosity to discover and accomplish something new, again and again.” One example is the decision to progress from a trader to a producer. Starting with contract manufacturing, and aided by a constantly expanding team, Volkmar Wywiol established numerous production units of his own for ingredients, additives and food supplements.
Since research and development is always essential for successful production, Wywiol soon decided to invest in a technology centre of his own in Ahrensburg: the “Stern-Technology Center – Futuremaker”. This proved to be a milestone in the group’s development. For the present success of the Stern-Wywiol Gruppe is rooted in the diversity of its research, comprehensive advice on applications and an interdisciplinary exchange of information and opinions in the team of over a hundred scientists and technologists. The modern Stern-Technology Center in Ahrensburg, near Hamburg, has become the heart of the group, where product development and applications technology for all the firms is carried out jointly under one roof in a central unit. Through the transfer of know-how and with a strong team spirit, interdisciplinary cooperation and the ability to “think outside the box” it is able to devise profitable solutions for its customers.
To be sure of recruiting the right employees and firing their enthusiasm, Volkmar Wywiol put his faith from the start in a management concept based on equality, flexible structures and a large measure of freedom and scope for the individual. A mindset geared towards partnership is essential, he says, “for in that way, employees almost automatically develop a strong entrepreneurial mentality. A fighting spirit, readiness to take risks, the will to invest and curiosity are the keys to our exceptional innovative power.”
The members of the Stern-Wywiol Gruppe include the internationally renowned firms Sternchemie, Hydrosol, SternEnzym, Mühlenchemie, SternMaid, SternVitamin, OlbrichtArom, DeutscheBack, SternLife, HERZA Schokolade and Berg+Schmidt. Each individual company has specific competence in a particular field, such as baked goods, dairy products, deli foods, meat, fish, chocolate, flavourings, lecithin, enzymes, vitamins, vegan alternatives or functional bars for sport nutrition.
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