Real-Life Change Management

In your average company, transformation has to be handled with courage and foresight. The second Chilean MP group, hosted by Conoscope GmbH in Leipzig in May, got to learn all about this first-hand when they visited IMM electronics GmbH.

IMM founder and owner Prof. Detlev Müller personally received the Chilean executives. In his 27 years at the helm, he went from a sole proprietorship, through the IMM Group with six companies, to today's IMM electronics GmbH. Today, the firm employs 140 people at two locations, and is one of the largest employers in the Mittweida region. The timing of the encounter could not have been better for the Chilean executives. Because after two years of preparation, a transition of leadership was imminent, with introduction of a new executive organization scheme and handover of general management from the founder and previous CEO to his successor. The corporate group’s history, its decades-long management of change processes, and the challenges posed by the current handover were covered in the lecture given by Prof. Müller, who also shared his personal experiences with the Chilean executives.

The younger delegation members were impressed in particular by how German founders and owners built up and guided their family businesses through the decades with such a high level of operational readiness. "The founder’s long-term commitment to his company is remarkable," said one MP participant. And it’s not just the fact of there being a changeover in progress; IMM also sets a good example for innovation management in the SME sector. For instance, the firm is interested in helping start-ups, and to that end it supports and cooperates with them. 

In addition to learning about general management, many of the group's executives snagged points of contact for business interests and agreed on follow-up meetings. For example, Julio Quiroz, a partner and developer in the Chilean enterprise Mego, subsequently discussed specific opportunities for cooperation between IMM and his own company, which develops video games, mobile apps and interactive software for Chilean and foreign companies. But IMM electronics GmbH was not the group’s only company visit. During their four-week training program in Germany, the 21 Chileans visited 13 other companies and institutions in Saxony, Thuringia and Brandenburg.

The executives and entrepreneurs also gained new insights and experience from MRH Mülsener Rohstoff- und Handelsgesellschaft. The commodity and trading firm employs 60 people, and recycles old tires. They make granular rubber for use in floor coverings, road construction or manufacture of floor mats. The Chilean company Rubtec SpA from San Pedro de la Paz was a special beneficiary of that visit. Like MRH, it recycles rubber into granules and other products and was hoping that future cooperation with the German company would allow it to expand its own manufacturing techniques. Initial discussions paved the way, and now both companies are examining possibilities for adding their own products to one another’s business lines.

MRH, together with its sister company Polymer Technik Mülsen GmbH, is committed to promoting young talent, and as a medium enterprise are extremely proactive with this HR policy in rural areas. Not only can new graduates and lateral-entry career changers complete a dual vocational training course in the company, but also a dual degree course. Willy Albert, a student in the Glauchau Vocational Institute‘s "Medium-Sized Business" double-barrelled study program, answered the participants‘ questions. Describing what motivated him as a student of polymer technology at Mülsen, he said: "The advantage of dual study, for me, is that I get practical experience in the company right from the beginning, instead of just tertiary-school theoretical content".

This training method was actually unfamiliar to many Chilean entrepreneurs – not surprisingly, then, they found it of great interest.

By Uwe Becher und Kathleen Brooks