Entrepreneurship with the
courage to take risks

Anna Stöhr, Human Capital Operations Manager
Degree in business psychology, University of Vienna
With the Miba Coating Group since 2011

Günter Hehenfelder, General Manager Miba Coating Group
Business degree from Johannes Kepler University in Linz and the University of Manchester
Graduate of the Miba Leadership Academy (MLA)
With Miba since 1999, established Miba Coating Group in 2005

The Miba Coating Group is the specialist in innovative coating solutions. From a small business in the Styrian town of Niklasdorf with 15 employees and operating in the red, the division has developed into an international competence center with revenue of EUR 20 million and 180 employees located in Austria, England and China. 


 

As a young division, the Miba Coating Group has managed enormous growth in recent years. What can this success be attributed to? What business measures were – or are – required to achieve this?

Günter: It is a combination of courageous decisions and the unbending determination to achieve something bigger. The right people are also necessary for success: people who are willing to buy in, who are willing to put in the hard work. And sometimes fortune just favors the industrious.

 

How would you describe the early years?  

Günter: After the acquisition in 2005, the main goal was to stabilize the company, to get back into the black and to ensure survival. Then we started to systematically prepare the company for growth. Throughout the years, the core business was rolled out worldwide and new technologies and innovative products intended to secure our future were developed. I like to tell the story of how we were a small troop back then. We got together for all of the important decisions, had coffee together and discussed what made sense and what didn’t. During a mid-day run, we would talk over which customers we planned to visit the next day. We worked late many nights, and even ran through calculations at the hotel bar – this was very special situation and atmosphere of a startup. The new building and the move to Upper Austria provided us with new structures. The Management Board of Miba placed a great deal of trust in us that we could actually make this project a success.

 

In your opinion, what generally distinguishes the Miba Coating Group? How would you characterize it? What are its strengths?

Anna: We have the perfect mix of a familiar atmosphere against the background of the structures of the Miba Group. We can utilize the structures of an international group while remaining small and flexible. We find out a lot from the other divisions, and there is a strong feeling of solidarity.

Günter: There is still an atmosphere of optimism prevailing in the Miba Coating Group. The unbending determination not to settle for what we have already achieved. We want more. Not just to grow by a couple of percentage points. We aim to grow the business fivefold in upcoming years.

 

Is there a special requirement – beyond their professional qualifications – that the employees of the Miba Coating Group should fulfill? What distinguishes them?

Anna: It is important to me that the employees are not selected on the basis of their education alone. More importantly, we have to find the right personality. In interviews, I pay close attention to the person’s basic attitude. How do they feel about commitment, do they fit into our dynamic environment, would they feel at home here? Everyone here has to have a can-do attitude.

Günter: People have to be willing to learn, to show initiative, to think entrepreneurially and to embrace change. Setting challenges and providing support: The fact that employees are supported is a positive thing, but we also believe that the aspect of challenging the employee is crucial – if you never leave your comfort zone, you will never improve. There is a great deal of freedom to create. When mistakes are made, we assume that people are learning from them. We are very open about our failures. One thing that we have never neglected over the years is fun – we all love to laugh with each other.

 

Research and development play an important role in the Miba Coating Group – can you explain why and what that means in detail?

Günter: We value research and development very highly, in particular because our business model is aligned with the topic of product individuality. We provide our customers with customized coating solutions. The degree of standardization is relatively low for our products, or rather, the degree of specialization is quite high. Furthermore, when it comes to innovation and new technologies, we do a great deal in advance.

“Picture your career with vision” means to have the freedom to personalize your work individually, but that freedom also requires the courage to willingly accept responsibility. What does freedom mean to you personally, and how do you perceive this issue at Miba?

Anna: I have the freedom to make decisions, but I also have to take responsibility for that, something that is certainly challenging. Having the opportunity to find solutions also means being confronted with the need to argue one’s own point of view and stand behind the decisions you have made. The great thing about it is that you come to recognize what you are capable of and you develop those capabilities much faster.  

Günter: For me personally, the things that I have been able to do over the past ten years have been an enormous privilege. Being approached at 30 years old and asked if you would like to build and design a division from the ground up – that is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Knowing that I had Miba’s trust made this decision easy to make. You have to take advantage of the freedom you are given. With my business education, I had only gained experience in management accounting by that time. I was suddenly confronted with the prospect of landing contracts, being familiar with the production area, conducting interviews with potential candidates, etc. But when you approach things with ambition and interest, anything goes.