Werther (Germany), January 7th, 2017
25 Years on the bridge
When Dr. Christian Potthoff-Sewing joined the family business in 1992, the outlook was gloomy. Since then the size the Poppe + Potthoff group has nearly quadrupled. The passionate sailor has kept the company on a stable course for 25 years.
Interviewed by Haller Kreisblatt Dr. Christian Potthoff-Sewing looks back at his quarter century in the company. Having studied and worked in USA, UK, Germany and Portugal, the economist was working in a large German retail group, when he inherited a small stake in the family business. At that time the company had just under 400 employees.
Initially he split his time between his outside job and the family business to prepare himself for his role as Managing Director for Sales, as which he joined the company full time in 1992.
While 1990 had been a boom year for steel and tubes, the early nineties were affected by the collapse of the eastern block and difficult adjustment processes.
This and several homemade problems led to an existential and probably most severe crisis of the company since its foundation in 1928. Potthoff-Sewing learned turn around management the hard way, not knowing whether he would be successful in saving the company or not.
By the turn of the century the company had been stabilized. The big change, however, came when the company, building on its long-term experience with high pressure and Diesel injection tubes, decided to develop common rail subcomponents. The limited knowledge of and experience in the automotive industry made this another risky and difficult step. Due to the market shift towards common rail direct injection Diesel engines, it was, however, a great opportunity. Together with top automotive manager Rüdiger Faustmann, who joined the company in 2001 and became CEO shortly after, Potthoff-Sewing managed to turn this opportunity into a success for Poppe + Potthoff.
One of the key steps was the construction of a large new manufacturing site in Hungary. This was followed by several acquisitions which both diversified and complemented the portfolio of the group. Today Poppe + Potthoff has three product divisions and a total of 17 sites employing 1500 employees. The early years taught Potthoff-Sewing that standing still in the present leads to painful crisis in the future, so the drive for growth and diversification continues.