The big SME-Tour 2023 of the Oskar-Patzelt-Foundation

Under the motto "Securing the future together - on new paths", the large SME tour of the Oskar Patzelt Foundation took place again in May of this year. As part of his honorary commitment to the Grand Prize of Medium-Sized Businesses of the Oskar Patzelt Foundation, our Managing Partner Christian Wewezow and Yannik Rediske from Startify GmbH visited 15 innovative companies in southern Germany that demonstrate the potential to shape our future.

The SME Tour is fully in line with the mission of the Grand Prix for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises: to provide a stage for the backbone and innovation leaders of the German economy. As a nationwide initiative for networking companies, the Oskar Patzelt Foundation would like to promote the exchange among each other, establish new contacts and offer inspiration for the strategic orientation of one's own company.

The first Day of the SME Tour 2023

On the first day of the SME tour, the two SME experts left Jena for Lower Franconia to visit the JOPP Group in Bad Neustadt. The group of companies wants to exist in the long term as a family business and be able to make decisions independently of investors and financiers.

Through impressive innovation management, the company manages to survive in the highly competitive automotive industry and to identify future fields on the market. One of the company's goals is the early evaluation of new inventions and developments in order to be able to compete on an equal footing with major OEMs in the long term.

For example, Christian Wewezow and Yannik Rediske gained insights into the development of the TherMaBil, a new development of the family-owned company in thermal management.

The path then led on to the Gloeckle Unternehmensgruppe. The full-service provider for construction and construction services is boldly treading new paths to address a central question of the German skilled trades: how can skilled workers be recruited and, above all, retained at the company?

To this end, the family-owned company is working intensively on the topics of employee satisfaction, employee retention and new work. Part of the strategy is also to work to strengthen the occupational image and to stand up for greater recognition of the skilled trades.

In this way, the Glöckle Group of Companies is hitting the nerve of the times. Young people are increasingly pursuing an academic education instead of learning industrial or skilled trades. In view of the current speed of development of artificial intelligence, skilled trades represent a secure career path for young people, the importance of which will remain. Glöckle is aware of this and is using it specifically to inspire more young skilled workers for the skilled trades.

The first two visits of the SME tour offered our Managing Partners exciting insights into two forward-looking companies that are constantly exploring new trends and opportunities and showing that they understand how to leverage new developments for their own business.

The second Day of the SME Tour 2023

On the second day of the SME Tour 2023, Christian Wewezow and Yannik Rediske visited va-q-tec AG in Würzburg. The pioneer in the insulation industry develops and produces innovative insulation solutions that are characterized by energy efficiency and environmental friendliness. Since 2001, the company has been continuously developing its products and researching new technologies to help tackle the climate crisis.

During a tour of the plant, founder and CEO Dr. Joachim Kuhn spoke with the SME experts about regulation in Germany, the company's value chain and the challenges on the international market. 

The company from Würzburg, which wants to grow into the next generation of medium-sized businesses, is a good representation of Germany as a business location and of what makes medium-sized businesses internationally successful.

The tour then continued to Weikersheim to Hieber Installation und Handel AG. The company offers solutions for bathrooms, heating, ventilation and electrical engineering and has been able to establish itself as a market leader in the region thanks to its customer-centric corporate culture. Founded in 1971, the company is now in the second generation of the Hieber family and today has 55 employees.

During the conversation with the company's management, it became directly apparent that ties to the homeland and tradition are important components of the corporate culture. Despite constant challenges, Hieber Installationen und Handel AG, as the largest company in the region, welcomes its responsibility and shows exemplary commitment.

In addition, the company's vision can already be seen in the building. As a high-end outfitter, Hieber Installationen und Handel AG combines highly technical processes with artistic elements. Already on the exhibition floor and in the outdoor area one can see how connected these two core elements of the company are.

The third Day of the SME Tour 2023

After the SME experts visited Würzburg and Weikersheim on the second day of the SME tour, the third day started with a visit to DEHN SE in Neumarkt i. d. Oberpfalz.

The internationally active family-owned company offers solutions and services for lightning protection, surge protection and occupational safety and knows how to address the megatrends of the industry with its comprehensive portfolio. DEHN SE is particularly distinguished by its leading innovation management, which has produced more than 1,100 patents. The electrical engineering company's portfolio now includes more than 4,000 devices and components.

Innovation management in particular plays a central role in this. DEHN therefore works closely with several research institutes and universities and continuously evaluates the opportunities offered by future technologies, such as the use of 3D technology in planning.

Just a few minutes away from its headquarters, the company is currently building a new production building in Mühlhausen. The new building has a sustainable energy concept, which on the one hand protects the environment and on the other hand allows consumed energy to be used more efficiently.

Following the visit to the Upper Palatinate, the SME experts drove on to Regensburg to Projekt 29 GmbH & Co. KG.

The full-service provider offers its customers innovative and secure solutions in the areas of data protection and compliance. The exemplary customer service, which is available to its clients almost around the clock, was particularly impressive. In addition, the Regensburg IT company attaches great importance to its commitment to the region and supports, among other things, regional sports clubs and other projects.

Its regional identification and customer-centricity make Project 29 a great example of an up-and-coming mid-sized company.

The fourth Day of the SME Tour 2023

For Christian Wewezow and Yannik Rediske, the first stop of the day was RODIAS GmbH in Weinheim. As an IT consultancy, the company specializes in the design, implementation and optimization of IT solutions for maintenance, plant management, operation and dismantling of complex plants. In doing so, the company supports the introduction of mobile use cases, sensor technology and condition monitoring through the use of AI. RODIAS has recognized trends of the future early on and is a good example for medium-sized companies that successfully establish themselves on the market through a well thought-out positioning as well as strategy.

Following this, Christian Wewezow and Yannik Rediske travelled on to Darmstadt to iba | internationale Berufsakademie. Die iba is Germany's largest state-recognised university of cooperative education and a subsidiary of the F+U Group, an educational institution with over 40 years of experience in the education sector. At twelve study locations throughout Germany, iba offers the following practice-integrated study programmes: BWL and BWL International Management in 14 subject areas, Social Pedagogy & Management, Social Pedagogy, Management & Coaching and Engineering & Management, as well as the training-integrated study programmes Physiotherapy and Applied Therapy Sciences - focus on Occupational Therapy. The Academy of Cooperative Education is distinguished above all by its highly qualified teaching staff and its innovative study programmes with a practical teaching-learning concept.

During the visit of the SME experts, it became clear that iba is courageously breaking new ground and continuously expanding its offering. Currently, a virtual campus is in the process of accreditation, which will soon enable interested parties to study supraregionally and yet interactively. With this offering, iba is responding to the needs of young people in a way that is tailored to the target group and is making a long-term contribution to strengthening Germany as a business location.

Due to its pioneering role in the education sector, iba was selected this year as a finalist from 4,500 participating companies in the Grand Prix of Medium-Sized Businesses.

The fifth Day of the SME Tour 2023

The last Stopp of the day was Metallbau Kaiser GmbH. Since 2019, the long-established company from Mannheim has been part of JAZO Zevenaar bv and is manufacturing products for façade construction for the Dutch company as well as external partners.

Two points in particular stood out during the company visit. Firstly, the question of how the company masters the balancing act between traditional craftsmanship and modern technology, and secondly, how the JAZO Group has driven forward the digitization of the company. Around four years after the takeover, the Mannheim-based company is excellently positioned in this area and a prime example of successful digitization in the SME sector.

Recap of the SME Tour 2023

Together with Yannik Rediske from Startify, our Managing Partner Christian Wewezow covered more than 2,000 kilometers in five days and held numerous talks with entrepreneurs, decision-makers and players from business and politics along the way. In the process, they identified a number of key issues that are currently occupying SMEs.

On the one hand, almost all of the companies are concerned with the further development of their business model. In particular, technological advances, e.g. in the field of artificial intelligence or virtual reality, are being considered and examined for areas of application and opportunities.

On the other hand, however, it also became clear that many of the companies face the same challenges. Innovation strategies and projects are hampered by bureaucracy and planning uncertainties. These tie up considerable resources that cannot be deployed in other areas. In addition, the shortage of skilled workers poses major challenges, particularly for SMEs in the craft and industrial sectors.

In these two areas, SMEs are rightly calling for more support from policymakers in order to regain more room for maneuver in entrepreneurial decisions and to be able to drive forward the further development of their companies and business models.