Does this concentration have to do with the limited financial resources of a family business?
You shouldn’t miss the opportunities of a good crisis! (Laughs.) If you look at the economic results of the last ten to 15 years with a clear head, you will see that we were not that successful. Of course, we have lived through many things, restructured processes, but we have rarely earned money. We had to fight hard at times. That leads to a greater willingness to make decisions and also to more courage.
Many family entrepreneurs act as patriarchs. Which management style do you prefer?
I am very grateful that people who joined us in recent years or have already been in the company have said: “OK, I’d really like to change something here. Just let me do it.” Even the idea of reducing the output didn’t come from me. Just as 99 percent of the things that happen here are not my idea. I’m just the one who looks at it again at the end and with luck makes the result even better with a few questions.
Your grandfather came up with the idea of canning beer and your father mixed beer with other drinks. What innovation will they associate with you at some point?
That’s a good question. There is this new management theory that I find exciting: Effectuation. This method is used above all in the development of business models in which reliable forecasts are not possible due to high uncertainty. The new business model is created in a continuous process through the exchange of ideas between people with different abilities who are pursuing the same goal and motivating each other. Any future innovation from Karlsberg will depend on who works for us. I see my function in bringing together the people who open up new prospects for us.
When did you first think of following in your father's footsteps?
I never really planned that. When I was 16, I left Homburg, from the small Saarland to faraway Scotland. Because here I was always “young Weber”. That’s not easy for a young man in a not exactly metropolitan environment.
Did you emigrate to free yourself from this environment?
There is something to that. In Scotland I first finished school and then studied economics. Many years after graduating, I finally landed at Nestlé. Today I am glad that until nine years ago I didn’t work in the company. A certain distance makes it easier to see my family’s business not just as it is today, but as it might one day be.
What made you come back?
My father did it very skillfully. He never asked or pushed me. At some point I came up with it myself. That started in 2008 and 2009. In 2010 I said, “Well, I’ll take a look at it and see if it fits.” I first went with my father for some time and simply listened. As a result, I got into projects. The rest happened very slowly. My father withdrew more and more. And then at some point I started to develop ideas with the various people as to what our future structure might look like.
What was that like when you came back? Didn’t the employees first look at you with skepticism?
That was certainly the case with many of them. In the meantime, however, it has become clear to most of them what I stand for, what I think is good and what is important to me. In the course of time, a team has now formed that wants to go this way with me. There are people who have been with Karlsberg for 30 years, and those who have only been there for two or three years. I try to delegate many things in order to deal more with future issues: What kind of company do we want to be, how do we want to and how should we deal with each other in the future?
Mr. Weber, thank you very much for talking to us.