Robert Friedmann

Robert Friedmann
Chairman of the Central Managing Board of the Würth Group. (Photo: Wolfgang Uhlig)


Ladies and gentlemen,

The year 2017 was a good year for the Würth Group, a record year: sales amounted to EUR 12.7 billion – up by 7.5 percent, or 7.9 percent after adjustments to reflect exchange rate effects. We were able to boost our operating result significantly year on year to EUR 780 million: an increase of 26.8 percent.

How does one react to results like these? First of all, we are very grateful! Above all, this result is a testimony to the satisfaction among, and serves as confirmation from, over 3.5 million Würth customers who are enthusiastic about our performance, our service and our products.
A very big thank you to all of you! None of this would be possible without the trust that you have placed in us. And in this respect, I am also speaking on behalf of all 74,000 employees in the Würth Group.

At the same time, these results create new obligations and a new source of motivation for us: Two concepts that are not mutually exclusive. The motivation driving us is summed up in the clear statement made by Professor Würth: “We are not employed by Würth, but by our customers.” In other words: We are a service provider. Being able to perform and willing to serve is crucial. As we embark on this journey, it is important that we haul our employees on board, make our corporate objectives transparent and join forces to work on new ideas and possibilities for our customers.

In their assessment of macroeconomic development, the “Wise Men” – the German Council of Economic Experts – write in their 2017/18 Annual Report: “The German economy is experiencing a major upturn,” and forecast growth of 2.2 percent for 2018. This is due, among other things, to the rising demand from abroad and buoyant exports. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts global economic growth of 3.9 percent, although it took a skeptical stance in Davos this January and has cautiously predicted that the solid global economic situation will come to an end. One sign of just how overheated the current situation is can be found in the lack of EUR-pallets: The pallet industry cannot keep up with demand and is becoming a new indicator of economic performance.

Our job is to exploit and convert the energy from this “tailwind”. Our companies in Eastern and Southern Europe once again made a successful job of this in 2017: Sales in Eastern Europe improved by 21.0 percent, reaching EUR 784 million. The Southern European region was able to continue with the above-average growth witnessed in 2016 and reported sales of EUR 1,432 million in 2017 – an increase of 11.6 percent.

The question as to the new challenges associated with digitalization remains an interesting one. A second major wave is approaching us with artificial intelligence and it is impossible for any of us to define and filter exactly what advantages and disadvantages these advances will bring. Not every possibility translates into an improvement, simplification or opportunity. This is an area in which we all have to take responsibility. Nevertheless, it is clear to us at Würth that our genuine selling skills as a typical direct selling business will remain our focal point. We want to find out how our customers are doing, what questions they have, what suggestions for improvement. Real solutions call for real dialog. And real dialog allows real service to be provided – a characteristic that clearly sets us apart from our peers.

One topic that is fighting its way back to the forefront of the agenda within this context is trust. In recent years, big tech companies have dominated the agendas of economic conferences – but there are signs that this trend is starting to reverse. There is growing skepticism toward these young, fast-growing companies. What will happen with the huge volumes of data? Questions relating to security and reliance are coming to the fore. All of a sudden, people are starting to talk about values again. Values such as trust, reliability, predictability, stability. Values that have shaped the partnership with our customers from the outset and continue to do so to this day. As entrepreneurs, we should never lose our sense of respect for our customers’ purchasing decisions. After all, a decision is never a matter of course, but always a deliberate intention – in 2017, our customers said “yes” to Würth 44 million times.

The Central Managing Board of the Würth Group would like to thank each and every employee, the Councils of Confidence and Works Councils, the members of the Customer Advisory Boards, the Supervisory Board of the Würth Group’s Family Trusts, the Advisory Board, the Würth family, and especially Prof. Dr. h. c. mult. Reinhold Würth and Bettina Würth for a working relationship based on trust.

We were able to celebrate two wonderful events in 2017: Carmen Würth’s 80th birthday and the associated inauguration of Carmen Würth Forum. Reinhold Würth could not have chosen a better way of marking his wife’s birthday by dedicating this building to her. After all, it is his way of highlighting two important things that make Würth the company it is today: mutual appreciation and the management of the Group as a family business.

For the Central Managing Board of the Würth Group

Robert Friedmann
Chairman of the Central Managing Board of the Würth Group