First of all, to question everything that has been there so far and just not believe that it can go on like this for the next 30 years.
I doubt whether there were great visions. In 1946 the Second World War was only just over, there was a massive shortage and everyone was trying to find a way for their future. The founders at the time also joined in with this project. As far as I could understand, they came from the toolmaking trade: They were driven by the idea of supplying the industry with the necessary equipment, which was then flourishing again. So the challenge was to find what little there was to distribute in the first place. We are talking about an absolute seller's market here because often the king was who got something. I remember my grandfather's stories that in the 60s and 70s, monthly sales were determined by the point at which employees no longer had any motivation to invoice on Saturday. Because they could always have continued to invoice.
It would be presumptuous to speak of 75 years, as it has been 30 years since my first day at work, of which I have been managing director for 20 years. (Alexander Pawel laughs).
But, what I can say, Lingemann has always been a family-run and medium-sized wholesaler that had a more general supply character. Everyone from private customers to large automobile manufacturers was supplied. We used to see ourselves as purely local suppliers. The common thread that Lingemann carried was the idea of supplying local customers with technical consumer equipment.
At the end of the 1990s, this came to an end. We have focused more and more on industry and have gradually replaced the local supply concept with national to Europe-wide supply. This is Lingemann's development.
Less and less. I am convinced that it is incredibly naive to constantly call up things from the past and to want to derive these experiences into the future. Of course, we're talking about traditions that one can be proud of. For example, just for fun, we extrapolated how much the wages and salaries Lingemann has transferred to his employees over the years. We are talking about well over 100 million euros - seen in this way, one can be proud of this achievement of the past 75 years.
However, I am very skeptical about the extrapolation of past values into the future. Values like loyal and dedicated behavior, are things that will also be in demand in the future. However, so much is changing, more and more disruptive technologies are breaking open old markets and changing everything from now on. That is why everything that is there in terms of the wealth of experience should be questioned, again and again, some things are even reduced to absurdity by new technologies. To put it short: What used to be considered indispensable often no longer lasts today. An extremely difficult topic because ultimately few want to admit it. But that's exactly what will happen, in my opinion. (Alexander Pawel thoughtfully)
I am convinced that fundamental characteristics such as punctuality and hard work, all these things that sound so old-fashioned today, will also be needed in the future. But I would no longer subscribe to the line of thought that experience is to be regarded as a special treasure that needs to be preserved. Nowadays, the experience is often our biggest block because we simply believe that what we've been doing for 20 years will work out the same for the next 20 years.
Experience is fundamentally something valuable and positive. In the professional field, however, it should be used with extreme caution.
What I remember fondly is our 50th-anniversary celebration. Anniversary, before the turn of the millennium in Cologne's Gürzenich. Standing on stage in front of around 1200 people and then celebrating with the Höhnern (Cologne music group). I have to admit, this is an experience that will be remembered forever. (Alexander Pawel is grateful)
Many sales conferences, which were strenuous in terms of content and at the same time incredibly fruitful and funny, are also part of it. In general, one can say that it has always been our will to work a lot, but on the other hand also to have a pleasant and above all human climate. The challenge here is not to drift into silly so fast - it was never meant to be that way, unfortunately, not everyone understands that. Otherwise, I also fondly remember the moments when we received the long-awaited award from a customer for whom we fought so long. There are a few moments that I fondly remember.
The greatest success was that at that time we succeeded in transforming a classic local dealer for several product groups into a national, parts also Europe-wide capable supplier who thinks beyond product groups: That also takes logistical processes into account and also integrates the so-called last mile into its concepts. Exactly what we need again today. I still remember exactly how I heard from all sides at the beginning, in the first one or two years: “That doesn't work”, “What you have in mind, doesn't work!”, “Not one person can deliver everything!”. Now we have shown, for many years, even decades, that this is very possible. But at first, there was enormous resistance from all sides.
It wasn't investors who shied away from this transformation. They saw the need. The greatest persuasive power had to be demonstrated with employees and customers alike because it was completely unfamiliar. Also, whenever it is suggested that certain suppliers deliver certain articles and groups of goods and that other suppliers are needed for other services - then this is completely new territory: “One should be able to do all of this now ?!”, “Why can they suddenly also issue goods ?!”, “How, do I need another service provider for that ?!”, “Why can the same person do it now?”.
A lot of staying power, patience, and persuasion. But I couldn't ignore the staff either. Of course, the problems that we are familiar with and with which we have struggled for years are sometimes more pleasant to us than the risk and the courage that has to be taken to try something new. But my team had to go through that. (Alexander Pawel smiles)
Because I've always had a certain maxim, which of course can be wrong: If you feel like you are walking towards an abyss, trying to slow down or take smaller steps will not solve the problem. That will move the point back a bit, but it won't fundamentally prevent the drama. So I prefer to turn sideways, to stick with the metaphor, and suddenly find myself in the jungle. I don't know what to expect. But I know exactly what would have happened if I hadn't. I would have fallen at some point. Maybe I'll try to stretch the time by five years and then again by three, but eventually, I'll fall - that's out of the question. So I have to turn. This has often been described as very brave. I see it a little differently, because for me it's just been thought through to the end - hence the turning.
And that's exactly what happens again today. We realize that our former business models have reached their limits and there are also developments over which we have no control. That’s just the way things develop. So we have to think about how we can deal with it, how can we counter it? This is my approach and the direction I want to take.
That is exactly what I am proud of that we managed to implement this transformation back then. An enormously important blueprint, because that's exactly what we're doing again. For the second time.
It is a first for other companies. Seen in this way, you can almost say that it is easier for us because we have the knowledge that something like this can succeed. Because we have already succeeded!
The next project is exactly this transformation. As a graying, rather hairless person - even as a person completely without hair, at least on the lid (Alexander Pawel laughs) - to show once again that this is exactly what works, that you have to adapt. To be able to be this role model especially as a 52-year-old. Because it annoys me very much that my generation in particular often desperately cramps and clings. It cannot go on like this, they have known for a long time. But somehow the hope remains that the chalice may pass you by again. But what are the consequences of this clinging to the next 10 years? What stones do we put in the way of future generations by artificially stopping the transformation? Can it even lead to the company no longer being able to succeed? I find that incredibly inconsiderate.
That's why I want to set an example myself. Show others that we cannot go on like this. We have to focus on other things today. Things that were once insanely important no longer have any great importance. To set an example for exactly that, to tread a new path, is the greatest challenge I would like to face.
Everything moves on. A look at the private sector shows it perfectly - how did you book a trip 20 years ago, how do many book it today? In the private sphere, we are very happy to accept changes. Everyone owns a smartphone these days, of course, there should be exceptions. But in a professional context, we would like to see as little change as possible. How does that fit together?
Often we humans fall into our old patterns. It's like being in a cage that holds us captive - "It was always like that."
To be able to design, that is without a doubt something that I like. I would feel uncomfortable if, for example, I had to work within a very narrow grid, surrounded by “guard rails”. I couldn't do that. That would cause problems in a very short time. I'll tell you a secret now. At the beginning of my career, I was once offered a very long-term contract as managing director. Without success, because I strictly rejected it. It can't be longer than three years, otherwise, you don't even have to draw up the contract. I could only give the warning that they would probably be happy to be rid of me in six months. I am not suitable for a group. The potential contractual partner did not want to understand that. But I think everyone needs an honest self-assessment. I am a free spirit, I just have to be able to design - that's what I love about my job. I take great pleasure in promoting employees. Ok - I'm less happy if it doesn't work out. (Alexander Pawel surprised)
But it is precisely this development that is a lot of fun - I would not like to live without it.
First of all, health, of course for my family. In the next step, I valiantly include everyone else in the world, knowing full well that it is an unrealistically lofty goal. Health is something that you come to appreciate more and more as you get older. We, humans, are funny: as long as we are fine, the subject of health is not so important to us. But when something doesn't work, the topic takes on a whole new position in our lives. In this respect, that's the alpha and omega for me.
I think that in our country we no longer appreciate the fact that we are living in a time of the longest peace ever. That has never happened before! Many generations, even my age group, no longer know anything else. I think that is now a problem because the idea of war scenes in Germany has become abstract. However, when we look around to see how much war there is around us - then it is no longer that abstract. For us, I hope that peace will last a long time.
What else do I wish for in the future? A sensible balance between what is needed economically and what should be implemented ecologically. So that this world will still exist in 100 years. Because I also have children and what should they do without a world worth living in 30 years?
Another wish is a little more understanding between the generations for one another. If I look around, there are already many young people with extreme ideas: Conversely, there are numerous people of advanced age who, unfortunately, can also be very inconsiderate. Recklessness in traffic or unfortunately in advertising. “I'll come first” and penny-pinching is attractive - crazy that something like this is even considered desirable. Everyone fights for themselves - the team doesn't care - I'm sick of that. Unfortunately, this is also evident during the pandemic. Of course, nobody likes to wear a mask. But if I can prevent something much worse by wearing it, then I'll just wear it. So many deceased cannot be denied.
We complain at a high level, but we're doing incredibly well. So we should be more grateful.
In summary: I would like some things to change. But I have my doubts. Does that make me a pessimist or a realist? (Alexander Pawel thoughtfully) I was always an optimist, but it is precisely at this point that I do not have great hope. We have to keep in mind: What is our contribution to the future?
Far too often. (Alexander Pawel laughs) If I have to give an honest assessment now: 100 times a day. That annoys me because on the one hand, it shows how dependent we are on technology. On such a little thing, it's unbelievable. I don't think an hour goes by without looking at your smartphone - there are hours when you look at the display 20-30-40 times. And it's getting more and more. WhatsApp e.g. B. also establishes itself professionally, whether you want it or not. E-mails are written less. (Alexander Pawel looks at his cell phone) I'm complaining, but I've done it again. (Alexander Pawel laughs).
But there is one thing I still find exciting. In my private life, I am out in nature a lot and it happens that I forget my smartphone in the car. The thought of having to walk back 100 meters - no thanks! The proof: I can do without that thing for three to four hours.
The other day I heard on the radio that young people had their cell phones picked up for six hours as a test. With the result that one nervous breakdown followed the next tear tsunami. What madness! That day, I was alone in the car and laughed out loud - people around me probably thought I was crazy. Where did we get to? This device can't take up that much space from me, can it?!
Result: I look at it a lot - but I'm also grateful for breaks.