December 23, 2020

Safe even in the crisis: Interview with Wolfgang Kettnaker

Year "1" soon begins after the company's 150th anniversary. Despite the Covid pandemic, the past year has brought many positive events for Kettnaker: After a vibrant start to the trade fair in January at the imm cologne in Cologne, production of the limited MEISTERSTÜCK 150 series began in spring, and the year is by no means ending quietly. With a roadshow through Switzerland, Kettnaker presented its anniversary exhibition in the fall of 2020. This will continue to tour six Swiss cities into the new year. In an interview, Wolfgang Kettnaker provides a personal insight:

Mr. Kettnaker, how did the year 2020 go?
The furniture industry was challenged once again. Ultimately, it's about how well you're positioned for a crisis. We have already been able to invest a lot in product development in recent years. The manufacturing expertise, the machinery and the motivated people in the manufactory are our assets. The year 2020 has called established processes into question, but the good orders from the trade show have allowed us to concentrate on our work - social distancing is no problem on paint lines and CNC machines. The only question was: could the retailers deliver? They could.

As a family business, Kettnaker is in the best company of a whole series of successful manufacturers in the furniture industry. But one also bears a very special responsibility at a time like this, doesn't one?
Furniture production is part of the German identity. Craftsmanship and industrial production have provided the industry with great impulses and stable growth over decades. As a medium-sized entrepreneur and family business, it becomes clear in such situations that the family consists not only of blood relatives, but also of long-standing employees. A manufacturer with deep regional roots knows its employees, and often their families as well. This is not about abstract personnel lists in an Excel spreadsheet.

Is there an entrepreneurial recipe for success for the way into year "1" after the big anniversary?
Entrepreneurial success is based on complex parameters. It's about recognizing the needs of customers, developing quality furniture programs with an ambitious team. The good relationships with our dealers play a decisive role in our success. They are ideal brand ambassadors, they stand behind our products. Home interiors are experiencing a new perception this year, people are spending more time at home. We are fulfilling not only the desire for aesthetics, but also the desire for order - that's a real plus.
For which area of your work would you like to have more time?
Up front, close to the people who work with our products. On the one hand, these are the dealers, who represent the voice from the market for us. We discuss detailed functional issues with them from the end customer's point of view. After years of working together, many friendships have developed among the dealers, and I would like to cultivate them more. Then there are the people in our workshop who work on new solutions. Often it's just a matter of refining a detail or making a piece of furniture usable in a different way. Suddenly, something completely new emerges in the tinkering. From that moment on, it's all about vision and courage; those are my personal great moments. And finally, networking. For Kettnaker, I have been able to establish good relationships in the industry, not only in the trade, but also with associations and institutions. Made in Germany is an economic factor that receives a lot of attention and appreciation.

How much family business is there in Kettnaker?
The knowledge of the previous generation is ideally passed on to the successor when both generations work together on the handover of the company. After all, I was able to take my first steps with my uncle. Knowledge in the workshop is also handed down and shared. We are proud of the above-average length of service of our colleagues, some of whom have been here for 30 years. Some have been here longer than I have, so the word "family" takes on a new meaning.

What are Kettnaker's goals for the coming year?
We are in the process of significantly expanding the Dürmentingen site. Since I took over the management at the age of 23, after the sudden death of my father, the company has grown continuously. We are solidly positioned. Setbacks have made us stronger: In times of crisis, furniture has been created that has firmly marked our position in an international competitive environment. I have learned that courage and inner conviction are important drivers. My personal goal today is to develop the company further and establish a series of sustainable structures that have nothing to do with my person. Each generation shapes the company in its own way - I will then have more time for visits to our customers, our brand ambassadors and also in the workshop.

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