12.11.2021 - Company
Fabian Kienbaum, Managing Director of Kienbaum Consultants International, interviews young family entrepreneurs in the Kienbaum Podcast "Pioniere wie wir" (Pioneers Like Us). He talks to Andreas Krengel, who has held various management positions at WEPA since 2018, about starting with the company and leadership at WEPA as well as factors of success with transformation processes. Andreas Krengel provides insights into how the Management Board functions and explains why it is so important to think and act in terms of entrepreneurial ecosystems.
Andreas Krengel runs the family business in the third generation together with his father and three other Members of the Management Board – his grandfather founded the company in the post-war period. WEPA was of course always a part of Andreas' everyday life. In the podcast though he compares the early phase more in terms of being a football fan; Andreas and his father enjoy going to see Borussia Dortmund matches. Talking shop and developing ideas on how things could be done more efficiently are all part and parcel of the process. However, being on the pitch yourself is something different. As it was with WEPA: the family business with its inherent challenges was always a factor in his life even before he assumed responsibility. He has been a Member of the Board since 2021, meaning he is now "on the pitch himself".
WEPA is currently confronted with two specific challenges: on the one hand the market for hygiene paper is saturated, and on the other, the company has to forward any necessary price increases to customers. Because prices for raw materials are rising and the costs of packaging, logistics, energy and recovered paper are increasing, there is no way to avoid this predicament.
Corona was a big challenge for WEPA, not least because of raw material shortages. The company was classified as systemically relevant and was able to secure the ability to deliver even during the phase of extreme demand. Andreas Krengel is satisfied that the partnership with the trade could be further strengthened in this way.
The WEPA Management Board currently consists of Andreas Krengel, his father Martin, and three external Members of the Board. Each member brings forth different values and experiences. At 33, Andreas Krengel is the youngest member of the leadership team and is responsible for strategy processes and transformation processes, for corporate communications and for the newly established "New Business Areas" business unit.
He very much esteems the cooperation and appreciates the sense of teamwork on the Board. The members commit to results, provide each other with feedback and settle conflicts. Kienbaum of course enquires about the private sphere: Andreas explains how the father and son team succeed in separating their private and professional life. A more or less businesslike tone is prevalent between the two of them in the company, and the way Andreas addresses his father certainly make any listeners smile. Two or three times a week the two managers come together for a jour fixe, sometimes also done while jogging – an ideal opportunity to talk about the company in peace and quiet. Of course they also maintain a father-son relationship in which private issues and problems are addressed.
WEPA is a company currently in transition: 2019 saw the launching of the "Perform & Transform – WEPA 2023 Strategy Programme". Andreas Krengel is convinced that there is no future without tradition. A tinge of admiration is heard in his voice as he traces the beginnings of the company and tells of his grandfather's entrepreneurial activities.
WEPA has been placing a focus on sustainability since the early 1980s and currently leads the market in the production of sustainable hygiene papers. Andreas expects sustainability to become the new "standard" because both customers and the company itself aim to follow this path. The Member of the Board judges the fact that WEPA tried so early to handle our environment and resources in such a responsible way as being a great strength.
Of course, sustainability is not the only focus for the hygiene paper manufacturer. Digitalisation, customer centricity and diversification are three further issues that assume an important role in the transformation process.
Andreas Krengel sees the creation of meaning as a central factor for success. WEPA's goal of "Together for a better life" is crucial for both the process and for motivation of the company's employees. Only in this way can the cultural process of change succeed, and colleagues are keen to go along on the trip.
Start-ups are very important for WEPA. The company wants to discover potential growth areas in this way, and also diversify further.
Since 2019, WEPA Ventures has been supporting young, market-ready companies in their early phases. It is important to WEPA that they focus on sustainable hygiene solutions, packaging or raw materials. The portfolio currently consists of four start-ups, including, in the form of SNYCE, a home-grown company. SNYCE aims to make the world and the bathroom more attractive and offers recycled toilet paper with a high design appeal.
The podcast makes clear: the so-called Maschinenraum (Machine Room) located in Berlin is particularly close to Andreas Krengel's heart and coincides with the WEPA values. The company is a member of this platform for mid-sized and family-owned businesses. The common exchange of experience typified by this entrepreneurial ecosystem is particularly important in the area of transformation topics, and Andreas is confident that all members can achieve more in unison, and supports this transfer of knowledge.
In addition, the family-owned company has established the WEPA Stiftung. This aims to make a further contribution to society and is active in four thematic sectors: hygiene, sustainability, life-long learning and family entrepreneurship. Andreas is convinced that the foundation is also a genuine benefit for the company employees – because everyone can get involved, motivation improves and there is more identification with the company.
Finally, Andreas Krengel reveals something private to Kienbaum: asked about a dream he might have, he mentions a project he still wants to implement – and why it will possibly have to wait.
What that might be? Listen now: the Kienbaum podcast "Pioniere wie wir" (Pioneers Like Us) with Andreas Krengel.