Keep it simple – Thermotec AG

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The photographer can’t reach it. To the bell. So he has to get out of the warm car, out into the blowing snow, to ring the bell at the Thermotec factory gate. Sebastian Heidrich laughs heartily when we tell him about it a few minutes later. “These are necessary savings in a company that wants to conquer the world. We have only one bell for the truck drivers. They’re important to us. And they just sit higher.” You wouldn’t know it from looking at the 36-year-old CEO of Thermotec AG that he has just returned from the G20 summit in China. More precisely from the meeting of the G20-YEA, derived from young entrepreneur alliance. “An association of young entrepreneurs from numerous countries,” explains Heidrich “that meets annually to formulate the needs of the next generation of economic leaders and present them to the world’s head of state. It would be easy to come home snooty. Or just as confident as before.

He had brought valuable contacts with him. He will need them if he wants to roll up the Chinese market with his electric heaters. And that’s what he wants. “Until the Chinese copy us. Then we have to realign the strategy.” This is not the way anyone speaks who is too afraid of the future. “Our product just hits the spot and, because it is so simple, is perfectly marketable online. This is indispensable for worldwide distribution without an expensive dealer network. Plug and play is what it’s called, plug it into the socket and off you go. No complicated set-up, no special technical understanding, and no on-site support. So far, Heidrich has had 10,000 heaters built per year in Arnsdorf near Görlitz, and he is currently having production adjusted to 50,000 units. And he is thinking even further ahead. “The storage media are getting better and better. Currently, we have an electricity overproduction in many countries, and everyone is looking for customers. The two facts together call for a new generation of heaters. That’s what we’re going to develop here.”

To be able to implement his ideas, he needs passionate employees, “strictly conservatively trained and totally modern in their thinking”. “Does that even exist?” the father of two asks himself and gets a laugh. “We need to make better but simpler products at the same time. My cell phone has 800 functions that I don’t use or understand. We want our heating to be different.” Things are different at Thermotec. The punching bag, for example, hanging in front of a world map in the hallway. “At the hip ad agencies, there are kickers for balance. We need something more tangible.” It’s only when he sees a picture of himself on the punching bag one morning that he has to think about what went wrong, Heidrich says. Somehow different from the usual lounges is also the cool lounge, which is available to all employees during breaks. Sebastian Heidrich had it built behind the factory halls on an idyllic swimming pond. And has recently been holding weekly meetings there, weather permitting.

The boss is just about to let go. In the past, he wanted to know everything, controlled a lot and would have preferred to do everything himself that he was not 100% satisfied with. Now he has even moved away from the company, moved to Leipzig for private reasons, and no longer comes to the company every day. And trusts his people to do much more. “It’s paying off, they’re incredibly hung up on it and want to prove it can be done.” To continue on this path, he needs employees who, in addition to all the theoretical knowledge, “know what steel smells like” and who can organize themselves. So that he can devote even more attention to strategy for the future. Because he firmly believes in them.

Text: Axel Krüger
Photos: Paul Glaser (3), private


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