Roland Dürre
Thursday September 30th, 2010

The End of a Mid-Range Entrepreneur.

Here is what I read in the business section of yesterday’s “Süddeutsche” (September, 29th) on page 21:

“In the grip of the banks: now it is going to be a tight call for the traditional firm Rodenstock”.

Underneath, the following header struck me as amusing:

“Daimler gets a new ethics director”

and a little later in letters just as bold:

Now also in Zimbabwe

(on the discovery of Africa as a new market by the US trading concern Walmart).

What a humorous combination. It sounds like a comedian specializing on choice and disorder of headers is now in charge of the SZ.

But back to the enterprise Rodenstock. Why do I m mention it?

A year ago, Herr Randolf Rodenstock gave a presentation at TUM. I wrote (Bericht) about it, partly because I had been disappointed about the title given in the announcement having been far from what the presentation delivered:

“Innovative Entrepreneurship – Strengths and Weaknesses of a Family Enterprise.“

And yesterday, I read in the SZ what “innovative entrepreneurship” led to. Among other things, it says:

“The producer of eyeglasses has been family-owned for more than 125 years, but in 2003 Randolf Rodenstock, who owns the company in the fourth generation, overexerted himself when expanding into the USA”.

There comes to mind a place during the presentation where the orator said that “using eminent counselling firms when strategic decisions were to be made was one of his important and good decisions”. Those were exactly the counselling firms who had worked out the concept for expanding into America, like the way towards the “system eyeglasses” and the sales of the attractive niche technologies.

Apparently, the downfall of Rodenstock was caused by a number of wrong management decisions. Well, these things happen.

If, however, the family entrepreneur responsible in the fourth generation publicly declares how innovatively his enterprise is managed and if he then says things like:

  • an entrepreneur is already “sailing close to the wind”,

then I get annoyed about students at TUM having to listen to this kind of thing during a lecture on entrepreneurship.

Yet I assume that our critical and grown-up students will have known what to think about it. Entrepreneurial strategy is certainly far from easy. Especially if you have to practice it, instead of just teaching it.


(Translated by EG)


On September, 17th, there was another article about Rodenstock in the “Süddeutsche”. It gaves some hope and is available online.

3 Kommentare zu “The End of a Mid-Range Entrepreneur.”

  1. Chris Wood (Thursday September 30th, 2010)

    Roland, I was eager to see in your “kritisch” report how you predicted the problems Rodenstock would have. But it only hinted mildly at a different viewpoint. We English are used to harder “criticism”.
    My grandmother told me a saying from industrial revolution days in Stoke, “clogs, shoes, shoes clogs”. (This referred to the generations in a family business. Clogs indicated poverty; shoes indicated wealth).

  2. rd (Thursday September 30th, 2010)

    Auch in Deutschland gibt es ein ähnliches Sprichwort zu den Generationen von Unternehmern. Ich suche es mal bei Gelegenheit raus. Die Kurzaussage ist ungefähr so: der Gründer baut auf, die zweite Generation weitet aus, die dritte stabilisiert und die nächste ruiniert’s …

  3. Enno (Monday October 4th, 2010)

    “Der Erste erstellts, der Zweite erhälts, dem Dritten zerfällts.”

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