Martin Brandt, CEO der Erwin Hymer Group als Distinguished Guest Online an der Unternehmerischen Hochschule®.
Martin Brandt can look back on a successful international career. Six years ago, he became CEO of the Erwin Hymer Group, the largest rental company and manufacturer of motorhomes in Europe. In the MCI Livetalk with MCI Rector Andreas Altmann, Brandt talks about the challenging step of handing over an established family business to an international group.
Erwin Hymer company manufactured its first motorhomes in 1957. With the acquisition of various brands, the family business grew steadily. In 2019, Hymer's family members, who sat on the supervisory board but were not operationally involved in the company, decided to look for investors because the development was no longer satisfying for them. Brandt accompanied the process and provides important insights into how such a transition can work during the MCI Livetalk.
Challenges when handing over a family business
"In family businesses, managers usually have more freedom to make decisions than in a listed company," Brandt explains. "Therefore decisions can be made quickly, but you can also plan for the long term," he adds. Family businesses are keen to pass the company on to their descendants, and their strategic planning is geared towards this plan. This also makes family businesses attractive as employers, because they stand for continuity, Brandt explains.
It was precisely this continuity that was a challenge in the search for investors, as it stirred up fears among employees. Right from the start, the Erwin Hymer Group decided to be transparent in its approach.
The family members of Erwin Hymer Group communicated their family values in the corporate strategy and looked for a partner who shared their values. In the end they chose the US company Thor, which had a large overlap with the Erwin Hymer Group with its similar product range. Brandt also mentions the cultural differences that arose as a result of the handover. "The introduction of internal control systems was a major challenge," he says.
Innovative action is in the DNA of the Erwin Hymer Group, and the implementation of an Innovation Lab continues this tradition. There are plans for a cross-national exchange between the Erwin Hymer Group in Germany and the Thor Group in the U.S., which had to be put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but is eagerly awaited.
"Market has to be created, it doesn't happen," Brandt emphasizes. The target group for motorhomes is thus also changing with the times. Young people want to be mobile and discover as much as possible. The motorhome should fit their lifestyle by being compact and allowing them to be flexible, such as spending several days without electricity. The lifestyle of also using the motorhome for short trips on the weekend also influences the production of motorhomes. Brandt explains the purchase of a motorhome as a very emotional process related to the cost, but also to the product experience.
Feeling and trying it out is the main focus of the sale. When Thor took over, a separate production plant was set up in the U.S. for the production of the Erwin Hymer Group's German motorhomes so that the German design, which is truly only a niche product in the U.S., can be produced locally.
Martin Brandt's insights are an exceptional example of a handover characterized by strategic planning and a transparent approach, combined with respectful treatment of all parties involved.
Erwin Hymer Group SE, headquartered in Bad Waldsee, is one of the world's largest manufacturers of motorhomes and caravans, with over 6,000 employees and annual sales of around 2 billion euros. With 20 brands, Erwin Hymer Group offers an enormous range of products and services for unique, state-of-the-art leisure and mobility experiences.
CV Martin Brandt, CEO, Erwin Hymer Group SESince 2015: CEO, Erwin Hymer Group SE2009-2015: ZUMTOBEL GROUP, Dornbirn Chief Operating Officer2006-2009: ASSA ABLOY AG, Hong Kong Executive Vice President; President ASSA ABLOY Asia Pacific2004-2006: ASSA ABLOY SICHERHEITSTECHNIK GMBH, Berlin Market Regional Manager DACH1996-2003: EFFEFF FRITZ FUSS GMBH & CO KGAA, Albstadt Division Manager (from 1998 Managing Director)2000: Purchase of EFFEFF FRITZ FUSS by ASSA ABLOY SICHERHEITSTECHNIKUntil 1996: BAUMGARTNER & PARTNER UNTERNEHMENSBERATUNG, Munich Head of Munich office; MERCER MANAGEMENT CONSULTING GMBH Senior Consultant