Appreciation, participation and communication are key to success. Award winning Joachim Czabanski, Chairman and CEO of Klaus Faber AG discusses long term business transformation in collaboration with investment in a dedicated workforce.
Over the last four years a distinctive fresh breeze has blown through Saarbrücken based Klaus Faber AG. This formerly exclusive distributor of cables has developed into an innovative system supplier, building on the core business of trading in cables and wires for the energy industry and strategically opening up new business areas.
Klaus Faber AG now offers products and services as a system integrator in areas as varied as cranes and hoisting devices, tunnel construction, mining, marine applications, infrastructure, e-mobility, broadband expansion, computer centres and regenerative energies. This has led to a massive boost in sales and seen nearly a four-fold growth in the company’s workforce.
Today, Klaus Faber AG is renowned for not merely talking about the future, but positively embracing it. Despite the pandemic, the organisation keeps on growing. The architect of this business transformation, Chairman, Joachim Czabanski has mastered the repertoire of business development like no other.
A member of the German branch of the World Economy Council (WEC) in Berlin since July 2018 and with a wealth of international experience to draw upon, Joachim’s success as a business leader is inspiring. Here, he discusses the pioneering changes implemented within Klaus Faber AG and his plans for the organisation going forward.
Why was such radical transformation required and can you tell us more about how you’ve had to adapt and evolve?
The company had been successful in the distribution of cables and lines for decades, but competition was increasing. Out of the 60 original distributors, only 14 are still active in the market now and few of them will survive long term. Without major strategic transformation, it’s fair to say that Klaus Faber AG would have come under intense pressure sooner or later.
Our new business areas are designed to support the “long familiar” core business whilst also generating valuable synergies by their meaningful interlinkage. This harbours plenty of potential for the future, too.
Could you give us any practical examples?
Yes, let’s take the crane and hoisting device business in conjunction with ship and harbour cabling. In December 2019 we acquired the Friesland-Kabel Group, industry leaders in the German ship cable market. The synergy potential here is huge. The cranes in harbours and wharves, for example, need power and internet connections, i.e. cables and lines. Ships are connected to shore-side power for environmental reasons – which we are now also offering.
Each cabin is supplied by a data line that will be based on fibre-optic cables in the future. This in turn creates synergies with our business area of “Broadband & Telecommunications.” We have capacity to supply all harbour, offshore and refinery applications with products and services too. This represents a substantial future European market where we would love to call the tune.
Transformation can be challenging for employees – and thus also for the management. How did you successfully take all staff “on board?”
One of our aims was to carry those who had reservations as well as those who recognised opportunities into the future. The most important task for the management was to view the team as a whole and get everyone on board and attuned to new ways of working. Every single staff member is important, regardless of their age and position. Reaching the people in the company and convincing them of this will only work if they feel appreciated and are given scope to share in the success.
I believe the senior management of Klaus Faber AG have demonstrated this well. The German business magazine, Capital, ranks us in the top 400 apprenticing companies of the republic – also in the area of dual education. Despite the company’s massive transformation, staff turnover is minimal. That shows proof of trust and we’re extremely grateful to our dedicated team.
What are you doing for your co-workers specifically?
Our co-workers are our key capital and we recognise that without them we would be unable to operate at such a high level.
We invest heavily in training and upskilling because of demographic change alone, wishing to give young people, especially, a real opportunity, and to strengthen their self-reliance. Responsibility for our e-commerce and newly developed online shop is in the hands of an apprentice from 2018, for example. If anyone has a good idea, they receive a bonus by way of the ‘Faber Card,’ as good things should be rewarded immediately. This financial benefit is paid onto the card and can be redeemed immediately. We demand a good performance, but also honour it with above-average pay, premiums and special bonuses. We offer our staff a subsidised “job bike” model and an e-roller model of the “Faber e-drive” brand. We lead by example as Faber AG, wishing to develop the e-mobility business as well.
Additionally, we’re moving into a new, modern Head Office in Saarbrücken’s “Euroquartier” district. It’s very important to us as the management that we all interact with each other fairly and transparently. Our offices are open to all employees, and I believe this is demonstrates our unique understanding of leadership values. It’s not what you say, but how you say it is something we all live by at Klaus Faber AG.
How do you intend to grow in your new business fields, given that these too are competitive markets?
As a passionate sailor I like to say: Never follow the leading sailboat because at best you’ll be second! If you want to win, you need to bank on a different course!
My aspiration is to be the first. Otherwise you’re just trailing along and will take one of the lesser places. From a Klaus Faber perspective, this means thinking differently, or better still disruptively. We are successfully developing the new business fields in an integrated and synergistic manner within a mutual network. Everything is more and more about selling solutions and systems rather than individual products, and we’re actively engaging in long term future trends. In the area of broadband expansion, we offer everything from the computer centre to the access point at home from a single source. The expansion of the broadband network for fast internet is considered one of Germany’s most urgent infrastructural measures. Industry 4.0 applications, e-health and e-care, autonomous driving or the G5 technology will not function without fast data networks.
We’re also making new inroads in areas such as e-mobility and the combination of power storage technologies and regenerative energies with our highly mobile solar containers for off-grid applications.
However, we will not rest on these laurels. Our primary aim is to expand system thinking to all our fields of work while simultaneously networking them.
Saarbrücken-based Klaus Faber AG is one of Europe’s top providers in the cable and line industry. The company has also been engaged in the areas of infrastructure, broadband, e-mobility, storage technology, cranes and hoisting devices. Across its logistics locations in Hedemünden and Fichtenau, Faber warehouses over 8,000 products and more than 70,000 km of cables and wires for highest availability. The takeover of the Friesland-Kabel Group has added new locations in Norderstedt and Wismar.
Shares of Klaus Faber AG are held by the Klaus FABER Foundation established in 2014. It supports suitable projects in medical research and applied medicine, with around € 4.4 million donated so far.