Experiencing Challenges and Growth-- Interview with Mr. Jan-Dirk Auris on 25 years with Henkel
COLUMN:POLICY, ECONOMY & FINANCE
Experiencing Challenges and Growth
-- Interview with Mr. Jan-Dirk Auris on 25 years with Henkel
1. What has made you stay in one company for so long (25 years)? What motivates you?
A: Henkel is a company whose success relies on its people. There is a tremendous diversity in people, skill types and business challenges. For those people who are strong performers, the opportunity is limitless. We have people who used to be in accounting and today are in marketing and sales. If I look at my own career, I have been continually challenged and have experienced continued growth, working in Europe, North America and Asia.
We have very high standards as an organization. From the first day, employees are given significant responsibility and opportunity. They are empowered to have a direct impact on our business and their career. We also work very closely on training and development ensuring that we provide opportunity for continual growth and development so they are always moving forward in their career. This is why I believe so many people stay with Henkel for such a long time; and it is why I am celebrating my 25th anniversary with Henkel this year.
2. Where do you hope to be five years from now?
A: I do not have specific plan for where I will be in five years. I am quite happy where I am today, working in partnership with my team to reach our full business potential in the region.
3. You have rich experience not only in the AP region, but also in Europe and the US. What differences do you see in the AP region compared to other markets in the world?
A: Having worked in Europe, North America and Asia - each market has its unique attributes. But at the end of the day, the fundamentals of the Henkel business and culture are the same. From my perspective, the most prominent difference in Asia is its dynamism and the overall speed of change.
We have witnessed tremendous growth in the region over the past twenty years - growing from a business that was roughly 50 million Euros to one that is more than 1.5 billion Euros annually. One of the things that stand out in this region is the size and scale of opportunity people can gain in such a rapidly growing region. I am quite proud that we have many young managers that are no more than 35 years old who have responsibilities for sales of about 50 million Euros and roughly 150 people. If you look at more saturated markets such as North America and Western Europe, you will not find people at that age with that scale of responsibility.
In such a market full of vitality, Asia Pacific has become a center for Henkel's business worldwide. In 2007 we inaugurated our new Asia Pacific Headquarters in Shanghai. We also have two R&D centers in the Asia Pacific region - one in Tokyo, and one in Shanghai. The latter one is also one of the five key R&D sites globally.
4. Given your long time with Henkel, you must have seen the rise of the Chinese market. What role has China been playing in the region?
A: China always continues to impress me. The speed and the pace of change are incredible. In looking at our business, it has grown in step with China. Since entering China, we have almost increased our revenue tenfold annually. China has become a key pillar of our business - globally. We have established our regional headquarters in Shanghai; we have opened up a major R&D site in Shanghai and we continue to see strong opportunity in the market. So the change and growth in this market and with our business has been substantial.
5. What is your perspective on the topic: "Low Carbon"? How would you comment on what Henkel is doing to develop low carbon economy?
A: Henkel has been committed to sustainability across its business since its inception more than 130 years ago. Through our business activities and our products, we aim to make a valuable contribution to society. The basis for this is our vision to make people's lives easier, better and more beautiful with our brands and technologies. We systematically focus our activities throughout the value chain on the challenges of sustainable development as they relate to our operations. Lowering carbon emissions is a key factor in helping to combat climate change and it is one of the key components of our overall approach to sustainability.
First, we have taken a number of steps to ensure that the manufacturing of our products is done in the most efficient manner to minimize energy consumption; second, we have focused on all of our operations and offices worldwide to make sure our buildings are more efficient for heating and cooling as well as implementing practices encouraging people to do little things like not leave their lights or computers on when not in use. And, third, the products we develop are optimized to be more energy efficient. For example, in the adhesives category we have products that dry faster and require less energy or heat for the curing process, which significantly reduces the amount of energy our customers require when using our products for manufacturing. Indirectly these same adhesives also enable our customers to manufacture cars that are lighter, stronger and more efficient and hence use less fuel, which in turn leads to less carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. This same adhesive technology is also allowing for new breakthroughs in efficiency for hybrid and electric vehicles - as a lighter vehicle requires less energy for transport - these vehicles can now travel at much farther ranges, making them a more viable commercial option. We believe that a number of small steps can make a big, positive long-term impact in reducing carbon emissions. At the end of the day, resource efficiency is not just an environmental initiative - it is also an important business process that saves costs in the long-run.