The corporate success stories that only seem to happen in Hollywood really do exist. The same goes for Silicon Valley. Whereas traditional job creators such as ABB, Deutsche Bank and even SAP are cutting jobs or relocating entire fields of business abroad, Dr Hans-Emil Knoell, who holds a PhD in biochemistry, did the opposite. He developed the knoell brand in Mannheim; an innovative business model which has become a global success. With 500 members of staff in 12 branches, knoell supports some of the big names in the global economy. Not to mention numerous small and medium-sized enterprises.
‘You must be mad, wanting to trade your fancy executive office for a garage loft amongst all the other start-ups!’ When Dr Hans-Emil Knoell first revealed his plans for independence to his friends and family, he was met with incredulity. No wonder: after all, the ambitious amateur athlete Hans-Emil Knoell was making a move for independence at an age when most people start considering early retirement. However, Knoell had a clear plan: to become the best full service provider to the chemical and agrochemical industries and medical technology companies and to help them have their products approved and registered in each market. ‘I wouldn’t have done anything differently’, says the spry entrepreneur. ‘Except for one thing: I would have started earlier.’
The business model embraces the growing significance of product safety and environmental impact: authorities and countries around the world are implementing stricter and stricter regulations, guidelines and laws to protect the environment, people and scenery from the dangers of chemicals and substances. Today, before a substance or product can be sold on the market, a distributor must carry out extensive studies and analyses to prove that their wallpaper paste, pesticide, medical equipment or even child’s toy colour is not dangerous.
The companies of the knoell Group help their clients with all of these regulatory affairs in line with knoell’s unique GLOCAL principle: the specific information on how a substance behaves under certain conditions in the air, in the water, in the soil and when applied is available throughout knoell’s global network. Its local presence allows knoell to support its clients personally and pave the way for approval through direct contact with businesses and authorities. In doing so the companies of the knoell Group are flexible; businesses that simply require approval can work with knoell, the full service provider, as they would with a tax adviser. knoell coordinates the service providers who carry out studies, analyses the global data basis and even works strategically for other businesses throughout the product life cycle.
Hans-Emil Knoell’s clear vision was more than just strategic or conceptual: only with independence would he be able to realise his dream of a truly employee-oriented company. Many aspects that are now lauded as the models of the future by HR experts, such as reconciliation between job and family, a work-life balance, flexitime, home offices, personal development models and an employee share scheme, have long been standard practice at knoell.
Today, knoell employs over 500 staff in 12 branches. Many of these members of staff are academics who hold degrees, doctorates or even professorships. Knoell relies on a truly special culture to retain talented individuals such as those with high potential and administration staff. This is reflected by events such as the legendary annual company get-together in a hostel and highly unconventional strategic decisions: to avoid losing a valuable manager who wished to move to Thailand for private reasons, knoell quickly established its own branch which now makes a significant contribution to the EBIT.
knoell has always been extraordinary. Extraordinarily human – and extraordinarily successful. Dr Marika Suhm-Tintelnot was recently appointed to the Executive Board in order to prevent this from changing in the future. The appointment of a woman to a management board is still cause for press releases, even for companies listed on the DAX. At knoell, however, it goes without saying. This is no surprise given its almost 70% proportion of women.