Business Hans and Veronika Lindner: Brave and willing to take...

Hans and Veronika Lindner: Brave and willing to take risks

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Veronika and Hans Lindner

The whole family now works in the Lindner Group. Daughter Veronika, however, plays the key role of the second generation.

(Photo: Thorsten Jochim for Handelsblatt)

Arnstorf Skill, diligence and luck. For Hans Lindner, these three things have to come together to be successful. The 78-year-old knew this at a young age, since it was the motto that his mother, who died early on, gave him on the way.

The entrepreneur brought his own skills and diligence, and luck was also good for him. In the past 55 years, the son of a host family from Arnstorf in Lower Bavaria has created a construction company that is second to none.

His Lindner Group supplied the ceilings of the Hong Kong airport, equipped the mosque in Mecca and also the most modern cruise ships from Aida-Nova. Ceilings, facades and insulation technology, roofs, clean rooms and doors. Hans Lindner grows with and on the wishes of his customers. At Frankfurt Airport, his people are currently even responsible for building a brand new terminal.

Today the group has 7,500 employees, the most recent turnover was 1.1 billion euros. The patriarch is still following what is going on in his company, but Lindner has withdrawn from day-to-day business. He has long since settled his successor. Daughter Veronika manages the board of directors and monitors the 13 board members who run the company.

She knows her way around and was responsible for finance for ten years until 2018. The 44-year-old has now taken on the key role in the family company. "I try to keep everything together," Veronika Lindner explains her task.

The rise of Hans Lindner begins in 1965 with an order from Deggendorf Agricultural School. The business economist takes care of the employees at the employment office. It is not easy, there is full employment in those days. "The first two carpenters had more of the beer bottle in their hands than the hammer," he recalls.

Nevertheless, the customer is completely satisfied with Lindner's acoustic ceiling. The projects get bigger quickly. As early as 1971, he was building the equestrian facility for the Olympic Games and the athletes' village in Munich, as well as one of the central underground stations in the Bavarian capital, the Stachus.

Lindner originally wanted to get into the prefabricated house business and spend some time in Finland, the motherland of this construction technology. Because his mother falls ill, he stays at home in Bavaria and joins Isartaler-Holzhaus in Holzkirchen south of Munich. After just two years he started his own business.

Right from the start, Lindner had an urge to enter new dimensions. In 1970 he built his own carpentry and from then on manufactured ceilings and partitions. After seven years, he already has 400 employees.

"I was always brave and willing to take risks"

However, the expansion is expensive, Lindner has built up huge debts over the years, and the credit institutions are on the verge of dropping the ambitious young entrepreneur. A critical phase, and Lindner finds it extremely humiliating to be so dependent on the financial institutions.

This phase in 1973 left deep marks. "Back then I swore to myself that I would never enter a bank again." A decision that he has kept to this day. If a banker wants to do business with him, he has to go to the Lindner offices.

Lindner manages to reduce its liabilities within a few years. In parallel, he decides to restructure the increasingly complex company. Previously, he managed all areas himself, from warehouse to production and shipping to accounting.

He creates small, manageable profit centers that are monitored monthly by top management. This is also important because new areas are constantly being added. At the beginning of the 1980s, he entered insulation technology, and floors were added in the middle of the decade.

Lindner will soon no longer only work with wood, but also metal. At the same time, he opened foreign branches and took over a whole range of companies. He has to pay a lot of tuition. The managing director of the first international branch in Austria does business in his own pocket.

This does not deter the company manager. "I was always brave and willing to take risks," says Lindner. This is also the case in Bulgaria, where the patron is pulling up a complete business park with an adjacent residential area at the beginning of the new millennium. A few years later, he went into shipbuilding.

Since the company was founded, Lindner has had a very special relationship with his people. Not least because he always has to fight for employees in his home in Lower Bavaria. At the beginning he still had good cards with the farmers and construction workers in the region, to whom he could offer a year-round job.

The company quickly became known as a "farmers' aid association". But soon that won't be enough. In 1970 he therefore brought 100 workers from Turkey. Many of them spend their entire remaining working lives at Lindner.

Since 1984, the entrepreneur has also distributed 15 percent of the income to his employees. And that's not all. Lindner has built numerous holiday homes for his team, in Austria and Ireland, in Bavaria, Slovakia, Croatia, Spain and Italy.

They use 1,000 colleagues and their families every year – and the patron and his family also spend their holidays there. Lindner wants the employees to stay as long as possible. "The employees should have a professional home in the company," explains the entrepreneur.

A trip by colleagues is also connected with the biggest catastrophe in the company's history. To mark the company's 50th birthday, employees can spend a weekend in Penthouse at a rented guest house in the Bavarian Alps. Six employees die in a fire there, and numerous are seriously injured.

The operator is later sentenced to imprisonment. In the difficult period afterwards, it is Veronika Lindner who takes care of the victims' relatives internally and at the same time goes public.

Rendezvous at the construction site

How is the Lindner Group doing economically? The company is profitable, says Veronika Lindner, but without giving details. The company was not always so closed.

In 1988, Hans Lindner listed his company on the stock exchange and sold a fifth of the shares. "I had the impression that it is good if I am checked myself," he explains the emission today. However, he was not concerned with the money. With the proceeds, Lindner founds charitable foundations.

The energetic doer can never really make friends with the world of investors and analysts. "The stock exchange just wanted to hear good news, never anything negative," Lindner still wonders decades later. It is completely clear that everything does not always go according to plan.

The annoying questions at the annual general meetings are also annoying. Even today, Lindner has to shake his head when he thinks of the shareholder who wanted to know which car brand he was driving. After a few years he ended the trip on the floor. This causes years of trouble, because small shareholders defend themselves in court against being pushed out. In the meantime, all shares belong to the family. Hans Lindner's foundations still exist, however, and are run by two of his daughters.

To separate professional and private life never comes to mind Hans Lindner. Rather, he always tries to combine the pleasant with the useful. His wife Brigitte remembers how their first meeting led them to the university construction site in Regensburg.

That was on Easter Sunday 1967. Only then did it go to the café at the cathedral. The rendezvous still leaves an impression: “Strawberry cake around Easter – that was something special,” says the entrepreneur's wife.

Nevertheless, Hans Lindner always tries to be there for his family. For years he rushed to the office long before sunrise to stop by at home for the children's breakfast. He avoids hotel stays as much as possible, one-day business trips are the norm.

This requires a huge effort. Lindner still remembers how he drives to the customers restlessly and often travels 140,000 kilometers a year. Since he was always in a hurry, he never had breakfast and even shaved in the car. He was still a good father to his children, says Veronika Lindner: "Even though he was traveling a lot, Papa was always there."

To this day, Lindner has said nothing about the family. Once a week, his wife Brigitte invites them to lunch, the whole clan then sits at the table, the parents, the children with partners and the grandchildren. 20 people come together. New technical solutions are discussed, hotel locations are discussed, and operational processes are discussed. It is not difficult, after all everyone is employed in the company, including the four sons-in-law.

This creates a very special atmosphere at the Lindner Group. "An order is sometimes accepted if it is not 100 percent certain how we can solve the problem," says Helmut Lang. Among other things, the manager is responsible for international business, the facade division and real estate, and has been involved for more than two decades. He appreciates the fact that Hans Lindner was always ready to take risks: "He believes in his own ability and also relies on his gut feeling."

Lang believes that Hans Lindner's excellent knowledge of human nature is decisive for the steep ascent. “He can assess people very well.” In addition, the entrepreneur also gives young people the chance to prove themselves. When he greets the new apprentices, he always gives them advice on how to act as he himself has done, emphasizes Hans Lindner: "Turning your profession into a hobby". Because only then will success actually occur.

By bike to the office

The family no longer interferes in day-to-day business, Lang confirms. Nevertheless, she is always present, the doors of father Hans and daughter Veronika are always open. The primary goal is to remain economically independent in the future, explains Veronika Lindner, a former management consultant.

The business economist sees the global economic turmoil of these days with completed banking apprenticeship: "I am not afraid for the future, not even in a recession. We have good people, loyal customers and are broadly positioned. "In addition, the group has always been extremely agile:" It has always been our strength that we have consistently used opportunities when they were available. "

Combining the pleasant with the useful, Hans Lindner not only succeeds in construction. In 2002, the entrepreneur acquired the Mariakirchen moated castle, just a few kilometers from the company headquarters. Lindner operates a four-star hotel with an attached brewery.

The castle owner likes to play a round of sheep's head in the inn. Today Lindner owns ten hotels, which he has grouped under the MK Hotels brand; his daughter Johanna takes care of the businesses.

The latest venture is called "Landluft", an organic farm in Leberfing in Lower Bavaria. A few days ago, he opened an online shop for his organic meat. And in Romania, Lindner has been building agriculture and forestry on a much larger area for a few years now.

With all his success and his many possessions, Lindner has remained down to earth. He has not owned his own car for a long time, instead he cycles into the company. He doesn't just place his bike on the bike stand. "He always puts the bike in the direction of his next destination, no matter where he arrives," says his wife. He also retained his entrepreneurial vision as a pensioner.

More: The basics of founding. The entrepreneurial high school in Bavaria in Pfarrkirchen has been teaching the basics of business for ten years – also very practically to school-owned companies. So far there are no imitators. Why not?

. (tagsToTranslate) Lindner (t) Construction (t) Hall of Fame (t) Family business (t) Medium-sized businesses (t) Family business (t) Business (t) Entrepreneur (t) Hans Lindner (t) Helmut Lang

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