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Andreas Conzelmann has reached the summit of one of the 14 highest mountains in the world. Today, the man at the summit of TRUMPF Schweiz AG is more interested in experiencing the natural world than pushing his limits to the extreme – “I have children,” he says.
“It felt like a defeat,” recounts Andreas Conzelmann of one sunny day in October a few years ago. He was stopped in his tracks just minutes from reaching the summit of Matterhorn, one of the few 4,000-metre peaks in the Alps he had yet to conquer. A few years later, he was on the same mountain again, this time with perfect conditions at the peak. The following night, helicopters were circling, their searchlights swirling on the mountainside in search of stranded climbers. “That was when I knew it was the right decision to turn back last time.” He has learned that you don’t have to see things through at any cost – in sports or business. And yet, he adds: “I love trying to make the impossible possible.”
A manager that knows the shop floor.
On the inside of the glass wall that looks out from Andreas’ office in Grüsch onto the stunning Graubünden Alps, one bright yellow Post-it is neatly stuck next to the other. If you want to achieve great things, you have to feel your way forward step by step. “My parents thought I should do an apprenticeship before my degree. To this day, I have never regretted following that advice, although I knew that the polymechanic apprenticeship was only a stopover.” But it was this stopover that gave him the practical experience that is so important to him as a manager. “As CEO of TRUMPF, I try to remain close to the production staff,” he says. After all, they are the ones who transform the idea of processing sheet metal and other materials with laser beams and producing high-tech machines and lasers at Grüsch into reality.
What is important in machine design.
He will soon be spending a whole week in his overalls helping the production team assemble a machine. But there is a certain distance between him and the people in the halls now. “This is something every CEO should do,” he says, and makes it clear that he is well aware that many people in the company know more than he does about specific key areas. “The trick is to tap into that knowledge.” This is especially important when a decision has to be made about which even he is uncertain.
Amazing experiences in the great outdoors.
In 2007, 20 kilometres west of Mount Everest, one of Andreas’ dreams became reality on Cho Oyu: “I wanted to stand on top of one of the 14 highest mountains in the world.” There are three things, he says, that are important when climbing a mountain that is over 8,000 metres tall. You have to be in top shape and have excellent mountain climbing skills, and you must be able to tolerate the altitude, which is something you can’t really learn. “The death zone starts at 8,000 meters – as the name implies, you really don’t want to be making any mistakes there.”
“Nature and sustainability are very important to me.”
Today, Andreas still climbs mountains, but not like he used to – his climbing trips in the Alps now last three days rather than three weeks. “I have children,” he says. But sports are still part of his day. In the morning, if he has time, he gets on his bike at his family home in the village of Jenaz, rides past the local mountains Chrüz and Sassauna and continues along the Landquart river, turning right before it flows into the Rhine, before parking his bike alongside those of his colleagues. “The countryside in Graubünden is breathtaking,” he says and recalls one of his paragliding adventures, when he flew over a herd of about 25 ibex. “Nature and sustainability are very important to me.”
If TRUMPF’s CEO sees lights on in the company building when he leaves in the evening, he turns around and heads back inside to switch them off. Only then can he ride back home along the river to enjoy the evening with his family. On his company’s website it says: “Work where others go on holiday.”