Key to Success: Give Opportunities to The Young

Business Weekly (Issue 1561)

Liechtenstein, a small country in Europe with its population less than 40,000, creates Hilti, an invisible champion in construction supply industry. From Khalifa Tower and Japan’s Shinkansen to Taipei 101 and Taiwan High Speed Rail, as long as there’s a jobsite, you can see Hilti with its red tool boxes.

“Every hole has its own story.” Hilti has focused on drilling ever since it was found in 1941. Hilti is one of the top 5 companies in manufacturing construction tools along with Bosch, Hitachi etc. In 2016, its net sales amount was over 4,600 in CHF million. In recent four years, its net income has grown almost 1.6 times than before, and it has the most employees in Liechtenstein.   

“Liechtenstein is a very small country. Everyone there is not only close, but non-displaceable.” Said Mr. Heinrich Fischer, the Board of Director of Hilti, who accepted our exclusive interview in Taipei. “Every employee in Hilti is our best assets.” He mentioned talents all the time during our interview.

Why are talents so important? Although Hilti sells tools, the key to earn the customer loyalty is its service. Compare Hilti to its competitors who sell tools through dealers, Hilti is a pioneer to “direct sales”. Bring the red tool boxes with them, sales persons visit jobsites and face customers directly. Its “Tool Fleet Management” was mentioned in Harvard Business Review in 2008 and was commented as the must know innovated business model by Clayton M. Christensen. “Not only do we provide tools, but also we provide solutions for our customers” said Mr. Fischer. Why do people use iPhone even though it’s expensive? Because it’s easy to use. “Same reason to Hilti’s products. Only to explain to customers directly by our employees, they can understand the value of our products except price.” Especially for construction industry, one day stop or any safety issues may cause loss of million dollars. “You can rely on it.” commented by a customer who has used Hilti’s products for more than 20 years.

40% of employees are sales persons, who are the reasons to let customers place orders repeatedly.

Compare to sales amount, Hilti cares more about “placing order repeatedly”. “The second order is the key point.” Said Charlie Chen, General Manager of Taiwan branch. 60% of customers place the second order and 30% of customers do business with Hilti for more than 10 years. Only through direct sales, one phone call can resolve customers’ questions and avoid price competition. Without our employees, we can’t do this.

CEO retires at the age of 56. To keep talents, you have to give them opportunities.

“Experience is never our point, but talents are what we really want.” “We are looking for the future CEO by every interview.” Said Fischer. Hilti keeps the tradition of German businesses, which prefers to invest developing talents inside company. On the day of interview. Three young MAs enjoyed lunch with Mr. Fischer, and they flew to Shanghai to join training after lunch. “I became CEO when I was 44.” Said Fischer. “to keep talents, you have to show them opportunities.” Hilti plans career path for every employee, and invest big amount in training. Furthermore, CEO retires and becomes a board member at the age of 56 to keep promotion tunnel smoothly.

Hilti won the best employer award for 3 years in a row among Europe corporations. In addition to maintain balance between caring and demanding, employees feel proud to be a member in Hilti. Hilti invests at least 7 CHF million in culture training so that employees can understand the core value of Hilti.

On Chinese New Year’s Eve in 2016, Earthquake hit South of Taiwan and caused collapse of a building. Hilti let the rescue team borrow all usable tools to save life in time because of company’s support. Business Weekly visited Hilti in Liechtenstein 3 years ago, and was impressed by an employee moved to tears while introducing company. “Only if you know your work value, you feel proud of the company that you work for.” “The more you invest in employee, the more growth company will get.” emphasized by Fischer. Employees in Hilti are just like citizens in Liechtenstein. Every employee knows their importance. “As long as you give opportunities and guidance to the young, Taiwan is still a country with hope.” Said Charlie Chen.




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