Export champions from Holzminden

In conversation with Carl Otto Künnecke, CEO, Künnecke GmbH

Winners of the 2016 Niedersachsen Foreign Trade Award

The Otto Künnecke GmbH company, based in Holzminden, develops made-to-measure, data-supported machine solutions used for individual, personalised products with high security requirements; the core business is in machinery for processing documents such as identity cards, passports and credit cards. This medium-sized enterprise has set new standards through its exceptional international business achievements, and was honoured with the 2016 Niedersachsen Foreign Trade Award.

Mr Künnecke, how did you find your profession?

To cut the story short: from globetrotting artist to international entrepreneur; in the nineties I started reshaping the Künnecke company: instead of making windows and doors for regional customers I wanted to enter the world’s export markets with machinery.

What does ‘successful international business’ mean in figures?

Of an average turnover of 13 million €, over 80% comes from exports. My 132 employees are completely dependent on our export success; an increase of around 20% in exports over the last three years made it possible to take on ten new staff. In the ‘ID Solutions’ field, our machines and technical solutions are used in 35 projects around the world, most importantly in the USA, Korea and Japan.

How do you choose where to seek new business??

We differentiate between A, B, and C countries; the classification depends on potential market demand, not only on the size of the country.

How do you enter foreign markets and organise your business there?

The company is organised according to region, with support from our local sales representatives and 50 trading partners around the world, along with travelling representatives and key account managers.

And how do marketing and distribution work?

Variously, depending on market segment: in finance and telecommunications differently from ID Solutions. That’s to say, on the front line: via our local traders in close consultation with head office. Service and after-sales is organised directly from the works with the traders and the customers – the latter according to the call for tender.

What influence does foreign trade have on your enterprises?

All activities are delegated in advance and then adapted to the customer and the region. Each branch runs itself and so can have its say in the design of marketing materials. With this regionally oriented structure, the branches and external trading operations, sales and distribution is close to the customers, to its culture and language. Machine production is flexible in any case, and can be adapted to individual requirements.

What was your biggest success?

The biggest commission in our history: Mexico produces its identity cards on machines by Otto Künnecke, and built a complete production facility in Mexico City: 100 million identity cards, with a total plant investment of 8.2 million €.

What are you currently engaged with, and what are your aims?

In recent years we’ve opened up business in the Asian/Australia region, then Latin America. The aim for 2017 is more attention to African states and the former CIS countries.

You received the 2016 Foreign Trade Award – what does that mean to you?

First and foremost, this award recognises the endeavours of every single employee. Without them, such a success story would be unimaginable, and so I’m also very proud of my team. The award honours our past enterprises just as much as the current activities.

What’s your personal connection with Niedersachsen as a business location?

It’s my home – I was born here, went to school, my family and friends are here. The Künneckes have lived and worked here for generations and we feel deeply connected to this place and its people. They’ve been the bedrock of the company’s success for three generations. That’s the way it should stay – definitely.

Mr Künnecke, thank you for this interview.

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