Spotlight on partners: Interview with Friederike and Michael Nette

Partner for commerce and industry:

Sustainable service packaging made in Göttingen

Nette GmbH is growing steadily and preparations are under way to move to new premises. Friederike Nette, representing the third generation of the owning family, came on board only recently. We spoke to Friederike and Michael Nette regarding the latest developments.

Ms. Nette, you’re 27 years old and you’ve just joined the family business. Can you still recall your very first contact with the firm?

The firm has always played a very big part in my life – and in the lives of my brothers and sisters – and I’m sure it had an enormous influence on us from a very young age. I was still in my teens the first time I was given invoices to sort through during the summer holidays. It was my experiences back then that inspired me to study for a degree in business administration.

You wrote your master’s thesis on a large international corporation in China. After completing your bachelor’s dissertation you already did several internships abroad, both in industry and at management consultancies. What persuaded you to now return to Göttingen?

I knew all along that I wanted to get experience for a while elsewhere after graduating. I agree absolutely with my father when he stresses how important it is to see something of the world before you decide to settle down and stay put. That’s why I spent periods in the Netherlands, the UK and – last but not least – China. Looking back, I’m very grateful for those varied experiences, which I’m certain will come in useful in the future. My time in China was particularly exciting because it gave me valuable insights into the Chinese culture and perspectives. Yet having said that, those experiences also strengthened my resolve to return to Göttingen one day to work.

What was the trigger?

The last five or six years very soon taught me that a family-run company is something rather special. You can get things done by a far more direct route here, for instance, because you not only must but actually can tackle them much faster.

What areas are you involved in right now?

I’ll get acquainted with all departments eventually, but at the moment I’m mainly working in Accounts. I’m also currently pushing through various IT projects. We’re in the process of launching a new web shop and upgrading the software for our warehouse management system – in both cases linked to our move to new premises in Bovenden, which is now in the pipeline.

Mr. Nette, you’re about to relocate to a new site. Why is that necessary?

Our company has undergone a successful evolution over the last few years in several respects. We currently employ 130 people. Apart from Göttingen we’re also represented in Leipzig and Berlin, and we opened a facility in Hamburg not long ago. We record turnover in the region of 33 million euros in the meantime. However, this positive trend needs to be backed up by further growth if we want to hold on to our position in the market. Extra space will become unavoidable, which is why we’re transferring our headquarters from Göttingen to Bovenden.

What factors do you attribute your success to?

The packaging industry – and particularly the service packaging segment in which we operate – is increasingly under fire at the moment in connection with climate protection. Our entire portfolio puts the emphasis on sustainability – see our “Naturally Nette” range – and we’re presently preparing to introduce returnable packaging for take-away applications. Parallel to that, we’re expanding our business to make industrial packaging another pillar. We’re growing at a tremendous rate when it comes to industrial clients and we intend to develop that target group more and more. Today, we deliver just in time to customers all over Germany and we’re planning to open more branches in the near future, which will put us even closer to them. We’re a shareholder and founding member of two international purchasing alliances that are responsible for buying our products worldwide. The Covid crisis has obviously impacted on our sales to customers in the retail trade and system catering, but our growth in the industrial packaging sector has more than made up for that. Nearly 70 years after our company came into being, we’re making inroads into major new markets, and in this same context we’ve also repositioned the business by changing our name from “Nette Papier” (Nette Paper) to “Nette Partner in Handel und Industrie” (Nette – Partner for Commerce and Industry).

Your daughter has just joined the company and the next generation of the Nette family is now on board. Is that something you, as a father, consciously sought to achieve?

That’s something no responsible father should ever attempt to do. Influencing your children like that is not the right approach. But if you want to succeed as a self-employed businessman, more than anything else you have to be passionate about your work. And by showing passion, you’re also acting as a role model. That’s the way I always saw my father, and if my own children feel the same about me, our company is on course for a successful future. Apart from Friederike, my sons Florian, who is presently studying business administration in Bayreuth, and Malte, who’s doing training in wholesale and export management at a place in Nuremberg where the boss is a good friend of mine, are laying the groundwork for a future career in the family firm. But before that happens, like their sister, they need to gain some work experience in a foreign country. I consider that a top priority.

You recently turned 60 and your daughter is 27. Do the different generations have different ways of looking at things?

For one thing, the experience my daughter picked up at management consultancies is a source of valuable input for our work. What’s more, it’s an advantage that Friederike is familiar with, and understands, how her generation feel about work-life balance. After all, younger people are equally important to stop our team structure becoming top-heavy. Friederike’s way of seeing things is a great help to us here because even though I believe in letting the younger generation find their own way, I sometimes find it difficult to know what makes them tick.

Is the question of your successor also an issue here?

In a sense, you’re right – it is a first step in that direction. However, that’s still a long way off yet, and before a potential successor is ready to take on management responsibility, being realistic they need getting on for ten years of experience working for the company.

 

Quelle: CHARAKTER - Gesellschaftsmagazin für Südniedersachsen, Ausgabe Sommer 2021