Family Firms

From Cuckoo Clocks to Smart Homes

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Gabriele Siedle is taking the family firm into a future filled with smart homes and wireless door opening apps. Source: Siedle PR.

Six generations in gold-framed oil paintings gaze sternly down on Gabriele Siedle. It feels as though they are not letting the head of their company out of sight. The Siedle villa in Furtwangen, in the middle of the Black Forest in south western Germany is the headquarters of the company that the farmer Matthäus Siedle founded in 1750 as a foundry. Today almost everybody in Germany has come into contact with a Siedle product, whether they know it or not: German apartment buildings usually connect to their main front doors by intercoms, that each individual apartment has; and every second intercom in Germany comes from S. Siedle and Sons, branded with the three letters, SSS.

“I’m the first woman to lead the firm in more than 260 years,” she says. That was never the plan. The 65-year-old is actually a banker and for many years, she headed the asset management department at Dresdner Bank in Baden-Baden.

Ms. Siedle met Horst Siedle, of the seventh-generation of S. Siedle and Sons, through her work with a foundation. After the couple fell in love, she moved to remote valley in Furtwangen.

“I was impressed with how quickly he put decisions into practice,” Ms. Siedle says. “Completely different than in a bank.” She was also impressed with how her husband went against convention and built a logistics center in Furtwangen, even though there was no connection to highway or rail networks, because he wanted to develop the town and increase employment opportunities there.

Soon Ms. Siedle was working in management as well, true to her motto: “I never want to need a man as a provider.”

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