SME Power

Mittelstand

Volkswagen, Bayer and Adidas are household names. But more than 95 percent of Europe’s largest economy is generated by lesser-known firms that aren’t listed on the blue-chip DAX Index. Meet the driver of Germany’s export economy: The Mittelstand

A letter from our editor

mittelstand

Pint-Sized but Powerful

Germany's legendary small and mid-sized companies invest better, are more productive and retain more profits than their exchange-listed brethren.

SKILLS SHORTAGE

All Hands on Deck as Germany Nears Full Employment

Germany’s skill shortage hits rural, family-owned firms the hardest, forcing them into creative solutions.

Machine Design

Mr. Wow Effect

Jürgen Schmid is not your everyday industrial designer. He can make the most complex machine look deceptively simple.

EURO ZONE

Patent Pandemonium

Patents are the bread and butter of Germany's Mittelstand. Applicants are at the mercy of a broken and misguided institution, the European Patent Office.

Mittelstand: Skylotec

Saving Your Own Life

A world market leader in safety equipment thinks it has a way to help residents of high-rise buildings rescue themselves from fires in future.

Private equity

Hunting the Mittelstand

Armed with cash, US and UK private-equity firms are training their sights on Germany's profitable small and medium-sized companies. But the hunters risk shooting themselves in the foot.

Mittelstand

The Sum of its Parts

You won't have heard the name, but most people rely on parts made by Schunk every day, whether hidden in cars, gadgets, tools or even airplanes. Meet the mid-size firm whose focus on niche markets keeps Germany moving.

Handelsblatt Interview

Mittelstand’s Next Suitor

Germany’s small and medium-sized businesses are sought after by everyone from Warren Buffett to China’s Fosun. Singapore’s state fund Temasek could be the next to jump in.

Mittelstand Feud

The Knives Are Out at Kitchen Designer Alno

In a small German town, a Turkish-born self-made woman fights a Bosnian family for control of a Mittelstand firm. Never, never give up, she vows.

Family Firms

From Cuckoo Clocks to Smart Homes

When her husband became ill, former banker Gabriele Siedle was called upon to lead his family firm. The first woman to run Siedle and Sons in 260 years has made a distinguished mark.

Industry 4.0

The Mittelstand’s Digital Problem

Germany’s proud manufacturing industry risks falling behind unless its medium-sized firms embrace the fourth industrial revolution: digitization.

Family Business

An Unexpected Score

GoalAlert is a simple soccer app that started as a fun pastime project. Now a father and his sons have a seven-figure startup that hopes to take on Europe.

Mittelstand

Taping Over the World

Under the leadership of Natalie Mekelburger, Coroplast has grown from family business to global player, supplying the likes of VW, Mercedes and Tesla with tailor-made wiring protection systems. That is, despite her father's initial discouragement.

Wuerth factory PR

Handelsblatt Explains

What Makes Germany’s Mittelstand Special

The family-owned small- and medium-sized businesses called Mittelstand form the backbone of Europe's largest economy. What unites them is not so much a structure as a culture.

Patents

Barley Battle Brews

As huge brewers and agriculture firms patent genetic mutations of plants, Germany’s family-owned beer breweries worry about the future of their 500-year tradition.

Tausendkind, online retail, germany, childrens retail

Mittelstand

Buy Buy Baby

Tausendkind have become a hit in Germany, selling clothing, accessories and gifts for children online. Now the two founders are venturing into the furniture market.

Mittelstand

Apple Supplier Dula is Fit to Succeed

The Dula Group is a major force in the shop-fitting and office furniture design market, as trendy companies such as Apple and Zara know only too well.

Mittelstand

The New Head Gamemaker

Germany’s largest toy maker is being passed down to a fourth generation as Clemens Maier puts together the pieces for Ravensburger’s international, digital future.

mittelstand conference german smes

Mittelstand

Family Firms Fear Political Turmoil Abroad

Despite stellar numbers, Germany’s family-run firms are growing increasingly worried about American protectionism, Brexit and ongoing Russia sanctions that could affect their international business prospects.

Female Executives

Women Are Bigger in Small Business

Germany's small and mid-sized firms are far better at promoting women to top positions than their giant siblings, the country's multinationals.