Who are IDEO's main competitors
The rule of the steppe - a former nomad runs a billion-dollar company in France.From Leo Klimm, Paris
Mohed Altrad learned the most important things for his success as a child. When he was herding the animals of his Bedouin clan in the Syrian steppe. "If you have to move on every day to survive, you don't burden yourself with things," says Altrad. "That's why I make sure that my company maintains light structures today." In business administration manuals this is called Lean Management. At Mohed Altrad it is a basic rule of nomadic life. His Altrad group may now turn over billions. Nevertheless, he only employs two dozen people at the company's headquarters in Montpellier in the south of France. The rest of the work is done by 17,000 employees where it occurs: on construction sites all over the world.
"My scaffolding is no better than my competitors' and my concrete mixer is not turning any faster," says Altrad. But the nomad rule allowed him to always offer cheap prices. That - and reliability - is Altrad's simple explanation of how it became one of the largest suppliers of construction site supplies in the world. Altrad will turn over around 1.8 billion euros in the current financial year and achieve a net profit of an estimated 100 million euros. He does most of the business not with residential and office buildings, but with industrial facilities such as refineries and ports. Altrad - gray beard, soft voice - could not have dreamed of such a brilliant rise as a young man.
"I really wanted to be an entrepreneur."
He doesn't even know how old he is. He was rejected by his father as a child. When his mother died, his grandmother raised him. He was born in 1948 or 1951, that's how much he knows. In order to be able to celebrate his birthday according to western custom, he decided to set a date for himself at some point. It was March 9th.
In general, when Altrad arrived in Montpellier in 1972 on a scholarship for talented students, it was a shock. He had read about the noble values of France: brotherhood and all that. Reality was different. He, the "economic refugee", met with rejection. In language courses he had to learn by heart sentences like: "A meal without cheese is not a French meal." But returning home was not an option either. Altrad bit his way through, became a computer scientist, initially worked for large corporations. He gave up trying to develop laptops on his own for lack of money. In 1985 he switched to a low-tech industry: almost for free he took over a bankrupt manufacturer of scaffolding. "I really wanted to be an entrepreneur. It was a way of proving my usefulness," says Altrad.
He also writes novels on the side
He geared the formerly small scaffolding manufacturer towards industrial customers, the beginning of the success story. Altrad later took over rival after rival - recently its main competitor, the Dutch Hertel group. "Altrad should be a haven of performance," he says. That sounds like a business administration manual. Some of his employees accuse him of having long since acquired western management harshness. He outsources production to cheap locations in Poland and Tunisia. He says: "If something can no longer be manufactured at competitive costs, it will just end. C'est la vie." So life is. He sees it just as simple with his successor: none of his children push to the top of the company. Then someone from the outside will take over.
Until further notice, however, he is the boss. He also finds time to write autobiographically inspired novels. He also interferes in the debate about the French military operation against the so-called Islamic State (IS) - whose headquarters are in Raqqa. The town where Altrad's school was located. "The war makes me deeply sad," he says. "If IS is to be defeated, we have to send ground troops." By "we" he means France.
So it has become his country after all. The nomad boy has arrived. This is also visible in Montpellier: the local rugby stadium bears his name. And the professional club that plays in it belongs to him. Altrad wasn't actually interested in rugby, but he was the only one who had the money to save the club. "For me," he says, "a few million are enough." It should sound modest.
Tables from Damascus
A couple in Berlin sells what they could save from the war. By Pia Ratzesberger, Berlin
Everything they had was still in Damascus. The mahogany tables, the wooden chairs, all the garden furniture that European diplomats Hiba Albassir used to love to buy. When no bombs fell in Syria. When Damascus was still Albassir's city.
In the winter of two years ago she came to Berlin with her husband and two children. The quota refugees had to leave their furniture factory behind, as well as their shop and the warehouse. In addition to the production of garden furniture, the family in Damascus also had a wholesale business for clothes hangers. After a few months in Germany, it was clear: you will open a shop here again. They will rescue the furniture from the Syrian capital before someone steals it or it goes up in flames.
About a year after their arrival in Germany, in the winter of 2014, the couple finally found a freight forwarder who undertook the trip. Between Christmas and New Year's Eve, he transported the future of the Albassirs in a 40 cubic meter container through the interior of Syria, from Damascus up to the sea, to the port city of Latakia. "One of the most dangerous routes, after that the shipping company stopped driving," says Hiba Albassir today.
"Today there is nothing left to restore in my country anyway."
The furniture is now in her shop in Berlin-Zehlendorf, Machnower Straße 8. The word "Khashabna" is emblazoned at the entrance. Translated, this means: "Our wood". "If we hadn't managed to get the starter kit from Syria, it would have been difficult to get things done." While others complain about too much bureaucracy and Germany's sluggish offices, founding a company was still the easiest for Albassir. You fill out papers for half an hour - "and then you already have a company".
The Syrian woman and her husband received the work permit shortly after entering the country. An advantage of the quota refugees, who at that time were admitted as part of international humanitarian aid and did not have to go through an asylum procedure. Hiba Albassir also spoke German very well, having trained as a restorer in Mainz in the 1990s. This profession did not exist in Syria at the time. "And today there is nothing left to restore in my country anyway," says Albassir and you can hear in her voice how much she mourns the destruction in her country. "But now we have a foot here too."
In the Federal Republic of Germany, Albassir found what followed: looking for a store, for example, because every landlord asked for an income statement to be much more difficult than founding the company.
"Our style has always been very modern, not oriental."
But Albassir and her husband didn’t have that. After searching in vain, they finally left their first shop in Berlin to a friend. Charlottenburg, 75 square meters, actually a gallery, then a furniture store with tables and chairs. "Handcrafted from mahogany," adds Albassir. She takes pride in the quality of the furniture. The 47-year-old was convinced from the start that things would be well received by Berliners. After all, Europeans in particular bought from her in Damascus, "our style has always been very modern, not oriental".
A large table in her shop costs around 800 to 900 euros, but she has not yet made a profit with "Khashabna". It is still too early for that: no regular customers yet, not yet known. In Syria it was different, in Damascus people knew their shop, it was in the middle of the city.
If you ask Albassir if she wants to go back at some point, she replies without thinking for a moment: "Our life is there." She would return immediately if the war didn't stop her - and she knows it will be a long time before that changes. Her son and daughter are now in high school, in tenth and eighth grades. She wouldn’t take them out of school lightly, especially now that they’ve settled in. "It is not easy to be torn out of your own country," says Albassir. She and her family saved their furniture from Damascus. But not your everyday life.
Endangered goat cheese
An Ethiopian runs a rare farm on Lake Garda. By Ulrike Sauer, Rome
It stands in the middle of the piazza in the Piedmont town of Bra - and it shines. Agitu Ideo Gudeta holds an unusual award in her hands. The Slow Food network founded in Italy has just awarded the 37-year-old the "Cheese Resistance Prize". It sounds a little crazy: On this autumn day, an Ethiopian woman is being honored for her fight against the extinction of the mountain goat Mochena in the Dolomites.
The story of Agitu as a cattle farmer and cheese maker in Valle San Felice began six years ago. She had fled to Italy from her home country alone. She did not leave Ethiopia because it offered her no future. Agitufloh, because she should pay for her commitment to her country with freedom. For years she had supported the farmers in the Mojo region, 70 kilometers from the capital Addis Ababa, in resisting land grabbing by foreign corporations and against the brutal expropriation campaigns of their own government. Then an arrest warrant came and forced her to flee.
It was obvious that the courageous woman would go to Italy. She had previously studied sociology on a scholarship in Trento, at the southern foot of the Alps. With a degree in her pocket, she returned to Ethiopia and worked on projects to promote sustainable agriculture. Until she was threatened with prison.
"I was very afraid."
The African went back to Trento, in the mountains. She now fared like most refugees. Without financial help, she had to start a new life. The smile disappears from her face when she talks about the beginnings of her entrepreneurial activity. "I was very scared. Italy was in deep crisis and I was left empty-handed," she said. The Ethiopian felt under great pressure. "You just have to do it, at any cost. And with all your might," she says today.
Agitu finally decided to build an existence for himself - and at the same time to save the goat breed Mochena, which was once native to the Trientine Alps, from extinction. "The breed suited my conception of raising livestock," she says. The Mochena goat is robust, frugal and not very susceptible to disease. It can be kept outdoors all year round. In return, the goat gives little milk, which was its undoing. Today there are only a few copies left.
Agitu started with 15 animals. In the sunny Gresta valley above Lake Garda, the municipality of Valle San Felice made mountain pastures available to her. In return, the goats protect the landscape. The Ethiopian calls her farm "La Capra Felice", the happy goat, which is more than a name, it is her program. The herd has now grown to 70 animals and gives her a lot of work.
Get up at four in the morning
Agitu gets up at four in the morning and goes out to the goats. She milks by hand, which takes about two hours. "A liter and a half a day per goat is a good yield," she says. When she has brought the animals up to the pastures, she takes the milk in 25-liter buckets in the green panda down to the village. There she set up her modern cheese workshop with a small shop in an old house. The loaves ripen in the underground grotto. She then starts making cheese. In the afternoon she takes care of the ripening, at five o'clock it's out for the second round of milking. Agitu spends the evening with a lot of paperwork. "My life is exhausting, but I like it a lot," she says. She owes it to her passion and pride in what she has achieved so far that she masters it.
With 20 traditional Trento varieties, "La Capra Felice" stands out from the cheeses on offer in the industry. From the raw milk of the mountain goats, with the addition of vegetable rennet, soft and hard cheeses, creamy and spicy, fresh and matured, finely flavored and piquant are made. The customers are private purchasing groups and the catering industry. "I'll also be selling online next year," says Agitu. Many holidaymakers who have tasted her organic cheese now ask her.
The goatherd realized how far she had come when she was able to quit her part-time job in the village bar that year. "I'm enjoying the wages of my work today."
Dream of tartlets
A Brazilian woman has opened a pastry shop in Turin. From Ulrike Sauer, Turin
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