"Never said no"

Interview with Walter Bostelmann, CEO of Kellner & Kunz AG

Walter Bostelmann, CEO of Kellner & Kunz AG
Walter Bostelmann, CEO of Kellner & Kunz AG

Not preserving, but moving is the motto of Kellner & Kunz AG, based in Wels, Austria. A hundred years ago, it sold tools and screws – today, it additionally offers complete C-parts systems and services. Walter Bostelmann is a true 'homegrown' talent. The CEO of Kellner & Kunz AG and Executive Vice President of the RECA Group spoke with Wirtschaftsforum about a culture of values that focuses on people and enables a steep career path.

Wirtschaftsforum: Mr. Bostelmann, Kellner & Kunz has turned 100 last year. What steps or developments would you particularly highlight?

Walter Bostelmann: The last 40 years have been particularly influential for the success of the company. We have developed not only great products and services, but also a corporate culture that focuses on the human element. We have fully internalized this culture and live these values in everything we do, including now with digitalization. In the 1990s, we divided our sales department into the business units Craftsmanship and Industry. More than 70% of our revenue is now enhanced with services. For example, we deliver goods where they are needed. We have achieved very high product and service quality as well as a high level of customer orientation. The switch to SAP was also crucial. Within the RECA Group, we are the central logistics location in Austria for most of our sister and subsidiary companies. We are very proud of this.

Wirtschaftsforum: How has the company developed economically, and how do you think it will continue?

Walter Bostelmann: Kellner & Kunz has always grown steadily. Only through this can the company and its employees develop. We will continue to grow and always open up new industries. With the services we offer in addition to C-parts, fastening technology, and tools, we can establish ourselves in any industry, in Austria but also internationally. Photovoltaics, for example, is a new technology that needs our products and services, as well as sustainable infrastructure projects. Of course, the entire crafts landscape, the construction industry, and industries in all areas, such as aviation, agriculture, construction machinery, classic mechanical engineering, or the food industry, are included. Two new developments in the area of digitized services will play a crucial role. These are self-ordering containers and shelves.

Kellner & Kunz Service Center
Close to the customer: the service center
Kellner & Kunz Vending System
Vending System

Economic Forum: Can you tell us more about this and the development of other products?

Walter Bostelmann: We are constantly developing our range and products. New delivery paths, sustainability, and e-mobility are changing requirements. Our services support a sustainable circular economy and we observe where customers are heading. We keep up with an appropriate product program and systems. Our new developments in the system area include RECA iSCALE, a single-container management system with an integrated digital weighing system in the container base, and the connected vending system RECA iSTORAGE with digitally controlled material flow, which allows access around the clock. In total, we offer 120,000 products. For the future, the new mindset of our salespeople, transitioning to a multi-channel manager, will play an important role.

Economic Forum: You yourself have played a significant role in the development of Kellner & Kunz. How did that come about?

Walter Bostelmann: My career has been steep, exciting, challenging, but successful: I started as an apprentice in 1986. 24 years later, I became a member of the executive board and in 2021, chairman of the board. I have gone through many stations and never said 'no', always 'yes, I am interested'. I wanted to try new things, seize opportunities and I have always liked to make decisions independently and take responsibility. My role in the corporate group includes the strategic development and the ongoing multiplication and optimization of the existing business areas. However, our business is a trade and service business. The RECA Group is represented in 19 countries with 27 companies. Therefore, I spend a lot of time with the different companies as well as with customers and suppliers on-site. Business is done by people, so it is important to know what is happening with the customers and how they are developing. They should feel that we are moving forward with them.

Kellner & Kunz Employees
Kellner & Kunz relies on people who make a difference

Economic Forum: What impulses were you able to and can you provide to the company?

Walter Bostelmann: In the last three years with Corona, supply chain bottlenecks, and massive price increases, we were all driven, there was no longer a normal economic cycle, and each employee had to react just in time to the respective special events. Currently, it's about going 'Back to the roots' and it's important now to ensure that this process of change is implemented and lived quickly. I also try to lead by example, to live in the now and to focus on the important things. We must strive for the customer and make ourselves interesting for them, because times are different today: The customer decides based on where they feel best taken care of. We want to reflect on our strengths and return to more normality. A critical requirement is finding the right employees. The working world has changed a lot.

Economic Forum: What are you doing to attract skilled workers during these difficult times?

Walter Bostelmann: We focus on apprenticeship training and have our own junior academy. Our executives, myself included, lead the courses and seminars there. We are proud that 80 to 90% of our trainees stay in the company. It's not enough to present oneself as sexy; one must also live it. This requires good leadership work from the entire management team and all team leaders. The executive must also be a coach and trainer to keep employees in the company. But of course, as a company, we cannot just roll out the red carpet for employees; if one wants to be successful, performance is simply part of it.

Economic Forum: What else makes Kellner & Kunz successful?

Walter Bostelmann: We fight together for our goal, work hard at it, and rejoice together in our successes. The success is made not by the company, but by the employees. This is reflected in our mission statement. Putting people at the center is not just lip service. We live a very open culture. Everyone approaches everyone else. But there is also a lot to do. We have a healthy drive. When there's movement, it's also fun. Despite all the changes, we remain authentic and stand by what we do. In all our pride in what we've achieved, we remain grounded. This is also a sign of sustainability.

Kellner & Kunz User-Friendliness
The operation is digital and user-friendly
Kellner & Kunz Screws
Screws & Co.: Kellner & Kunz offers a large assortment in the fastening technology sector

Economic Forum: What role does this topic play for you?

Walter Bostelmann: Sustainability is intensely lived by us. We changed our packaging material 15 years ago. We have a photovoltaic system, use district heating, which is exclusively produced through recycling of waste materials. The offices are cooled with ground water heat pumps. And we use biogranules for our plastic containers. Diversity is also lived by us. The proportion of women has always been high and is currently over 20%, in top management at 15%; thus, we are above average. In our service center, more than 100 people with disabilities work.

Economic Forum: What issue personally drives you, and what is your motivation?

Walter Bostelmann: I am interested in people and like to move things. The last years have been hard, and not every day is great. But for me, the positive motivation always prevails.