Get the job done right
Interview with Dr. Christian Neuner, CEO of FLEX-Elektrowerkzeuge GmbH
European Business: Dr. Neuner, FLEX has long been synonymous with a broad portfolio of innovative tools such as angle grinders, sanders, saws, drills, screwdrivers, mixers and others. What is the story behind this outstanding international success?
Dr. Christian Neuner: The story behind good products is a solid company that has constantly grown according to market needs. It was founded in 1922, almost 100 years ago, and since then has focused on high-quality tools. It all started with a hand-held grinding machine; today, we have a broad array with highly advanced tools that have set the benchmark in the market. In 2013, the company was taken over by Chervon Holdings Ltd., an international top ten player in the field of electric tools. Following the acquisition, the development of Flex took off in earnest.
European Business: Can you describe this dynamic in more detail?
Dr. Christian Neuner: Being part of an international holding has turned out to be a major asset; probably our strongest asset. It has opened many new business opportunities. We have been able to grow steadily both nationally and internationally; we have focused on new and innovative technologies, especially battery systems. We have grown in many different ways – in terms of distribution, technology and infrastructure.
European Business: You mentioned the importance of being part of Chervon Holdings Ltd.. How is the company structured today?
Dr. Christian Neuner: We have sales subsidiaries in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, the Czech Republic, Italy and the United Kingdom ensuring that we are close to our customers. Sister companies are responsible for our markets in the United States, China and soon Australia; in other countries we cooperate with distribution partners. With 320 employees worldwide and 250 in Germany, the company generates annual turnover of 80 million EUR.
European Business: FLEX is a much sought-after partner of specialist retailers. What can they expect from the company?
Dr. Christian Neuner: First of all, they can expect products that have been continuously improved and adapted to their needs. One of our key strengths is our ability to meet our customers’ specific requirements. This flexibility sets us apart from the large global players. Our business is based on four divisions: building and renovation, metal surface treatment, automotive and stone working. Within these divisions we offer a broad array of product solutions. Saying this, the automotive industry plays a special role for us. Our surfacepolishers come in a large variety of formats and are the perfect tools for professional paint surface finishing. When it comes to renovation work, our ‘Giraffe’ wall and ceiling sander clearly stands out; it was introduced in 1997 for the first time and has been regularly updated and improved since then.
European Business: You joined the company in 2018 after having worked within the holding for many years. How would you describe your personal motivation and what are your personal goals?
Dr. Christian Neuner: FLEX is tasked with covering the professional segment for the entire group. This means developing the right products and making the right decisions. It is important to support customers with bespoke products and services. My aim is to be as close to the customer and to the end consumer as possible. This means we need to adapt distribution structures and products. Another challenge is working out new ways of communicating. We need to find out how and when to communicate to best reach and serve our target group.
European Business: How has the coronavirus crisis affected the company and, against this backdrop, what are its future plans?
Dr. Christian Neuner: 2020 has been a year full of surprises. The coronavirus has definitely had a negative impact on our business; however, I am surprised by the positive results in May, June and July. There are always new projects and products in the pipeline and last year we received great feedback. A real highlight was the introduction of our PXE 80 rotary polisher; its tool-free quick-change system for swapping out rotary and random orbital drive types is second to none. We could barely keep up with demand. Product-wise we will place another strong focus on new battery systems. We are convinced that this is a major future challenge. Technology is just one challenge; another is to develop healthier products. In our business, noise, dust, vibrations and dirt are issues that require answers and solutions. Our VAC 800 already provides answers to those questions. The air purifier has a low operating noise, removes dust directly and filters fine respirable dust from the air by means of different filter types. Bearing the coronavirus crisis in mind, products like this will become more and more important in the future.
European Business: FLEX products offer answers to a variety of work-related challenges. Is this the key to success?
Dr. Christian Neuner: Clearly it is one part of the story. But there is more. We are close to customers and we have access to a competitive supply chain with a reliable logistics organisation, innovative products, future-oriented research and development and a sophisticated portfolio. We are part of a strong group that is one of the top players worldwide; this makes it easier to further strengthen our market position.