Newspaper interview with CEO Thomas Herrmann
Find out more about the “Warm-hearted whirlwind from Karlsbad”
Editor Dirk Neubauer of the German newspaper „Badische Neue Nachrichten (BNN)“ portrayed Thomas Herrmann in September 2020:
Thomas Herrmann is a manager, a maker and shaker and a philanthropist. He is a man who has also appeared on stage as an actor in front of thousands of visitors to the cult musical "Weihnachten neu erleben" (bringing back the Christmas spirit), to inspire enthusiasm for the charitable cause. The 57-year-old is head of Herrmann Ultraschall in Karlsbad. 26 locations in 20 countries; 600 employees. He drives a Porsche and has an apartment in Palma de Mallorca – but at the same time this man of the world speaks to his employees in a cultivated dialect and mingles with them over lunch in the canteen.
"I never liked the concept of hierarchy anyway." Thomas Herrmann is looking for a new corporate culture
The entrepreneur is aware of his roots. His father and founder of the company was an inventor, who sadly lacked capital at first. For the first ten years Thomas Herrmann lived with his parents and his older sister in a small rented apartment, and now they like giving something back to the community, and not only as sponsors of the musical.
They are also putting themselves to the test as entrepreneurs, and are currently in the process of developing a new corporate culture with their team. And unlike other companies, they’re not doing it just to chase some trend. “I never liked the concept of hierarchy anyway,” says Herrmann and waves his palm vigorously through the air.
Young Thomas was a bit of a daredevil. Of course he “tuned” his moped; removed the manifold choke and gained five kilometers per hour? Herrmann hears this and a charming grin settles on his face. “That was possible with the Peugeot 103. But I had a Hercules. I needed another solution." It didn’t take him long to find one. He was less interested in making a faster moped than in finding out what is technically possible.
In sixth grade, he had to repeat a year for poor results in English, in the ninth grade for math. "Because of laziness", his wife Astrid murmurs across the meeting table. Later, when he was studying mechanical engineering at the then Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences, he enjoyed success even in his former weaker subject math – by the way, the university has recently appointed him to the university council. And during his nine years in Chicago, USA, English was not a problem, either. But back to school: "My parents always gave me a choice. After the second time I had to repeat a year they said: comprehensive school or boarding school." Herrmann chose the latter, went to Sasbach, and became class speaker and the voice of the boarding school’s student body. He also took to the stage as a member of the theater club. Inspiring people, that's what he’s always been good at. The technology fan also put on a red raincoat, wrote "John Travolta" on the back with a marker and DJed at the school disco. "John Travolta" was his nickname in Sasbach.
But Herrmann also was a scout, and on annual trips to Taizé he discovered his faith in God. Perhaps this is also where his view of humanity comes from. "You can suspect a robber behind every bush or hope to find a good person," says the entrepreneur. He believes in the good in people, and his actions as a manager exemplifies this attitude. "I am a doer. That is both a strength and a weakness." He still needs to work on his impulsive, dominating demeanor. The whirlwind, which is so determined on the job, becomes very calm at the weekend. On Saturdays, the Karlsruhe native and his wife Astrid go to the gym for yoga classes and then often have a nice prolonged, sometimes hours-long breakfast. Ludwigsplatz, Marktplatz, Gutenbergplatz, the cozy corners of Karlsruhe. "And I'm lazy on vacation." Sleeping late, drifting around. "That's just what I need." Just like the annual hunting retreats in Styria. Astrid and Thomas Herrmann both have a hunting license. There's a number of antlers hanging in the office. He waves his hand through the air again like a man making a point and trying to justify himself. "Oh, that's because that's what you do. I don't think there's 20 more to come."
„You can suspect a robber behind every bush or hope to find a good person." Thomas Herrmann believes in the good in people.
The spouses – parents of two grown-up children – are team players between whom things are smooth and sparks fly. He cuddles her at the BNN appointment with the photographer, they have been married for 30 years. In fact, the holiday destination for the 30-year anniversary was to be a dreamy, paradise island in Malaysia. But that’s not going to happen because of COVID-19. Now we have to celebrate at home, she says. "Langensteinbach instead of Langkawi." By the way, she is the PR manager in the family business with its two foundations.
The suit Herrmann chose for the interview has a red tie and a red handkerchief in the breast pocket – the company color besides blue –, along with a pair of unobtrusive sneakers. That is suggestive of the American in him. Already during his studies he was in the States for nine months and was electrified. After graduating, he applied for jobs with companies and was determined to live in the USA. "I was fascinated by the country. I was fascinated by the people." Today he is disappointed that many people had voted for Donald Trump. “He is not a man who stands for empathy or love thy neighbor. He is a man who disregards basic human dignity."
So the U.S: A business partner of the still small company Herrmann Ultraschall persuades the Herrmann senior in Karlsbad that his son, who was initially only intended to act as an interpreter, should be allowed to set up the US branch near Chicago. The first two years are tough. No jobs. "I cried," Herrmann concedes candidly. The young spouses became even closer than before through the crucible of this difficult period. Then came some relief: Motorola and HP are the first customers in the USA.
The Herrmanns lived at Lake Michigan for nine years in total. They rave about visiting the museum with the kids at Lincoln Park or how they have repeatedly taken a boat along the Chicago River and marveled at the breathtaking architecture. In 2007, they left the metropolis with its 2.7 million inhabitants behind and returned to the Baden region in Germany. “We appreciate the sociability and comfort here, that you can enjoy long nights with friends when you feel like it", she says.
Thomas Herrmann’s Blackberry lies on the table; he is a fan of the legendary mobile phone brand. But it is not only because of the Blackberry’s history that he is aware that standing still can be the end of a business. Progress, development, that's what he wants. That's what drives him. Herrmann Ultraschall is currently more successful than ever before – also because of its technology for oronasal mask manufacturers. And yet Thomas Herrmann also puts himself and his management style to the test during this time.
Asked about his personal dream, he doesn’t have to think long. In four or five years’ time, he would like to focus only on strategic matters in the company, not on day-to-day business. "And then have more time to do charity work."