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Bernd Voshaar takes stock after 35 years of management

After 35 years, Bernd Voshaar puts the management of the Neuenhauser Group in younger hands and takes stock in an interview.


Grafschafter Nachrichten, 16 December 2020 by Rolf Masselink


Mr. Voshaar, you held management responsibility for the Neuenhauser group for 35 years. Do you still remember your beginnings?

Yes, I remember them very precisely. I took over the business from my father in autumn 1985 and was very happy, because at that time he really gave me the responsibility and retired from business. I had the freedom to decide. That was very important for me.



And did you decide immediately?

My first decision was to give up the building locksmith business. That was not my thing. We tried to move from the craft business towards industrial production and develop products.


In metalworking, there was a technological leap from conventional machining to CNC-technology at that time. That was the first technological leap we took together. We traditionally had good contacts with the local textile industry, which gave us a great idea: to change the winding technology for woven fabrics in the textile industry to a new energy-saving DC technology. This has made us the European market leader over the years.



As a trained engineer, was it difficult for you to face the commercial challenges of corporate management?

I guess I am genetically a bit pre-programmed: My father was a gifted craftsman and my mother was a saleswoman through and through. I think I have a lot in my blood from both sides and I seem to be a good mix of technical and commercial skills.


You focused on expansion early on. How did that happen?

By chance, I met Bernard Meyer, the owner of the Papenburger Meyer Werft, in 1986. I was very enthusiastic about him because he had the idea of turning a shipyard into an assembly company and selling off the entire production. The production of compressors was then transferred to us. This was the hour of birth of Neuenhauser Kompressorenbau GmbH, our first subsidiary.


Under your management, the Neuenhauser Group has grown into a group with around 20 active companies. Was this a Bernd-Voshaar-performance?

This was not a one-man-show, but teamwork. The impulses came from many sides and the development was not always as planned. On the one hand, we have tried to grow organically, always staying state-of-the-art with our machinery. We developed products internally and added products from outside. We tried to consolidate markets. We simply seized the opportunities that came our way. That was an exciting time.


What has been your greatest success in 35 years?

In my first days as manager, we took over Glüpker Blechtechnologie here in Neuenhaus. They were in a very difficult situation at that time. After losses in the first year, we managed to restructure the company and put it on a solid footing. Today, Glüpker is one of the largest sheet metal processors in the German market with an annual processing capacity of around 60,000 tons.


What was your biggest wrong decision?

Especially when you develop products, you have to take certain risks. Years ago, we tried to develop a generator for the wind energy industry. But at the end of the day we realized that the advantages our generator offered did not persuade the market to switch to our system. That was a bitter experience. But it is in the nature of research and development projects that they are fraught with risks. You are only allowed to do those things when you are convinced that the group of companies can cope with the risk.


This sounds like a textbook example.

Two things belong to management: Courage and intelligence. Courage alone without intelligence does not work. But managing a company just intelligently doesn’t work either. You have to keep the two in balance.


Now you are moving to the supervisory board. Is that the exit from corporate management?

It is an exit from the operational management of the company. The new managment board is responsible for the development of the Neuenhauser Group. Decisions must also be made there. Decision and responsibility belong together and I have always represented this principle myself. But a supervisory board can definitiely contribute to the good of the company. It was the same with the previous supervisory board and it will continue to exist in a constructive dialog.


Where do you see the Neuenhauser Group in ten years?

I believe that we can become more international and increase our market shares. The objective must be to strive for two things in the product area: You have to be innovative, i.e. offer good products and be able to produce them efficiently and effectively. With the combination of both qualities, you can build up a very good market position.


And what will pensioner Bernd Voshaar do in the future?

I do not like to hear the word pensioner. Passivity does not fit my DNA at all. I am an acitve person through and through and I want to stay that way in the future. If being a member of the supervisory board didn’t give me complete fulfilment, I would look for other fields of activity. I will certainly have more time, but I will try to fill it in such a way that I can enjoy life as much as possible.

After 35 years, Bernd Voshaar puts the management of the Neuenhauser Group in younger hands. Photo: Konjer