Primus award for the lifetime achievement of Jochen Pildner-Steinburg

Jochen Pildner Steinburg s w

Driver, demonstrator and advantage taker. Jochen Pildner-Steinburg has shaped the economic, political and sporting landscape of the Styrian province in Austria. The captain of industry and “homo politicus” was awarded a prize for lifetime achievement. So we have reproduced this excerpt from the witty testimony of Provincial Governor a.D. Franz Voves...

Becoming an entrepreneur.

In 1951, the father of Jochen Pildner-Steinburg, Erhardt, founded a sole proprietorship with 5 employees. It was a simple components production company. Drive elements for wood processing machines and sliders and valves for the Austrian paper industry. Auxiliary equipment, as it were. Accordingly, GAW, das Grazer Armaturen Werk [Graz Auxiliary Works], had nothing to do with bath tubs or wash basins, but from day one dealt with machines and systems.

While the young Jochen was roaming the streets of Graz, his father’s company took a crucial step. Systems were beginning to be developed from individual parts and close cooperation was being forged with the key paper machinery manufacturers of the world, including Voith, Andritz and Escher-Wyss. It was at this point, when for Austrians a holiday in Caorle was still considered the ultimate symbol of internationality, that market entry was achieved on every continent.

No-one could say at this time that Jochen Pildner-Steinburg had buried himself in the company - far from it! His focus was taken by sport and friends, ice hockey, football and tennis. Everything else – including school – was subsidiary and often the cause of serious disagreements in the family home. As a summation of the previous years, his graduation in Graz in 1971 with a Masters in Economic Sciences was as much a cause for relief as celebration. Entry into the parental company followed in 1972 and things were just as could be predicted. When two such strong characters as the Pildner-Steinburg father and son rub against each other, there is friction – and more than just a little.

Fate determined the succession of the family business in 1974 when father Erhard fell ill suddenly and soon died. Accordingly, it was a challenge for a very young Managing Director to orient a regimented and likely very patriarchal company towards the future. But good and even exemplary coordination took place between brothers Jörg (the elder) and Jochen. Jochen approached the business side and environment while Jörg concentrated on the technical issues.

Jochen took over a company with 50 employees and a turnover of 25 million Austrian Schillings, which amounts to 1.87 million euros (obviously with the equivalent purchasing power of the time). Today the GAW Group has 1,800 employees and a turnover of 273 million euros or 3.7 billion Austrian Schillings. Between these impressive figures, significant strategic decisions and the tough daily grind show that this kind of success is not just the luck of the draw. When employees drove past the company on a Saturday, they could be sure that their boss had been at work. They have also shown their greatest respect because they know it is he that has secured their jobs.

Key Company decisions. The first key step on the road to today’s GAW Group was – in terms of the necessary technology expansion – a stony path from component manufacturer for the mechanical engineering industry to a provider of complex systems for “turn-key” plant for the paper industry. This required not only technological courage but also strategic courage, as it was about being in competition with some of the largest providers in the world. How is this endured? Courage, uncompromising financial stability and a niche strategy in which such clear technological supremacy is acquired in such a small segment that even the big guns would rather cooperate than compete. The technological leap was one secret of success. Consistent dealing with the world markets was the other. The foundation of subsidiaries in the USA, Canada and Brazil followed and orders from China appeared very soon. The next logical step took place in the 1990s with the diversification of the company. The future of a company that had meanwhile grown very large could not and would not be secured on a single sector. Based on key expertise in plant manufacturing, the product range was expanded to include paint preparation plant in the automotive industry and in environmental technology. Since the 2000s, further expansive steps have been taken by strategic company acquisitions. Growth that was previously purely endogenous has expanded and the path towards a holding structure has been adopted. Besides the core sector of Paper & Pulp, the company now serves the automotive industry, plastics technology, automation engineering and the chemical industry. This development has of course left traces at the original site in Graz-Puntigam; the area has undergone significant renovation in recent years, with millions invested to offer the youngest subsidiary, “Automation X” an appropriate backdrop.

The future: Lifetime achievement awards are often conferred after departure. So what will the busy entrepreneur do next? “There is absolutely no question of leaving. There will be no pensioner Jochen Pildner-Steinburg for a good while yet. I’m not gone yet, I remain Managing Director of GAW Holding and I watch over the subsidiaries.” says the 68-year-old and his eyes sparkle with a youthful freshness. We wish him all the very best!

GAW technologies GmbH

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8020 Graz, Österreich
Tel.: +43 (0)316  2704-0
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