"We create living spaces for generations to come – that is our corporate mission statement."
Viessmann is a family company that is strongly influenced by the founding family. Nevertheless, an entrepreneur alone can achieve nothing without motivated and multi-talented employees.
The Viessmann family has grown strongly since its establishment in 1917: it currently has 12300 members across the world. Every new employee – from North America to Kazakhstan, from Switzerland to China – becomes part of the family. After all, we can only positively create the living spaces for generations to come if we pull together. We act in a responsible, team-oriented, and entrepreneurial manner. And we give people room to develop. We all benefit from the diverse talents of our employees. The courage to venture something new unites us all.
The Viessmann family of entrepreneurs - that is today's father Martin with his wife Annette and their two children Katharina and Maximilian with spouses.
Today's Viessmann family is already the fourth generation to run the company. Max Viessmann and Martin Viessmann can build on the achievements of their father and grandfather Hans Viessmann and that of their grandfather and great-grandfather Johann Viessmann. All of them were and are forward-thinking entrepreneurial personalities, each of whom has made their own contributions and shaped the company in their own way.
Maximilian is born in 1989 as the second child of Martin and Annette Viessmann. When his father asks him at the age of 18 if he could imagine taking on responsibility in the family business, Maximilian clearly replies “Yes”. After graduating from high school, Maximilian first studies industrial engineering, which he completes at the Technical University of Darmstadt and at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). He then goes on to work as a management consultant for the Boston Consulting Group in Munich and Shanghai. Maximilian also makes a name for himself as a business angel and start-up investor.
On a father-son trip to the mountains in 2015, a conversation on the great opportunities presented by digital technology inspires the start of Maximilian’s future career path and makes them both realize: Viessmann still isn't making use of the opportunities enough here. The plan is quickly hatched: Maximilian is to oversee the company’s digital transformation with his expertise as Chief Digital Officer. This phase, which was originally intended as a six-month interlude, ushers in the next change of generation. Maximilian shall become Co-CEO at the end of 2017 and then also take over the management of the largest business area in 2019.
With the digital transformation, Maximilian – backed by the complete confidence of his father – rings in the next major cultural change at Viessmann. He does away with further hierarchical levels, fosters close personal relationships on a first-name basis, and promotes a transparent, open organization in which mistakes are communicated honestly and frankly and lessons are passed on. It is important to him that all employees are involved in and accompany the transformation process. The monthly “State of the World” meetings, which all 12300 employees can experience live on site or online, are an important part of the corporate culture. Like the three company leaders before him, Maximilian also follows the motto: “Challenges – no matter how big – keep us moving forward.”
Martin Viessmann is born in 1953 as the fourth of five children. Unlike his predecessors, the founder’s grandson does not complete an apprenticeship as a machinist or metalworker. He studies business administration at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. Martin actually wants to continue studying engineering after his exams, but his father brings him into the company as commercial director in 1979. Business expertise and new products are in demand due to the energy crisis. Together, father and son restructure the company, rely on energy-efficient products, and thus manage to make up for the declines in sales.
Prof. Dr. Martin Viessmann
Martin resumes his academic career a little later: in 1989, he does his doctorate in social and economic sciences at the University of Innsbruck. At the turn of the year 1991/92, Hans Viessmann withdraws from the company and transfers sole management to Martin.
The business expert launches a large-scale internationalization campaign. During his time as CEO, he succeeds in increasing the foreign share of business, from less than ten percent at the beginning of the 1990s to well over 50 percent in 2006. Getting involved in sponsoring sports in 1993 is an important step towards increasing the popularity of the Viessmann brand.
Martin recognizes the potential of wall-mounted gas boilers and decides to break into the international market in this segment with his own product line. In collaboration with the works council and the workforce, he forges the “Alliance for Work” in 1996, which ensures production of the new product line is established in Allendorf (Eder) and not in the more affordable country of the Czech Republic. 800 new jobs are created.
Within the company, too, Martin creates the first major cultural change: he dismantles hierarchies and reorganizes production based on lean production principles. And successfully too: productivity increases by more than 15 percent. The visionary also demonstrates foresight in two issues that are still fundamental to the company today. Martin doesn’t only recognize the need for the energy revolution early on, but also its potential. He buys additional missing technologies and develops environmentally friendly, energy-efficient products. From an early stage, Martin also proactively tackles the digital transformation, which many medium-sized companies miss out on. He knows: there’s no future without digitalization. In 2016, he therefore brings his son Maximilian on board as Chief Digital Officer, relinquishes operational management to the previous CDO Joachim Janssen, and joins the Board of Directors to primarily perform strategic tasks. At the end of 2017, Maximilian is promoted to Co-CEO after the company’s 100th anniversary. The company is now in the hands of the fourth generation.
Hans is the first son of Johann and Auguste Viessmann. He is born in Hof an der Saale in 1917 – the year the company was founded. Inspired by his father, Hans also completes an apprenticeship as a machinist and joins his father’s company in 1934. In 1946, he marries Martha Laute, and only one year later, he takes over his father’s company with the financial support of his father-in-law. His first goal: to equip the company with modern machinery. Within a year, Hans expands the workforce from 35 to more than 100 employees. “Hans Viessmann Stahl- und Maschinenbau KG” is founded in 1948.
Dr. Hans Viessmann
Hans knows how to use the structural change in heating technology that began in the 1950s to his advantage – step away from solid fuels and opt for heating oils: he develops boilers for the new fuel. The Triola dual-fuel boiler, which can heat with both solid fuel and oil, is particularly innovative. By the end of the 1950s, around 350 employees produce 5000 boilers annually. The growth continues in the following decade. Viessmann employs almost 1700 people and produces 55000 boilers every year by the end of the 1960s.
When the oil crisis severely impacts the international economy in 1973, Viessmann is one of the largest producers of steel boilers. Hans once again sees the crisis as an opportunity and puts his energy into developing efficient products and the first systems for the use of renewable energies. He invests and builds new plants at home and abroad. His guiding principle: “Bring work to the people.” Hans first expands into neighboring France (1972) and then takes a leap “across the pond” to Canada (1978), kicking off an era of internationalization, which his son Martin will continue on a grand scale.
Hans is an entrepreneur of great creative power and unique inventiveness. More than 1500 entries are accredited to his leadership on the list of patents and property rights when he hands over the baton to his son at the turn of the year 1991/92. His greatest invention is historically relevant: the double-shell, biferral composite heating surface marks the beginning of the era of low-temperature hot water heating at the start of the 1980s.
Johann Viessmann is born in Kulmbach in 1879. He grows up in modest circumstances and loves technology even as a child. After graduating from elementary school, he completes an apprenticeship as a metalworker and blacksmith and then works as a journeyman in various factories. Yet Johann dreams of having his own workshop. In 1917, he ventures the step into self-employment and sets up his own small business in Hof an der Saale. Here, the entrepreneur builds agricultural machines and repairs all sorts of other things, from textile machines to what was then the new technological marvel of its age: the automobile.
The foundation stone for the future Viessmann company is laid by an order placed by a gardener, who was dissatisfied with the heating output of the cast iron boilers common at the time: they’re meant to heat the greenhouse on the first cold nights in late autumn, but they take too long to get warm for the sensitive plants. This kindles Johann’s inventive genius. He tinkers around in his workshop and experiments with steel. The steel boiler is born. The low fuel consumption and the rapid heat output also win over other gardeners. Johann Viessmann recognizes the potential and has his idea patented. He acquires the property rights and utility models.
In 1937, Johann Viessmann moves his family and his company to Allendorf (Eder) in Hesse and expands the production of his boilers. The company already has a workforce of 35 when he hands over the reins to his son in 1947.
Interesting images and video material about the Viessmann family can be downloaded from our multimedia page. There you can also watch our anniversary film: "100 years of Viessmann".