"Companies need confidence" - Alumni story with Hannes Voigt

Hannes Voigt, KLU Class of 2020, joined the family business this year – a transport and logistics company in Schleswig-Holstein that has existed for four generations. Here he talks about the skills his studies gave him for the particular challenge of successorhood and carrying on a thriving business.

Hannes, your family business was founded 90 years ago. Can you tell us a bit about the history?

Hannes Voigt: The company was founded by my great grandfather, originally as a haulage firm in Pomerania. During World War Two the family fled to Neumünster and started over. In the past 30 years under my father’s leadership, we’ve grown fast from simple haulage to a full service logistics provider. Since February I’ve been a member of the executive board.

What are your duties at the company?

Voigt: I currently manage distribution. I’m responsible for growing our international import-export division. And I’m laying the foundation for our strategic focus in the coming years. My goal is to assume more responsibility step by step and to further diversify the business divisions. There will, however, still be a team of managers. Of the four of us, only my father and I bear the name Voigt.

What challenges have you experienced in your first months?

Voigt: The initial period was exciting, especially since I really got to know the company. In the past months the issue of the CO2 truck toll has been more present. We have to enforce it ourselves with our clients. And this year there’s the overall economic situation which is looking very shaky, next year as well. After 70 booming years in the business hub of Germany, many are currently discussing a recession; there is uncertainty about how things will continue. To that effect, I imagined my start differently. In the first 100 days I presented a strategy that is now being implemented step by step. Digitalization and automatization were central topics, and we’re implementing new software and technologies.

How did you prepare yourself for the role?

Voigt: You can’t learn all leadership skills, but good education – especially outside the family company – is the best foundation. My professional journey began with an integrated degree program at DHL Freight in Bonn. Part of this was the opportunity to work at DHL Global Forwarding in Singapore. Afterwards I decided on a master’s in management at KLU. The past three years I was at Forto, a logistics startup out of Berlin, where I headed up development in various European countries. KLU imparted upon me a broader perspective in the field of management, so as not to be good only in my area of expertise. I was then able to further develop that in my professional experiences.

Does continuing the family legacy come with a particular pressure of expectation?

Voigt: Fortunately, my family has never pressured me, and the decision to carry on the company has been my goal for many years. Sure, it’s always in the back of one’s mind. I meet my expectations for myself with the best possible education, but also by acting sustainably. Sustainably meaning long-lasting existence and being ready to break new ground. Harvesting the fruit in the long term – in my opinion that’s what makes a family business.

What new ground are you going to break for Voigt Logistics?

Voigt: Our aim of course is to keep growing and to diversify. We’re banking on digitalization, sustainability, innovation, and internationalization. The long-term vision is to be a leading full service logistics provider covering the entire value chain.

What advice would you give others who want to join the family business?

Voigt: I think forward thinking and being confident are particularly important. Turning on the news today, it’s one negative topic after another. And although you have to be realistic, it’s essential to keep your confidence. Or else you can’t be active in the business world in my view. What I do consciously every day is walk through the company myself and give people a good feeling, spread confidence, and with it, prospects.

Thank you very much, dear Hannes!