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Collage with pictures Heinz Dürr

Entrepreneur, role model, human being

Heinz Dürr was one of the most prominent entrepreneurial personalities in the Federal Republic of Germany. A “born optimist,” as the Stuttgarter Zeitung newspaper called him, he became best known as the head of AEG and Deutsche Bahn. But above all, his heart beat for his own company. Heinz Dürr, who died in November 2023 at the age of 90, was many things to the people of the Dürr Group: supporter, visionary, stabilizing force, and approachable figure of identification.

When the news that Heinz Dürr had passed away was posted online, his company paused. After a few minutes, the number of clicks on the intranet skyrocketed. Thousands of employees thought of “HD” and his family, and some posted online tributes. One colleague who wrote the following received many likes: “Heinz Dürr’s presence alone gave me the feeling that there was someone that had everything under control.” This sentence sums up the security and confidence that Heinz Dürr instilled in “his people.” And it illustrates how important it is to have a strong personality, one that conveys to the workforce the feeling that nothing can go wrong under their leadership.

I have always been a very active person who likes to get involved and turn visions into reality.

Heinz Dürr

Trust instead of mistrust

Heinz Dürr was driven by an insatiable curiosity. He was particularly interested to learn what young people in the Group thought. In a discussion with members of “Generation Y” a few years ago, he said: “People should be judged by what they can do, not by what they can’t do.” This is an encouraging and humane statement. It communicates to the employees: The management of my company counts on me for who I am and what I can do. I am not met with mistrust, but with trust. Such an attitude provides support, and that is the best basis for performance.

People should be judged by what they can do, not by what they can’t do.

Heinz Dürr

Looking back at Heinz Dürr's first decades in the company, i.e. the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, something wonderful becomes apparent: Heinz Dürr has enabled many people around him to develop in ways they could never have imagined. His companions did not come from Silicon Valley, London’s financial district, or elite universities. Instead, they were down-to-earth, often Swabian apprentices, workers, technicians, clerks, secretaries, and engineers. These people grew up at Dürr. Even though they had never traveled far before, they managed projects in Brazil, built paint shops in the US, and prepared balance sheets for a company that calculated in reals, francs, and dollars. In the days of the economic miracle, Heinz Dürr took them with him on his entrepreneurial journey. The result was a type of manager and employee that still characterizes the Dürr Group today: hard-working, upright, modest, but also cosmopolitan and thinking big.

The future is uncertain, but exciting.

Heinz Dürr

Social organization

Heinz Dürr’s credo was “The company is a social organization.” What he meant was: It’s about manufacturing products that society needs and treating the people in the company decently. As a family entrepreneur, he was there for his employees in the traditional sense, but otherwise he focused on innovation. Not only in terms of technology, but also culturally and socially. Together with his wife, Heide, he brought theater groups to the factory in the 1960s, initiated discussions, founded a factory library and an employee newspaper. The Dürr Big Band, in which he enjoyed jamming along the piano, was particularly close to his heart. Heinz Dürr also listened to the works council. The term “red Dürr” therefore circulated among employers, but for the people in the company it was perfectly normal. Heinz Dürr was not a gray eminence, but an approachable entrepreneur. He did not rely on uniformity and yes-men, but on individuals with their own minds and work ethic.

Family remains anchor shareholder

Heinz Dürr drew a lot of strength from his family. His wife Heide and daughters Alexandra, Karoline and Nicole have always stood by him in support of the Dürr Group and will continue to do so in the future. The Dürr family remains the anchor shareholder of Dürr AG. Alexandra Dürr has been a member of the Supervisory Board for many years.

Every company has its own culture, perhaps even a soul.

Heinz Dürr

“Carry on then”

In later years, his phone calls became legendary. His secretary, Mrs. Doyl-Berger, would call from his office on Berlin’s Gendarmenmarkt: “Mr. Dürr would like to talk to you, I’ll put you through.” And you were already in the middle of a conversation. The phone rang for all kinds of people in the company from whom Heinz Dürr wanted to know something. His calls were often spontaneous, hierarchies were not that important. At first, it was also hard for CEO Dr. Jochen Weyrauch to imagine never receiving such a call again. He remembers his last phone call with Heinz Dürr: “It was about Ingecal, our most recent acquisition. Mr. Dürr wanted to know how their calendering technology worked. I explained it to him and he said: “All right, carry on then.” 

When Heinz Dürr said this, no one could have imagined that the company would have to carry on without him shortly afterwards. His death has left a gap. “HD” was with the company longer than anyone else, he shaped it and embodied it. Dürr without Heinz Dürr? For many, that was unsettling. However, he himself would have been averse to prolonged lamentation. Heinz Dürr always had to keep going, and setbacks were no obstacle. In his obituary, his family quoted the philosopher Albert Camus: “One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” Always start again, believe in yourself, seek happiness in the act of doing, and remain confident: This is Heinz Dürr’s legacy to his company.

Folks, stay curious!

Heinz Dürr

Mathias Christen
Senior Manager & Spokesperson
Corporate Communications & Investor Relations
Dürr Aktiengesellschaft
Carl-Benz-Str. 34
74321 Bietigheim-Bissingen

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