“Everyone can learn to think and act like an entrepreneur!”
Our current interview with Sarna Röser falls under this motto. We regularly talk to experts about entrepreneurship, the startup scene and innovative ideas from all over the world. Exciting? Then the following interview is just right for you.
Sarna Röser is the designated successor to her father Jürgen Röser, who is the managing partner of the family business Zementrohr- und Betonwerke Karl Röser & Sohn GmbH in Mundelsheim, which was founded in 1923. Among other things, she is a member of the management of Röser FAM GmbH & Co. KG, a company belonging to the family group. Since 2018, she has also been the Federal Chairman of the association DIE JUNGEN UNTERNEHMER von DIE FAMILIENUNTERNEHMER e.V. She has been a member of the Supervisory Board of Fielmann AG since July 2020. As the voice of young entrepreneurship, Sarna Röser represents the interests of over 1,500 young family and owner-operated entrepreneurs in Germany. In 2020, the association is celebrating its 70th anniversary under the motto ‘young and courageous’.
Sarna, you see yourself as a passionate entrepreneur. What does that mean for you in concrete terms?
Sarna: Entrepreneurship is simply in my DNA. Our family business has been in existence for almost 100 years. It was built by my great-grandfather. My father Jürgen Röser is now the third generation of the family to run our company and I will be the fourth generation. For me, entrepreneurship means responsibility and freedom. To take responsibility for the company and for the employees, but also to have the freedom to shape things and to approach things differently than the previous generation. I also associate entrepreneurship directly with courage: Trying out something new, taking risks or rethinking old ideas. No matter whether it’s founding a new company or company succession – entrepreneurship is challenging, but it’s worth it!
Do you believe that everyone can learn to think and act like an entrepreneur?
Sarna: Absolutely! Every person can learn to think and act like an entrepreneur. But the problem is that girls and boys today come into contact with entrepreneurship and economic issues much too late or not at all. Some schools offer the subject of economics, but that is still far too little. The point is to teach young people to think and act in an entrepreneurial way and thus prepare them better for the future. That is why I, as Federal Chairman of the association DIE JUNGEN UNTERNEHMER, am committed to inspiring young people to become entrepreneurs and ensuring they are given the tools they need to set up their own startup as early as possible. All girls and boys, regardless of their family background, should have the chance to get to know business and entrepreneurship better. And that is why I am also committed to the nation-wide delivery of the school subject economics, so that pupils realise that business is fun and that being an entrepreneur is a real option.
The Campus Founders in Heilbronn see themselves as a ‘Mindset-Schmiede’ for founders and innovators and operate from one of the strongest economic regions in Germany. What potential do you see in the region? How can a healthy startup ecosystem be created there?
Sarna: Initiatives and startup hubs such as the Campus Founders make a considerable contribution to startups as well as the entire economic area in the region Heilbronn. The proximity to cities such as Mannheim and Stuttgart is also advantageous. The platform StartupCity Heilbronn is also important because it supports founders and startups in the Heilbronn economic area. Consulting and networking opportunities are indispensable if a healthy startup ecosystem is to be established. This is also demonstrated by my commitment to the Association of Young Entrepreneurs: we support each other, provide advice, learn from each other and rely on digital and face-to-face event formats. Centers like the Campus Founders are indispensable for promoting entrepreneurship and innovation. Like-minded and interested people can come together and push each other. However, a healthy startup ecosystem can also only be created if the right inner attitude is present among fellow founders. In order to strengthen the spirit of entrepreneurship among young people, external discouragement and a low willingness to take risks are pure poison.
Do you think that the “entrepreneurial spirit” in Germany has been exchanged for a “preservationist spirit”?
Sarna: Studies show that such tendencies do indeed exist. One third of students see their professional future in the public sector. It is a fact that the entrepreneurial and founding spirit is dwindling in Germany. To put it clearly: entrepreneurship as a professional or career goal is simply not mentioned. That is frightening. The question is “why”? In my opinion, the main reason is the low level of social acceptance of entrepreneurs. Most of the time we react to entrepreneurs with envy and resentment rather than appreciation and admiration. When entrepreneurs fail, we usually feel confirmed that taking risks is more stupid than brave. For this reason, we need to start changing things early on – and that starts in schools. This is where we should make entrepreneurship tangible. We should get young people excited about entrepreneurship in Germany. Because these young and courageous people with all their entrepreneurial ideas are Germany’s life insurance! That is why it is also very important to focus more on economic issues during school education. Television programs such as “Die Höhle der Löwen“ or “Das Ding des Jahres“ have managed to catapult entrepreneurship into the living room but we have to do more to increase startup activities in Germany. According to KfW’s Startup Monitor 2019, which has been examining startup activity in Germany every year since 2000, the startup rate has declined significantly since then. Even though the figure stabilised slightly in 2018, the future development remains to be seen. For the future, I definitely wish for more entrepreneurial spirit!
How much potential do you see in the cooperation between SMEs and startups in relation to the digital revolution?
Sarna: Cooperation can lead to great things. Established companies can benefit from startups, especially through the enormous innovative power and especially in the context of digitalization. They bring new products to the market, serve new customer needs, create jobs and set new agendas. But the well-tried small and medium-sized companies as the engine of the German economy are just as important. After all, these companies have experience and expertise that puts them ahead of the young companies. Many established companies bring startups into the business because they appreciate their innovative strength and have a lot to gain from it. In short: Both sides can gain something from a cooperation if they get involved with each other.
Campus Founders CEO Oliver Hanisch came to Heilbronn especially for this project after 14 years in Silicon Valley. How far do you see the USA, especially the Valley, ahead of Germany & Europe? How can we still win the “digital race”?
Sarna: When we look at the four tech giants – Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft – we just have to admit to ourselves: We lost the first race. And we will never make up for that. We overslept. But we have every chance of winning the second race – namely for the digitalization of industrial value chains. German companies have great expertise in industrial manufacturing. Now it’s time to link this with the topic of digitalization. The right political course must be set for this.
Since 2018, you have been the national chairman of the association DIE JUNGEN UNTERNEHMER. Why are you doing this, which topics are currently in your focus and which goals have you achieved so far? Where do you still see potential?
Sarna: Our association is first and foremost an opportunity to actively shape German economic policy. We as young entrepreneurs are directly affected by political decisions. And that is where the voice of young people who are willing to build up strong companies or continue traditional businesses is needed. This is where active participation in the association pays off – and it is important. Our “agenda” is broadly diversified. It is mainly about creating the right framework conditions for our German economy. In recent months, Corona’s main concern has been to prevent insolvencies, i.e. to preserve companies and jobs. I see clear potential in topics such as strengthening our business location and sustainability issues.
For many people, entrepreneurship also means assuming a special responsibility for future generations. Which topics do you feel responsible for and which are important to you?
Sarna: Above all, it is the social market economy and the best possible framework conditions for entrepreneurship that I am committed to. Generationally appropriate and sustainable action plays a major role. Sustainable thinking and acting is in the DNA of us family entrepreneurs. For me, it means that we have to act today in a way that will not harm future generations. No generation must live at the expense of the other generation. I think it is irresponsible when massive burdens are imposed on future generations – whether through horrendous national debt or through the waste of natural resources. In my function as Federal Chairman of the association DIE JUNGEN UNTERNEHMER, I am particularly committed to the issues of the younger generation, because these issues must be put on the political agenda.
Last question: Do the startup and business worlds act responsibly enough in view of major challenges such as the digital transformation or, even more importantly, climate change?
Sarna: On the one hand, both SMEs and startups have long been committed to environmental and social sustainability and digitalization. The fact that they are still struggling to implement them at times is due to the complexity of the topic. If it were that simple, we would already be completely digital and climate-neutral by now. However, some of these processes are lengthy and cannot be changed overnight. We have a great responsibility towards future generations, so we are now doing everything we can to provide them with the best possible framework conditions.
Thank you, Sarna, for the interview. We are very happy to hear your expert opinion on entrepreneurship, which we fully share! We greatly appreciate your commitment to the world of startups and entrepreneurship.