Knowledge meets business

Dr. Jörg Mittelsten Scheid, Vorwerk & Co. KG, Wuppertal, German Entrepreneur Award 2018 in the Lifetime Achievement category

Vorwerk classics like the Thermomix food processor or the Kobold vacuum cleaner have been setting the industry standard for generations. Dr. Jörg Mittelsten Scheid made direct selling a viable success and turned Vorwerk into an international powerhouse. His work has been acknowledged with a German Entrepreneur Lifetime Achievement Award 2018.

About the company

Year established 1883
Turnover 2017 2.9 bil euros
Employees 12,333 plus 633,128 Independent partners

Dr. Jörg Mittelsten Scheid originally wanted to be a university professor, but then fate stepped in. As a member of the family of entrepreneurs behind Vorwerk, he had already begun his university career when it transpired that the intended successor was not going to join the family business. “The university kept the door open for me, which is why I decided to give it a try”, remembers the 82-year old. The then 30-year old jurist entered the upper echelons of Vorwerk management but was viewed with scepticism by other management figures. “I hadn’t got a clue about business.” He did what he had learnt to do as a scientist: listen, analyse, filter out the essence of a problem. “It brought me acceptance.”

We believe that face-to-face contact will remain important in the future too.

Dr. Jörg Mittelsten Scheid


He soon recognised where Vorwerk’s actual strength lay: in direct sales. “Our products had to be top quality, otherwise the sales advisors wouldn’t get invited back.” Which is why Vorwerk has been targeting continual customer-focussed innovation for decades. “Sales and product development are closely linked.” The Kobold vacuum cleaner, now available as a robot, has remained a cult since 1930, and the legendary Thermomix, on the market since 1971, now comes with a wifi interface. To this day Vorwerk products are largely made in Germany. “Here we find a lot of the know-how we need.” The German Entrepreneur Award’s experts were impressed. “A German showcase company with the innovative capacity to keep a finger on the pulse in a digital world.” But above all Dr. Jörg Mittelsten Scheid has seen that the sales advisor profession gets the recognition it deserves. “Integrity and professionalism are enormously important with our sales staff.” The sector benefits from this even today, where sales parties are an attractive proposition in spite of or maybe because of the Internet. “We believe that face-to-face contact will remain important in the future too.” Meanwhile Vorwerk sells both online and through its own shops. The panel were impressed by the “very modern and highly successful sales model.” The internationally trained entrepreneur also pressed ahead with overseas sales, firstly in Europe then the rest of the world. Meanwhile, the company has representation in 79 countries, employs more than 12,300 people and has more than 633,000 independent sales partners. Over the years the company has launched very different products on the market, including fitted kitchens and an ironing system. It now focuses on a few core products that generate a current annual turnover of 2.9 billion euros. “Vorwerk is a strong brand, and has managed to sustain a high turnover in spite of a reduction in the product range”, says the German Entrepreneur Award’s panel of experts. Positively received was the company’s historic engagement with promising new startups, which also benefits Vorwerk itself. “This is how we get new impetus and ideas, for example with the development of our robot vacuum cleaner.”

Vorwerk & Co. KG

Michael Weber
T(0202) 564 - 12 47 

Vorwerk supports a number of social and cultural projects and conducts its own research and development. The panel had special praise for “an endowed chair at the University of Wuppertal”, the only one of its kind in Germany. Dr. Jörg Mittelsten Scheid is now Honorary Chairman of the Supervisory Board and still maintains close links with the scientific world, gives lectures and writes books. The panel were impressed by this “outstanding entrepreneurial personality with a likeable and unassuming demeanour. A shining example as a person, Dr. Jörg Mittelsten Scheid has turned Vorwerk into a globally successful brand.” This has earned him the German Entrepreneur Lifetime Achievement Award 2018. “The German Entrepreneur Award has a good reputation” enthuses the entrepreneur. “It also acknowledges the engagement of all our employees and partners.”