Interview with Alexander Horn, CEO of A&R Textil
„Growth is the only way to ensure our continued existence“ – Alexander Horn, founder and owner of A&R Textil, is certain of this. Here he will answer questions and give an insight into 27 years of A&R Textil.
What made you strike out on your own almost 27 years ago?
It was pure chance. The original idea was washable nappies, just to earn some money alongside my university studies. Unfortunately, it just didn’t pan out… (laughs)
Have there been moments when you’ve regretted becoming an entrepreneur?
There have been, and there still are, highs and lows. But they also drive me forward. Even if I might have done some things slightly differently in retrospect – I’ve never regretted it, no.
Do you remember your first big order?
Of course, it was an order for battery bags. The order amount was 40,000 Deutschmarks – what a joy! We’re still producing an adapted version of this item for the same customer today. In fact, we still supply all of our initial customers. We are very proud of that.
Are you more a team player or a lone wolf?
A team player, absolutely. I place a great deal of value on the opinions of my colleagues and I try to consider them in my decisions. They complement my strengths and balance my weaknesses – no one can do everything.
What has changed in your relationship with your customers over the last few years?
Our relationships have always been and remain courteous and respectful. Fortunately that has not changed over the years. The pace as a whole has increased.
How did the decision to establish a production facility in Sri Lanka come about?
There were various reasons for needing our own large-scale production facility. On the one hand there were cost reasons and on the other we wanted to avoid becoming dependent on upstream suppliers. This mixture of in-house production and a structure of upstream suppliers makes it possible for us to continue to meet all market demands swiftly and cost effectively. The flexibility which this provides has already opened up new areas of business to us.
Are you planning further expansions?
Yes, the journey continues. We will start producing at additional new production locations, one each in Europe and Asia. We want to increase our capacity and flexibility in order to be able to realise the growth that we have planned over the next few years.
Will the facility in Neukirch continue to be viable into the future, in terms of globalisation?
Yes, absolutely. This is where our development and knowledge centre is located and it’s the foundation for our global production. Since we are bursting out at the seams in Neukirch, we´ve started the long overdue expansion a few weeks ago.
What significance does digitisation have for A&R Textil?
Very great significance – in the positive sense. Digital networking with markets and decision-makers is a prerequisite for our continued success, as is a presence in digital media. The world is growing closer together, contacts are made quickly, business relationships are relatively simple to establish and maintain.
What are the important trends that you see for your business?
Our current business is only slightly dependent on trends. But we are currently keeping a careful eye on the markets when it comes to smart textiles. It’s still early days here – but we have our eye on the ball…
What will be the biggest business challenge over the coming years, in your opinion?
Securing the growth of the company. Growth is the only way to ensure our continued existence. Personally, I see the shift in my duties from operational to strategic as a challenge.
What are you doing to recruit and retain good employees – here in the “provinces”?
The family atmosphere, lack of bureaucracy and scope for development help us to create an environment that motivates and provides stability. We are hardly going to be able to win over confirmed city folk. But we don’t have to work hard to convince people who enjoy living in a more rural area. We live here, where other people come on holiday.
What more could you ask for? How would you describe your leadership style?
I think it’s a healthy mix of authority and laissez-faire. Every member of staff is unique and needs different motivation – it’s a balancing act.
Would you reveal what you do in your private life to maintain a balance?
First and foremost it’s my family. When I’m really stressed I like to mow the lawn – it’s relaxing! Otherwise, when time permits, skiing in the winter and mountain biking in the summer.
What are your hopes for the future?
Health and another 27 years of this exciting life.