Franziska Tschudi, owner of the Wicor/Weidmann family business in fourth-generation, about the
true values of the company that do not change for many decades, about the importance of personal development, professional achievements, and the honor and dignity of everyone.
Wicor Group is a family-owned company with a long history of success, which is represented in Ukraine by two powerful manufacturing companies – Weidmann Malyn Paper Mill, Weidmann Malyn Insulation Components.
The company emerged on the Ukrainian market during independence, integrating the values of the main company here and increasing the technical capacity in Ukraine. The first project at Wicor for Mrs. Tschudi was the establishment and development of an enterprise in Ukraine. And the level at which she led the company in Malin speaks for itself. It was about how Swiss values were adapted in Ukraine in an exclusive interview with
Franziska Tschudi for LDaily.
LDaily: The Wicor Group company is more than 140 years old, could you tell us, please, how your family business was born? Who created the company? What were the main products of the company at the very beginning of its activity? In your opinion, what are the milestones of the company’s development?
Fr. Tschudi: In 1877, Hans Heinrich Weidmann, a young man of 25 years, bought the old water-powered town mill in Rapperswil, Switzerland, and converted it to a cardboard factory. At first, he successfully invented and marketed products for bookbinders and for the textile sector, later also for the electrical sector (pressboard and pressed parts from self-developed plastics). After his death, the company went down the drain. In 1923, my great-grandfather Jean Tschudi, a competitor, acquired the company with the financial support of friends. He entrusted the turnaround to
his very young son, Hans, a paper engineer. Hans managed to bring back the Weidmann company on solid footing and, among other things, invented the hot-pressed transformerboard, today the basis of insulation for oil-filled transformers (today Electrical Technology business area). He also started production activities for our plastics technology (today Medical Technology business area). After his death in 1968, my father Felix started the internationalization of our company.
LDaily: You have been the head of the family business for more than 16 years. Was the decision to lead the Wicor Group your personal choice or was it predetermined by your parents?
Fr. Tschudi: It was a family decision, several years after my joining the company as responsible person for corporate development and later leading the newly created Asia Pacific region of Electrical Technology. By the way my first project (for which I was hired) was to negotiate and to establish our cooperation in the Ukraine!
LDaily: Mrs. Franziska, you have a legal education and first steps in a career you carried out exactly in the field of law in the company Lenz&Stähelin. Why did your choice fall specifically on education in the field of law? What motivated you to make such a choice?
Fr. Tschudi: When I terminated high school at 19, I was unsure about my professional life, had no role model (as a young woman in the Seventies), but was determined to follow a “career”. Becoming a lawyer or a judge seemed like a good way to make use of my abilities and offered interesting options, e.g. to enter the business world.
LDaily: Could you tell us about the situation when your practical experience in jurisprudence helped you to make the right choice or some key moments of making strategic management decisions.
Fr. Tschudi: As a lawyer I had the chance to participate in many negotiations with people of various age, professional status, or nationality, and thus acquired ample knowhow how to find a compromise in a difficult situation. That has helped me in many discussions with customers or other business partners around the globe, and also in disputes with dissenting colleagues or employees.
LDaily: Engineering, (in particular, the transformer industry), is not quite typical for women. Was it difficult for you to start working in this industry?
Fr. Tschudi: My high school diploma was based on mathematics and sciences, and I liked and did well in these subjects. In this way, I am not the “typical woman” (smile) – luckily, in light of my professional development…
LDaily: Could you describe the values of the Wicor Group 140 years ago and the values of the company now?
Fr. Tschudi: I do think that they are today still the same as they were, namely based on respect for and appreciation of each and every person who works for our company and its future. Also, both our founder Hans Heinrich Weidmann and I , together with my colleagues, share the belief that a leader must be a role model towards its co-workers, in words and deed.
LDaily: How much have they changed?
Fr. Tschudi: As I said above, not really, they simply had to be adapted slightly to a globalized world and today’s societal beliefs.
LDaily: Did you succeed to realize these values in Ukraine?
Fr. Tschudi: Yes, of course, thanks to our trusted Ukrainian leaders and committed co-workers, and an open communication among Group companies.
LDaily: Please, tell us about the activities of the Wicor Group in Ukraine.
Fr. Tschudi: Weidmann Malyn Paper Mill and Weidmann Malyn Insulation Components manufacture almost all products of our portfolio for Electrical Technology customers, such as transformerboard, insulation components, crepe paper etc., but also specialized papers for industrial usage, such as wallpaper base.
LDaily: At what stage of the company’s development was it decided to come to this country?
Fr. Tschudi: We started a cooperation with Malyn Paper Mill shortly after Ukraine became independent, and then step by step took over and developed local activities, invested into new equipment, and transferred production processes from Switzerland to Ukraine. We did this in order to be closer to our customers in the Ukraine and in CIS countries, to create a production hub in Eastern Europe complementing our other hubs in Western Europe (Switzerland), North America and Asia.
LDaily: How do you see the Wicor Group in 10 years? What long-term goals do you set?
Fr. Tschudi: Our Company will continue to be the world’s leading integrated solutions provider for specialized products and services in the energy sectors. We will further develop our medical technology business, where we specialized in the development and industrial production of innovative plastics products. Finally, we will build up our competence in the production of microfibrillated cellulose and the development of related products.
LDaily: You have a fairly active public life, you are a member of the Board of Directors of many companies and organizations. What inspires you to participate in all these projects?
Fr. Tschudi: Well, I am a curious person, and I can’t say no when being asked to help out… (laughs). Seriously speaking, I do it whenever I see an opportunity to facilitate and improve our company’s economic or political environment, or to become a better leader by learning from others.
LDaily: What are your personal values?
Fr. Tschudi: I am an optimist, I believe in the good of every person, and I can quite easily forgive and forget, and move on. I dislike and reject everything fake and false. Why waste time and money and integrity with that?