The Richenhagen file Featured

5:55am EDT June 27, 2005

Born: 1952, Cologne, Germany

Education: Universities of Bonn and Paris, with degrees in theology, French literature, culture and history; did a correspondence course in economics (similar to an MBA) and participated in a trainee course

First job: High school teacher in Cologne

Career moves: Executive vice president, Forbo International SA, a manufacturing firm specializing in flooring materials headquartered in Switzerland; before that, served as group president, CLAAS KgaA mbH, a global manufacturer of agricultural equipment headquartered in Germany. Prior to 1995, senior executive vice president of field operations, Schindler Aufzugefabrik GmbH, Germany

Boards: I gave up all the board seats I had in Europe in order to focus on the business here.

Residence: Duluth

What is the greatest business lesson you've learned?

The most important one is it's much better to talk with people about their problems than with other people about the people (with the problems) -- communication is very important -- straightforward communication and proper feedback.

What is the greatest business challenge you've faced, and how did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge I had was when I worked in the elevator industry in Berlin, and I had to close a factory with a couple of hundred people, knowing they wouldn't get a job -- just sending them into unemployment.

Whom do you admire most in business and why?

That's a tough question. I don't want to mention a name because I think most of the people I know ... you hear about people and then you meet them and you are a little disappointed.

I'm always impressed by pragmatic people who walk the talk. And what I don't like are those who write books or make speeches, and when you talk with people who worked for them, you find out the reality is totally different. Of course, I admire very much the founder of Agco, Bob Ratliff. That's the reason I'm here.