Fountain Inn, S.C. — Equipment maker Starlinger & Co. GmbH has been in business since the early 1800s and owned by the same family for more than 100 years.
For Managing Partner and CEO Angelika Huemer, being a family-owned business means you treat employees like they are family.
“I like to follow the tradition I took over from my parents, even when we have 580 employees,” she said. “A familiar company is important to me. Also the employees have the feeling they are part of the company. We try also together with our customers and business partners to find out a familiar relationship.”
Huemer, like many people who grew up in the family business, learned the ropes at Starlinger from her parents at the Vienna, Austria-based plastics machinery maker.
Her mother, Erna Starlinger-Huemer, taught her about financing and accounting. Her father, Franz X. Starlinger-Huemer, taught her about business relations.
They both taught her, Huemer said, “to stay humble. ... It's important that you don't have the feeling to others that you would be something better. I don't like that. We are all human beings.”
Huemer, during a recent interview when her company opened new headquarters for its American Starlinger-Sahm Inc. subsidiary in Fountain Inn, talked about the importance of having long-time employees for her company and the importance of the company, in turn, supporting those employees.
Huemer wasn't always the boss, having learned first-hand by working in many different departments of the company early on in her career. Her first job was a secretary, and as the years went on her experience and responsibilities grew. Starlinger, in her early years, was a very flat organization so her opportunities to take on specific projects and help integrate acquisitions helped prepare Huemer to eventually take over as managing partner in 2002.
The best career advice, she said, was this:
“Work hard and think that it is also your own company. And then also being curious is also an important thing,” she said. “Also to let a mistake happen, but not to make it again. You shouldn't make it again.”
While Huemer said she wants employees to work hard and be successful, they also should have fun in what they do. Being straightforward in your business dealings and sticking to your word is important for the leader. She called it a “handshake quality.”
Creativity plays an important role in the company as well as tenacity in the face of adversity, Huemer said. “You have to not give up to early, you have to stay in the line,” she said, to overcome problems and find solutions.
Huemer said she's made a difference in the family firm by being able to bring together all of the different operations the company has acquired over the years.
“I think my impact was that I made a group out of the different companies that my father took together and I structured it,” she said. But, at the same time, she said she encouraged the company's divisions to find their own way.
Starlinger provides equipment for a variety of plastic markets, including recycling, packaging and bags.