ahu in conversation –
On coming together
Axel Meßling: Born in 1970, completed degree in geology in Clausthal and Aachen in 1997, has worked at ahu GmbH since 1999, from 2016 onwards on the management board at ahu AG and as managing director of ahu GmbH
Frank Müller: Dipl.-Geol. Frank Müller was born in 1969, studied geology in Aachen and completed his degree in 1996, has worked at ahu GmbH since 1997, was on the management board at ahu AG from 2016 to 2018 and has been managing director of ahu GmbH since 2016
Equitable distribution requires more than just engineering skill, it is also a matter of dialogue
ahu is the newest member of the Neuguss family. How did the connection come about and are you now settled at Neuguss?
Frank Müller: I have actually been at ahu for over 20 years and the transition phase to join Neuguss was drawn out over one and a half to two years. The founder of ahu had gone into retirement and the question of what would happen to the company and how all the employees could keep their jobs naturally arose. We were put in touch with Neuguss through a personal contact and had the initial meetings. But honestly there were great reservations at first, because ahu didn’t seem to have anything in common with Neuguss. Ultimately, they came from the metalworking industry, and we come from a very different sector.
Axel Meßling: Neuguss is there to find solutions to questions regarding the handover. Uncoupled from its actual industry, it has great expertise in this area. There, long rounds of voting within Neuguss and the takeover was only realised after a long determination process on both sides. We find ourselves in a kind of experimental but appreciative relationship. Back then, there were a great many fears and sensitivities. The question of whether we all had to become anthroposophists came up, for example. But we also see ourselves as an opportunity for Neuguss and ask ourselves what we can contribute to this supposed new relationship.
What exactly does ahu do and what defines it?
Frank Müller: ahu deals with protecting water and soil and supports a great many projects, in particular those dedicated to supplying water in the future. Climate change makes these topics even more pressing. It’s all about the question of how much water there is as a resource and how it can be distributed fairly. Our task here is to establish structures and gather data, as well as bring all those involved together. On the one side, you’ve got agriculture as the biggest water consumer, and on the other, you’ve got the water suppliers. We have a mediating function above all else. That’s what defines us. And perhaps that is also a parallel with Neuguss.
Axel Meßling: Project management is often a task that stretches over years. We are also called on for communications and public relations work as well as our specialist expertise as geologists. We have to make complicated matters comprehensible and talk about what each individual can contribute and what societal relevance the topic has.
How does Neuguss and its values affect ahu?
Axel Meßling: When we first met each other, we really had no idea. As engineers, we are all asked to combine the topic of sustainability with all our working processes. The understanding of what Neuguss stands for first gained momentum when two ahu employees travelled to Kenya at the invitation of GLS Treuhand and brought these experiences back to the company.
Frank Müller: It was like a realisation of what we are working for. And what happens with the profits. The fact that the proceeds flow into real projects and thereby created a connection to the common good and meaningfulness was a major step in the process of rapprochement. The fact that we also became much more economically successful at the same time was a huge source of motivation for the employees.
The initial reservations we had about Neuguss and anthroposophy that were really difficult at the beginning have now been resolved or are easy to manage in our constant dialogue. The way that Neuguss sees people became clear in discussions with Peter Piechotta and Nikolai Fuchs. They don’t have to convince any of us anymore. This idea of “doing business economics differently” is interesting and approachable for an unbelievable number of people – both for employees and customers.
Axel Meßling: Neuguss is definitely an enabler, because it probably would have been inconceivable that we could continue operations in this form in any other configuration. It is underpinned by flat hierarchies, transparency and opportunities to participate. These principles are in no way a given in the industry.
What do you consider Neuguss’s future tasks to be?
Frank Müller: The Neuguss anniversary has the motto “being in a relationship”, and my wish would be that we don’t keep these relationships in their own bubble; rather, they should be maintained with greater input from the outside world. Thinking ahead, I would hope that more companies like ahu are added to the Neuguss Group, so that we move further away from production and metalworking and more towards providing services – maybe with a focus on water and the environment.