Forum Mittelstand –
Where science and business meet.
Acting as a medium for the exchange of knowledge between WHU and regional economic authorities, the IHK-Chair of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises places special focus on ensuring the continuous communication between science and practice. Through joint projects, a cooperative approach to student theses, and active networking with company and university visits, the Chair ensures a regular flow of knowledge exchange between essential parties.
The aim of the Forum Mittelstand is to bring together medium-sized enterprises from the surrounding region and update them with the latest in new scientific findings. Through such an event and in close cooperation with the IHK Koblenz, the Forum Mittelstand hopes to contribute to and elevate the economic and innovative power of such companies.
In partnership with:
Retrospective review –
Taking small businesses further.
Since 2010, the IHK-Chair of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises has taken a deep-dive into a wide range of topics that combine science and research to positively impact the future of such companies. Take a look at a selection of discussions from previous events:
March 8, 2023:
More than 70 managers from medium-sized companies in the region came together at WHU on March 8 to discuss possible coping strategies for crisis situations. After all, rising energy prices, disrupted supply chains, a shortage of skilled workers and rapidly changing demands from customers and employees confront medium-sized companies in particular with risks. Course corrections and far-reaching strategic decisions are required in order to continue to grow in a difficult market environment. Accordingly, the perspectives from which the lecturing experts from the business world reported and presented their approaches to overcoming the crisis were also diverse.
September 7, 2021:
Forum Mittelstand: Online recruiting - optimizing the approach and application process
Finding employees in medium-sized companies is a challenge, especially without a large HR department. How to find the right employees, how to inspire applicants for the company? These were the questions addressed by Forum Mittelstand at WHU in September 2021. WHU alumnus Malte Weiss, HR expert and founder of the HR software company OnApply, led the workshop and pointed out the following key factors:
1. That scorecards and a clear idea of the most important, comparable characteristics of the candidates are elementary in the search.
2. That classic job titles may sound unoriginal at first, but they are in fact crucial for finding job ads in search engines.
3. That the emphasis on company-specific benefits and authentic photos can make small and medium-sized enterprises in particular more attractive.
4. That the ideal application process, from receipt of application to filling, should not take longer than 14 days.
June 26, 2019 :
Structured Acquisition of New Customers
"Send us an offer.", is what the sales department often hears, before the conversation with a potential new customer fizzles out. Every entrepreneur knows this issue.
Business for entrepreneurs has been satisfactory in recent years. In many cases, demand even exceeded the capacities. At the same time, however, companies often do not manage to penetrate new customer segments sufficiently and or find new applications for existing technology. Reasons for this are, among others, that one does not deviate too much from the traditional customer base or that the salesperson often already gets stuck in the purchasing department.
At the Forum Mittelstand, Professor Ove Jensen, Chair of Sales Management and Business-to-Business Marketing at WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management, answered questions such as "How do we identify growth areas?", "How do we conduct professional sales talks?" and "What opportunities do digital media offer in B2B”?
June 14, 2018 :
SME Forum: The Challenge of Sales Management
With an afternoon event for entrepreneurs devoted to the topic of “Sales management: Remuneration, pipeline management and key figures,” on June 14, 2018, the Forum Mittelstand (“SME Forum”) series, organized by WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management and the Chamber of Industry and Commerce of Koblenz, took a different approach. In an interactive, workshop-like expert lecture, Professor Dr. Ove Jensen, Chairholder for Sales Management and Business-to-Business Marketing at WHU, interacted with participating entrepreneurs from the region about their experiences, challenges and questions around the topic of sales management. The well-filled auditorium at the WHU Campus Vallendar attested to the high level of practical relevance of the topic.
April 17, 2018:
SME Forum on the Digital Transformation
The “digital transformation” has emerged as an ongoing topic in recent years. More and more enterprises are reviewing their value-added processes in search of potentials for “digitalization.” The debate revolves around efficiency gains, automation, networking and the development of digital business models. The topic remains one of considerable importance for medium-sized enterprises – particularly because of the various uncertainties involved. This was the point of departure for the first SME Forum (“Forum Mittelstand”) of the year 2018, held April 17 on the Vallendar Campus of WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management, entitled “The Digital Transformation as a Practical Task in the Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise.”
November 22, 2017:
Forum Mittelstand: Securing the future of business
Rapid changes in the markets are forcing companies to adapt their products and their production in ever shorter cycles - even to the point of realigning their business models. This applies equally to owner-managed and well-positioned medium-sized companies. Owner-managed companies also face another major challenge: entrepreneurial succession. If a successor generation is not available or does not want to take over the management, other ways must be found to secure the company's continued existence. Planning for this requires staying power and careful planning. In the run-up to such far-reaching decisions, clear considerations should be made about challenges and opportunities, the role of owner families, managers and employees, as well as successors and external supporters. With helpful advice, field reports and practical examples, the second "Forum Mittelstand" of 2017 scored on November 22 with the topic "How do I secure the future of my company?". The once again high number of participants at the event at the Vallendar campus of WHU, clearly spoke for the high practical relevance of the chosen topic.
June 20, 2017:
Internationalization in Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises
Many small and medium-sized companies are already operating successfully in other European countries, thus strengthening the German economy’s reputation as the world champion of export. But there are new, high-growth markets waiting even beyond the boundaries of Europe. Small and medium-sized companies in particular risk quite a bit, but they also stand to gain even more if they step outside of familiar national or European borders and successfully position themselves in competition with large, high-resource companies in new markets. The move abroad is thus always a major decision and should be preceded by clearly formulated considerations. This was the point of departure for the first SME Forum [“Forum Mittelstand”] of the year 2017, with an afternoon event for entrepreneurs around the topic of “Developing new growth markets: Potentials and pitfalls for small and medium-sized entrepreneurs.”
November 10, 2016:
“Forum Mittelstand” Business Get-together: Securing a Lifetime’s Achievement
Retiring from active working life and the changes that this involves bring a range of challenges to those taking leave as well as to the companies affected. Organizing the succession of senior managers effectively requires patience and careful planning. And if succession involves a small or medium-sized business, taking leave of an executive position is also very often an emotional farewell. Anyone selling their own business or passing it on to new blood will automatically look back on their own life’s work. Since the process of securing a lifetime’s achievements and succession planning inside and outside of entrepreneurial families is undergoing change, and as new rules for inheritance tax are currently being introduced, the second “Forum Mittelstand” (“SME Forum”) held on November 10, 2016, addressed a red-hot topic: “Securing a Lifetime’s Achievement. The Current Need for Action in Terms of Finance, Law and Tax”. The large number of attendees once again indicated the great practical relevance of the chosen topic.
April 20, 2016:
Principles of accounting and data protection for SMEs
In his opening remarks, Professor Dr. Markus Rudolf, Dean of WHU, mentioned the longstanding cooperation between WHU and the Koblenz Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK) as a good example of the linkages between science and practice. For Ralf Lawaczeck of the IHK, the fact that the first SME Forum of the year 2016, with some 80 participants, was particularly well-attended also demonstrated the high practical relevance of the topic chosen: “New principles for accounting – a challenge for company information management.” Representatives of SMEs in the region joined with experts to discuss the new principles of proper maintenance and preservation of ledgers, records and documents in electronic form and of data access (GoBD), the implications of these principles for businesses, and strategies for improving credit ratings in the SME sector.
An article about this forum has been published in the journal Controlling & Management Review:
Heimfarth, Helmut; Martin, Thomas; Rehm, Sven-Volker (2017): With procedural documentation fit for the digital future. In: Controlling & Management Review 61 (1), pp. 56-61. DOI: 10.1007 / s12176-016-0106-8. View more