For some, the key to happiness and success is finding their niche in life: a unique position where you gain ultimate satisfaction in your work. For Marcel Hermann, who once saw his lifelong career (and future retirement) in the nuclear industry, he found his niche after exploring new avenues following the MBA program. This resulted in the founding of his own private equity company and fulfilling a dream of becoming self-employed. “I have always been attracted to this entrepreneurial mindset. My stepfather is self-employed, as is my father, and a lot of people in my family. The problem was I didn’t know where to start, I had no idea to start with, and I didn’t want to do it alone.”
Starting his career in the nuclear industry with RWE, after the catastrophic event in Fukushima in 2011, Marcel changed his career plans and joined a German SME (Small and Medium Enterprise). However, during his time with RWE, he met WHU professor Peter Witt, who led workshops at the company as part of an internal business plan contest. “One of the team members had experience with WHU and knew Peter Witt, so he was the first person I met from the WHU network. I was impressed by his entrepreneurial approach.”
After one year with the SME, Marcel was successfully managing a small branch of the company. Despite this, he felt that he was missing important finance and general business knowledge which would help him take the next step in his career. “I missed that international aspect in my work too. It pushed me to start looking at an MBA to fill the gap I had in my expertise and network.”
“While it was convenient that the WHU campus was in Dusseldorf where I lived, the biggest selling points of WHU for me were the entrepreneurial focus and the leadership development it offers. I wanted to start my own company, but I didn’t want to do it alone. The option to meet like-minded people who might be willing to get involved made it quite an easy decision. The Part-Time MBA at WHU allowed me to work during the week at the branch and then study at the weekends. It helped me immediately with my job as I could put my new knowledge of calculations into practice.”
What surprised Marcel was that it defied his expectations of an MBA. Suspecting that he would attend lectures much like at a university and simply absorb the information by himself, he was impressed by the focus on group work. “It helped me a lot as I met so many people; I learned new things from others who were from completely different industries to me. I profited from that exchange hugely.”
Marcel credits his time at WHU for helping him understand the bigger picture in business. He also credits it for helping him find his next role with Aurelius Group; a pan-European investment group focused on private equity. “I wouldn’t have found my way into Aurelius without graduating at WHU,” he smiles. “It was at Aurelius that I discovered my niche, doing something I loved.” With a role in management operations, he found himself involved in several different projects reporting to C-level, and for the first time, involved in management meetings.
Despite enjoying his role at Aurelius, his desire for independence and to fulfill his dream of becoming self-employed increased over time. In November 2020, together with two former Aurelius colleagues, he founded SOZIUS Mittelstand Invest GmbH. SOZIUS is an investment company specializing in succession solutions for medium-sized companies, intending to expand companies owned by retiring shareholders or founders.
“We knew if we didn’t take the leap and do it then, we would never do it. Recently, we closed our first deal six months after founding. As of the 8th of June 2021, we acquired our first company, Heinrich Wedekind & Gillmann GmbH & Co. KG, and will continue the company’s almost 100-year success story with our investors. This is a huge boost to our morale - we were told we needed at least 12-18 months before seeing any progress.”
For Marcel, he couldn’t be happier as he is finally living his dream. “I loved my job at Aurelius. I loved going to work and learning something new, but now I am self-employed and have the freedom to decide what I do. It’s an unbelievable feeling. I do what I love, and I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else or doing anything different.”