top of page

"We did exactly the right thing"


Kniggendorf bosses Cathrin Kalthoff and Frederik Otto in conversation, part 2.

The year 2022 has brought some innovations for Kniggendorf. The metal processor and manufacturer of safety systems has repositioned itself and has grown much closer as a result. The siblings Cathrin Kalthoff and Frederik Otto talk about this, as well as their daily motivation and their own management style, in the second part of a very personal conversation.

Question: What does a typical working day look like for you?

Cathrin: First thing in the morning, I say "Good day" to everyone personally - and that's the first time I'm in production and see what's working and what might not be. This gives me the first picture and I know what the status of things is. Back in the office, I then immediately take care of what needs to be done - if necessary, via the foremen or the work scheduler. And then, from half past eight, I have meetings to dispatch which orders are open. On certain days, this is followed by a production meeting with the foremen - what is being produced by whom. After that, we sit down with our father, if that fits. And then follows ...

Frederik: ... the day-to-day business.

Cathrin: Exactly! At the moment, prices and supply bottlenecks are a frequent topic. Just all the different topics that life brings.

Frederik: I start a little earlier and am usually in the office between six and half past six. I do that quite consciously. I like to be here early because then I can start the day concentrated and without interruptions. And from eight or half past eight, I have a lot of conversations. For example, I take care of the development of the security products and often talk on the phone with the programmer or with my colleagues in the design department.

Question: Do you also go to the office so early, Cathrin?

Cathrin: No, not quite, I'm at the company at half past seven. I want to get my two children on their bikes beforehand. But I come early anyway, also so that I have time to take care of my children in the afternoon.

Frederik: That's also a reason for me to start so early: That way I still have time for my family in the afternoon.

Question: Do you actually overlap in your day-to-day business?

Frederik: Partly - we overlap in the products that we develop and manufacture together for the security systems.

Cathrin: And also, in topics that concern the dealers. But otherwise, we work on our respective tasks in metal processing and security systems. We don't have to share every little thing with each other either, but it's always good if everyone has an overall view. I think we can assess quite well whether there is something in our own area that the others should know about, or which is the basis for a different decision, for example. And that's why we meet regularly at the round table. That simply serves the purpose of transparency.

Frederik: That's how it is!

One hundred percent trust

Question: How do you actually work together as siblings and managing directors? You are certainly very familiar with each other - are you also competitors?

Cathrin: I don't see my brother as a competitor in any form. We get along much better today than we used to. Anyone who has more than one child knows that siblings can also be quite nasty to each other. But in the best case, that stops at some point, whether they work together or not. Running Kniggendorf with Frederik is an enrichment and very pleasant, because there's a second person who thinks the same way and for whom this company is just as much a purpose in life as it is for me.

Frederik: That's right!

Cathrin: Our ancestors always had that rather with the spouse. Our father brought our mother in here, our grandmother brought our grandfather in here. Neither of us did that. And so it's very nice when there's someone you can trust one hundred percent. That is infinitely valuable, that I know exactly that even if I can't come, there is someone who will make the decisions as I would make them.

Frederik: I see it exactly the same way! My sister is not a competitor for me at all - but rather the perfect complement. We take care of our own tasks, but we always run parallel. We really complement each other very well. One has her strengths there, the other there. This makes my work a lot of fun. I always feel that we did exactly the right thing when we decided to run the company together. We really exchange ideas a lot, talk frequently outside of business hours, even on weekends. It's great to be able to consult with each other whenever you have another thought.

Cathrin: Exactly, the fact that the other person is always available is very nice. Even if one is on vacation, things pop up occasionally, but then the other is there. And then there's always a channel, so to speak, through which you can control it, that's great.

A leadership style of your own

Question: Does your leadership style differ from that of previous generations, from that of your father?

Cathrin: I think every generation has its own characteristics. Our leadership style is different, I don't think there's any question about that. There is - quite independently of our father - the generation of "dominant rulers," as I myself witnessed in my internships. I don't mean that in a bad way at all; they certainly contributed a lot to our country being where it is today. But you and I are not like that. In my eyes, there has been a change, which is no longer done today.

Frederik: I think so too. Instructing with a crowbar according to the motto, "This is how it's done and not otherwise. Period." That doesn't fit.

Cathrin: We know that our father sometimes wishes we were more like that, but that's not our way. We inherited that more from our mother - she was always very calm and diplomatic.

Responsibility and connection

Question: What motivates you to go to work every day?

Cathrin: To get ahead, to take the next step, for the company and also personally. It's hard to separate the two, we're just so closely connected to the company. That's why we sometimes do things where many people might say 'no', on Sunday or whenever. Because we simply want to move the company forward. Then we have to and want to pay our employees’ wages and salaries. We have "family breadwinners" here. That's also a motivation to reliably fulfill that again and again. And, of course, also to satisfy our customers.

Frederik: That's right, it's a different situation, not the everyday - and you get to talk to people in a different way. And that's also the nice thing, you get to know each other differently and have different conversations than in day-to-day business.

Cathrin: There is simply a great closeness, and that is also important. We have 25 employees, and of course we know all of them personally, and in many cases, we also know their family backgrounds. I hope that's normal elsewhere given the size of the company - it certainly is for us.

In the calm lies the power

Question: How do you balance your work?

Cathrin: I do sports and now go running a lot, very much in the morning, from half past five to six. That does me a lot of good! I'm completely to myself and can sort out my thoughts and the things that lie ahead of me.

Frederik: I don't do much sport... (laughs). But I like to go out with our dog in the morning before work, and it's similar there: I can sort myself out and prepare my thoughts. I also like to walk the dog during my lunch break, at least for fifteen minutes, just to get out. And I also play golf, Cathrin does too. That's the great balance in the summer. I play with a friend or my brother-in-law or with my daughter. And of course, my family is also a great balance!

Question: Is the sixth generation actually getting ready?

Cathrin: Well, there's still a little time left, I have two sons, my brother has a daughter, the eldest is 14. That means, yes, our children are slowly getting to the age when we also did our first vacation jobs in our company. We don't want to force anyone's hand here, but this is indeed a topic that is at the top of Frederik's and my agenda, because we also have to position the company accordingly. Let's see, we still have some time - but we'll keep at it...

Big upheaval - new name

Question: And what else does the future hold for Kniggendorf?

Frederik: We are developing new products with which we want to address a different market. Up to now, Security has tended to make key issuing systems for outdoor use, where we are very strong. Now we have products that are suitable for indoor use and are intended to relieve the counter in car dealerships or the reception desk in hotels. These are safe check-in machines.

Cathrin: And then there has just been a major upheaval, which was already initiated in 2021 and with which we have now entered the new year: the change of name, the final takeover from our father with Frederik and me as joint managing directors of both companies and a new holding company above it.

Question: Can you explain that in more detail?

Cathrin: There was a separation of the company divisions that was no longer coherent. Our father had designed it that way about 15 years ago. He thought, if my children don't get along, then one can take one company and the other the other. And we have now quite consciously decided: No, we don't want it that way. We want to do it together, and I think we do it wonderfully together. And that's why we have now paved the way so that we can do exactly that.

Frederik: That's right! We complement each other, as I said, quite wonderfully. And we think it's very important to communicate this "we" to the outside world. For example, it makes sense for the safety technology sector when customers see: 'They also do something else! They're building it themselves - and they have the necessary know-how.'" It's a great added value when you present yourself as a company together to the outside world than if everyone just shows their area. And that's why we also changed our name and now go to market together as Kniggendorf (and no longer as Kniggendorf and Kögler - especially since Mr. Kögler has not been with the company for decades).

Cathrin: The two GmbHs will remain in existence and there will be a new holding company as a common roof over the two companies. This is a legal act, but it is also a symbolic act, because up to now our father was still managing director in both companies. And now he has left the two active companies as such. Frederik and I are now joint managing directors in these companies. And in the holding company that we put on top, all three of us are the managing directors. We are now much closer together. Hence the rebranding with a new logo. And we also have a new website. So we are now well positioned for a successful future!

Let yourself be infected by our enthusiasm - we look forward to seeing you!


bottom of page