The sound of his life
The jury of the Deutsche Gründerpreis particularly praised the successful expansion of what was initially a more nationally focused audio specialist into a globally successful company, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. Furthermore, the experts were impressed by Jörg Sennheiser's prudent succession planning and long-standing support for start-up enterprises. The Lifetime Achievement award came as "a real surprise", Jörg Sennheiser said. "It is a great honor for me to see that the pursuit of perfect sound, which has accompanied me throughout my entire life, is being recognized with this award."
The courage to follow new paths
After completing his doctorate at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zürich, Jörg Sennheiser originally planned to start his career at Siemens. But in 1976, at the age of 32, he decided to join the family company founded by his father Prof. Dr. Fritz Sennheiser, taking on the post of Technical Director – which was also a matter of self-determination for the trained engineer: "At Siemens, the career steps were very clearly specified, and here I had more opportunities," he recalls. In 1982, he took over complete responsibility for Sennheiser electronic GmbH & Co. KG from his father.
During his time as CEO of Sennheiser, Jörg Sennheiser modernized the structures of the company and introduced, among other things, job descriptions and strategic planning for the entire company. Furthermore, he professionalized the company's financial accounting in order to prepare Sennheiser for its entry into the global market. One of his most far-reaching and at the same time most successful decisions was the carefully planned establishment of the company's own sales subsidiaries, starting with the opening of Sennheiser France – the first of now 18 sales subsidiaries worldwide. "As a result, we are closer to our customers and less susceptible to crises," he explained.
Like his father before him, Jörg Sennheiser also further advanced the technical development of microphones and headphones, fully in keeping with the company's philosophy of the pursuit of perfect sound. "One must never look back," he said, "but must always initiate the next revolution at the right time." He regularly spent time with musicians in order to understand the wishes and needs of the customers even better. As a result, his leadership resulted in numerous award-winning new developments that offer a level of sound quality that even today never fails to astonish the audio world.
With an eye on the future
Jörg Sennheiser took his usual systematic approach when it came to succession planning. In 1996, he withdrew from operative business and, at the age of 51, became the "very active" chairman of the supervisory board. He never put pressure on his two sons Daniel and Andreas to join the company: Daniel first pursued a career in marketing, while the younger son Andreas started his career as an electrical engineer. In the end, however, both of them decided to continue the family tradition. Today, as the third generation, Daniel and Dr. Andreas Sennheiser are successfully heading Sennheiser electronic GmbH & Co. KG with its approximately 2,700 employees worldwide.
Jörg Sennheiser, now 70 years old, remained as chairman of the supervisory board until December 2014, in the company that he had so decisively influenced for almost 40 years. Even today, he is still an active member of the supervisory board. He continues to give lectures and represent the family company on important occasions and, for many years, he has been advising young acoustics specialists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich on business start-ups. In addition, he supports projects relating to all aspects of sound, such as the Pop Institute at Hannover University of Music, Drama and Media, the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts or the modernisation of Germany's largest concert hall, the Kuppelsaal in Hannover.
The Deutsche Gründerpreis: Promoting a Spirit of Enterprise
The Deutsche Gründerpreis (German Founders Award) is Germany's most prestigious award for outstanding entrepreneurs and has been presented annually since 2002 in the categories Student, Start-Up, Climbers and Lifetime Achievement. The aim of the award, which is presented jointly by the magazine stern, the Sparkassen savings banks, the broadcaster ZDF and the car maker Porsche, is to promote a positive entrepreneurial climate in Germany. The nominees and award winners are supported by a board of trustees which was established in 2006 and is made up of high-ranking business representatives and also includes former award-winners. With this Lifetime Achievement award, Prof. Dr. Jörg Sennheiser stands alongside other renowned German entrepreneurs and visionaries, such as Heinrich Deichmann, Günther Fielmann, the founder of dm Götz W. Werner and the former chairman of Bertelsmann AG Reinhard Mohn.
The Sennheiser Group based in Wedemark near Hanover, Germany, was founded in 1945 and has gone on to become a leading manufacturer of microphones, headphones and wireless transmission systems. Sales in 2013 totaled 590.4 million euros. Sennheiser employs more than 2,700 staff worldwide and operates plants in Germany, Ireland and the USA. The company has a worldwide network of subsidiaries in France, Great Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, Germany, Denmark (Nordic), Russia, Hong Kong, India, Singapore, Japan, China, Australia and New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, and the USA. It also has long-established trading partners in other countries. Georg Neumann GmbH, Berlin, a maker of studio microphones and monitor speakers, and Sennheiser Communications A/S, a joint venture making headsets for PCs, offices and call centers, are also part of the Sennheiser Group.