An Interview with Volker Wintergerst
Volker Wintergerst is one of life’s natural team players. Its clear that what motivates him is being part of a team and working together to achieve the most skilled and professional results possible – in his work as well as in life in general.
Having done most of his growing up and schooling in Stuttgart, Volker has been running his own M&A business in the same southern German town for the past 9 years. Having left the region for a brief spell to attend the University of Münster to complete his Bachelor of Economics, Volker completed his studies back in southern Germany, graduating as a Master of Finance & Accounting in 1994 from the University of Tübingen.
As with many successful business people, Volker has spent some time overseas and speaks fluent English. His first stint abroad was carrying out national service for Germany in Wales - driving a tank! He then spent a semester studying in the USA at A&M University in Texas in 1991.
Volker’s first interest, and the basis of his advanced level education, was Economics, which he initially studied in Münster, but to enable him to work in a corporate environment he decided to move on to study Finance and Accounting at Masters level.
Having a strong grounding and interest in Maths helped Volker to decide on the direction of his career. He is a strong believer in both studying and working within a subject area which is of interest to an individual. Enjoying your work and loving what you do is really important to Volker, more than financial reward; advice he is now passing on to his children.
It is obvious that Volker loves what he does. Running his own business and fostering a professional business environment, built on team work and mutual respect is very important to him, and motivates him as an individual and a leader.
Prior to running his own consultancy firm, he worked for Ebner Stolz, a well reputated audit company based in Stuttgart. By 2000 he was a Partner in the firm. Ebner Stolz grew in size over the 15 years Volker worked there, increasing from around 100 employees to over 1200 by the time he left. Working in one of the big 4 had never been something he wanted to pursue, preferring a smaller, more professional feel to his working environment, so he chose to move on in 2009.
Feeling the need to experience something different, Volker headed to Munich to work for a pure management consultancy firm for 2 years, before deciding in 2011 that he had the skills to do a better job himself – the time was right to start his own company.
The creation of Wintergerst was, in Volker’s own words, the “foundation of a team”, with 2 Partners who still work alongside Volker, plus 2 employees, and Volker heading the team as Senior Partner.
A third Partner joined the firm a few years ago, and today Wintergerst Societät für Unternehmer-Beratung GmbH & Co. KG employs 21 people in Stuttgart and Hamburg.
Volker remembers the early challenges of running his own firm ranged from basic tasks like ensuring the office was cleaned to more fundamental business decisions like creating a strong brand.
The firm goal for Wintergerst at the very beginning of its life cycle was never to reduce the size and stature of client they were representing. Volker was determined from the start that the newly formed consultancy should continue to work on the same level as the well-established firms he had come from.
Marketing the newly formed consultancy was a main focus for Volker and he looked to a marketing contact for guidance. This was such a fundamentally important step in the future direction of Volker’s business, as the main piece of advice he was given was to use the Wintergerst name as the company identity, that being their strongest and most accessible asset, and to position the business with family owned businesses.
Today Volker is rightly proud of the strong reputation his business now holds within their network in Germany, amongst lawyers, audit and consulting firms.
So, what keeps Volker motivated? He says that he does not see himself as the manager of a consulting firm, but still as a consultant. His great love is being involved in projects and maintaining relationships with his clients. He would not want to grow Wintergerst to a level where he would lose hands-on contact with his business connections as well as with his employees. However, there is a consistent demand from clients, from within the market, and from Volker’s hard-working, ambitious employees, so future development and growth is unavoidable for this successful team.
Could he imagine himself doing something other than running his own corporate finance firm? Working in an international firm or even in the diplomatic service is something he could have envisaged himself doing?
Coming from a family with parents who were very internationally minded, he was sent to the USA at the age of 16 to experience school in another country, to make connections with different people and to broaden his horizons. History repeats itself, and Volker has since granted the same international opportunities to his children, sending his children to the UK for a period of their schooling.
Volker has also travelled throughout most of Germany indulging in another team orientated passion of his – rowing. He started taking part in this sport at the age of 11, rowing for Ruderclub Nürtingen, 30 minutes south of Stuttgart. He was always a sporty child, enjoying team sports such as football, but rowing was something he excelled at from an early age.
Volker continued to row when he was at university, competing at regional level for a total of 10 years. He held the position of President of the Nürtingen Rowing Club from 1999 to 2012, and still has many friends and contacts on the rowing scene. Rowing as a Master is most definitely on the cards in the future.
But spare time is at a premium for Volker. He is an active member of his local Lions Club where he enjoys connecting with different people, taking inspiration and ideas from other members and contacts.
He takes time out once a month to lecture on Project Management & Digitilisation at Heilbronn University of Applied Sciences, where he has been the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Department of Business Informatics since 2005. Volker also started lecturing at Tübingen University for international Masters students in 2018.
The ultimate act of team work by an instinctive team player – giving back to others, sharing knowledge and experience while learning from other professors and students.