„We are intensely proud of our community!“

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, and Thomas Borst, Managing Director of Sales and Marketing at the ebm-papst Group, to take stock of the longstanding partnership. And they share their recipes for success.

What common ground is there in working together?

Toto Wolff: We have been working closely with ebm-papst since 2014. They have been with us during our triple Championship winning success and continue to be a part of our story and performance in the 2017 season. When I look across our two organizations I can see that we share a number of values. As a team, our aim is to break records and become the most successful team in the history of the sport. ebm-papst have the same mentality of being the best and staying ahead of their competition. We are both working at the technological forefront of our two fields and always aiming to lead the way.

Thomas Borst: We are considered the benchmark for fans and drives. Our priority is to always offer our customers the best solution. This is part of our corporate philosophy. Looking at our values and those of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport – efficiency, enthusiasm, premium quality and technology leadership – we not only see points of contact. Instead, we have a 100% match! These values are what drive us, forming the ideal basis for our partnership.

How to achieve success.

Thomas Borst, Managing Director of Sales and Marketing at the ebm-papst Group (Photo | ebm-papst)

Toto Wolff: Well, first of all, I don’t like failure. In my current journey failure is easy to define: It’s not winning a race. But for me it’s about long-term success, about adding all the dots. So you have a constant long-term upwards slope. With all the little setbacks that are necessary. It’s not a constant graph, but the long-term trend should be upwards. You need to cope with the failures in-between because they are part of the upward trend.

Thomas Borst: This long-term upward trend directly depends on how close the relationship to our customers is. We take stock on this point regularly and approach our tasks with plenty of enthusiasm. One customer took me aside and described his reaction in these words: “When your engineers collaborate with us, we feel their enthusiasm so strongly that our engineers are inspired in turn.” This sentence perfectly illustrates how we create success.

What is the importance of the brand?

Thomas Borst: A strong brand creates a great deal of trust. This is the basis for a successful partnership; especially when times happen to be tough. The positive brand claim that we strive to continuously renew in our daily work – the best aerodynamics- and drive-related solutions – encourages sustainability in customer relationships. The brand also creates a value that our customers are willing to pay for.

Toto Wolff: Indeed, having a consistently high quality brand that reflects the work of a team or company is so important. It is the way people feel about your business or organization. It is what can very often give you the edge over your competitors and allows your employees to be clear on the experience they need to deliver to customers. However, a brand can only be built through delivering great products and when your customers trust your work. ebm-papst’s strong brand as a leader in the field of innovative fan technology is testament to this. We are immensely proud of our community of Team Partners and Suppliers and what they represent, of which ebm-papst play an integral role.

How does ebm-papst support your success?

Toto Wolff: ebm-papst has been a major part of our story and success since 2014. The solutions they are able to offer have helped us improve performance throughout our organization from improving the delivered airflow in our roll hoop and side pod fans by 518 percent to energy and cost saving EC solutions throughout the factory. Working with ebm-papst also strengthens our aim of being the best, as we want to work alongside the best in order to achieve this.

“ebm-papst has been a major part of our story and success since 2014.”
Toto Wolff

Is there also a converse effect?

Thomas Borst: We entered into the partnership with the goal of raising worldwide awareness of our brand. Mercedes-Benz’s brand claim – “The best or nothing” – is an ideal benchmark for the development of our own brand. Working with Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, we can develop our brand further and continue to focus on the areas where we still have room for improvement. And the collaboration is also inspiring for our core competencies: aerodynamics, motor technology and electronics.

The importance of the team.

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport (Photo | Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport)

Thomas Borst: Customer and market requirements are becoming more and more complex. At the same time, we pride ourselves on our innovative power – but it can only function with teams of specialists. With “one,” the new ebm-papst strategy, we are reinforcing our work as a team across locations. It also applies above and beyond the company itself: one key to our future is developing a sense of team spirit with our customers as well. Our partnership with Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport is a perfect example. Of course everything wasn’t smooth sailing from the very beginning. But we have worked together for four years now. During that time, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport gradually increased its understanding of our approach to things. And in the process, the team spirit I was talking about earlier developed. Our spontaneous provision of assistance before the Silverstone race a few years ago is a good example: Mark Wilson, Head of Sales for our automotive division in Great Britain, was able to quickly help solve problems with the hybrid drive’s air cooling system.

Toto Wolff: One way we are both trying to achieve success is through our people. The results of every Grand Prix weekend are due to the hard work put in by every single team member and what they have contributed to make this goal a reality.
You got to be mindful and realize the dynamics within the group that is around you and the group of individuals that are responsible to make you look good. Those who are providing performance to the team. It’s very important for a Formula-OneTM team that all the different parts fit together. It’s not one part or one supplier or one partner or one driver that makes a decisive contribution, it’s the whole team—and ebm-papst is part of our team.

How to cope with challenges.

Toto Wolff: Personally, I like to benchmark myself. I like the competition. What we do today needs a stopwatch and a stopwatch never lies. You come up with an explanation why something is wrong or right. But in motor-racing it’s just if you are too slow or if you are fast enough. You make it or you don’t make it. That’s why sports is such a good environment. Because in sports you just win or lose. In business, you can get away with things, in politics you can have explanations. It is a culture that you need to embrace. In a sports team you need to live words. You need to live that every day and cascade it through the organization.
I had an interesting encounter with our chief designer when we faced those first testing days. I was coming into the design office and everybody was busy fixing the car. It was a difficult phase and he said: “That is so exciting!” And this is exactly the mindset you need to have.

Thomas Borst: Yes, that is exactly the attitude that we demand and encourage. We think that challenges drive innovation and help to shift borders. It spurs us onward and is part of our culture, our values. At this point, our collaboration with Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport is an ideal platform from which we can develop our abilities further. After all, the complex issues in Formula OneTM are similar to the increasingly complex challenges we face.

How important is it setting targets?

Toto Wolff: You don’t rest on your laurels, if you’re being skeptical. You always have to benchmark yourself against the next best. If you achieve a target, look at the one who is more successful. You need to set targets that are achievable, otherwise you become frustrated. But you have to set them high.

Thomas Borst: Correct – but it is also important to set goals so that everyone knows what we actually hope to achieve. As an innovation leader, our goals must meet high standards. When we compare our actual situation to our goals, we have a clear indication of where we stand at that point in time. Goals only take effect when they are mutually adopted and written down. They are the basis for our team spirit. At ebm-papst, our founder proposed a basic goal that we always keep in mind: Each new product must surpass its predecessor economically and ecologically.

“Armed with the courage to take risks, we continually raise our standards.”
Thomas Borst

Toto Wolff: There is a story about this study – I think it’s a fake one, but it’s nevertheless good. They followed the results of MBA students for ten years. 90 percent didn’t set any targets, 7 percent set targets but didn’t write them down, 3 percent set targets and wrote them down. Those seven percent earned double of what the 90 percent did and the three percent earned ten times of what everybody else had. I’m a believer of target setting because it reminds you every day of what you want to achieve. At the beginning of every season we set targets for the team and for each person in the team. All those targets are being laminated and given to each member in his briefcase. And whether you look at this piece of paper or not, the sheer ritual of writing targets down, of finding out what’s important for the next twelve months is stored somewhere. And that is quite forceful.

How important is it to manage your mistakes?

Toto Wolff: You need to be able to recognize your own mistakes. Only that makes it able for you to assess them, avoid them in the future and grow. Something that we’re working really hard on in the team is the ability to pointing at the problem. Blaming a decision rather than blaming an individual. For that you need a safe environment. People need to be sure that they are allowed to stand up and say: I’ve made a mistake. This is something I see all of our senior guys doing in their groups. It’s an amazing experience when the most senior guy in a meeting starts it by saying “I screwed up”. And you can see the junior teams picking that up. Our motto is: “See it, Say it, Fix it!” Whenever difficult times are coming up, I tend to use that.

Thomas Borst: On all levels, we must create situations in which our employees have the courage to make decisions – even if it turns out to be the wrong decision. This is the only way to learn from our mistakes. With this approach, we have created a culture that makes our company more dynamic. Armed with the courage to take risks, we continually raise our standards – which ultimately supports our position of innovation leadership. Customers prefer partners with this type of attitude.

How important is trust?

Thomas Borst: Everything depends on trust! Without trust in the abilities of our teams and the individuals on them, we would not be able to triumph over difficult phases, for example.

Toto Wolff: Yes, and trust isn’t built upon words. It’s build on actions. It grows in those difficult moments, in which the other one realizes you don’t let him down and he can rely on you.

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