Small business - major innovations: Schawag

2010 – Schawag is a family company in Plettenberg, NRW in Germany with 14 employees and two students. The company evolved from a traditional workshop in the Heating and Plumbing sector into a modern workshop and service supplier. After a gradual takeover of the responsibilities of his father, Ralf Schawag became the only director, early 2009. He already had started changes in the company’s portfolio, in business and in human resources management.

Workplace innovation
The renewal of the portfolio consisted of a widening of the proposition to Heat, Ventilation and Control in the industry and also planning for the customer, preparing the business case, giving financial advice and implementation. The company also works outside the region. There is developed a new corporate identity and marketing plan partly on the basis of jointly developed and shared guidelines and values. One of those values is clean the workplace before you leave – especially with customers.

Transparency was introduced in the firm. Every employee knows the performance figures and these are discussed every month. The employees have followed a course to improve their business knowledge. Employees have taken over administrative and communicative tasks. So the Director got more time for acquisition and customer advice. Actually, it is the intention to improve the marketing with the employees in an active role:  ‘marketing and personnel development at the same time’.
The organization has been renewed as well, there were appointed a chief sales, a chief project management and an office manager  to which the Director may delegate tasks.
There is great attention to maintaining employability. For this, training vouchers from the country Nord Rhein West Falen are used. With this money a tailor made online seminar on project management is developed. There are (financial) arrangements to facilitate  the employees to follow further training. This involves not only technical training but also, for example fitness.
Older employees are mainly deployed at work that is not that stressful, such as the customer service.

With all staff, the Director has an annual interview in which the desires of the employee to technical, social and entrepreneurial training is matched to the needs for skills and competences of the company.

And to conclude Schawag wants to introduce profit sharing as a logical consequence of the redesigning of the company in a participatory way.

These innovations have been developed together with the employees. This process started with and was supported by an advise of a marketing consultancy that conducted a ‘Potentialberatung ‘ (an advice on opportunities based on a SWOT analysis) between April and September 2009.
At first the father of the young director and senior staff saw the project as a criticism of their old method. The director had to convince them that professional quality is not enough nowadays.
The major changes were accompanied by training , courses and seminars.

Schawag hardly participates in tenders where it’s all about the price. They recruit sufficient assignments by showing quality and service and by their marketing strategy. The company has become a specialist in the field of thermoregulation in the industry and now works outside the region .
The employees now feel responsible for the succes of the company. And in practice they are self organising, for example they themselves order what they  need on the construction sites.
In 2011, the company will move into a new building (a former catering establishment) and expand to 15 employees and three to four students.
The company has won the Hagener Innovationspreis Personal (Hagener Personal Innovation Award). This prize is awarded to SMEs who in a special way, succeed in increasing their  Innovative capacity by its human resources management.

Reference; Krupop , Stefan Frank , Kleines Unternehmen – grosse Innovationen: die Schawag GmbH. (Small business – major innovations : Schawag ) . Heft 2/2010 (See Annex) For more information about GIB and Potentialberatung see:

Themes : Sustainable employability , Dynamic management & Leadership , Innovation & Innovation Capability, SMEs.

Sector: Construction and installation technology

Source: Case, Article