Nathalie Neubert, who is pursuing a cooperative university program in International Business, and Raphael Boos, an apprentice in Mechatronics, asked Dr. Krick about his career, the development of Fresenius and his ideas about the best subject to study – and received direct, spontaneous and to-the-point answers.
Nathalie Neubert: Welcome, Dr. Krick. It is our pleasure to be conducting this interview with you today. You have been with Fresenius for more than 40 years. When you started here, the company had barely 1,000 employees, most of them in Germany. Today there are nearly 300,000 spread around the world in more than 100 countries. What do you think has been the biggest change over the years? Or perhaps, what has remained unchanged?
Dr. Gerd Krick: This is not an easy question. What has remained the same is the job. The work today is every bit the same as the work we used to perform. What has changed is that, when you head a company or hold a higher position, it is no longer possible to know every employee. They are now so numerous that you don’t even know all those in leading positions. In the old days you knew everybody. I used to walk through the filling station and would know the person operating the filling machine. Those days are over.
Raphael Boos: It used to be common for an employee to stay with one company for a whole career. Nowadays, it is very common for an employee to switch jobs frequently. You are somebody who has spent an impressive 40 years or more at the same company. Was there a time in your career when you thought you should try something different elsewhere?
Dr. Gerd Krick: Not really, because the work was so interesting that I never thought about going anywhere else. The company grew, and continues to grow, which made the challenges so interesting that nothing would have been gained by switching to another employer. Of course, it’s only natural to check the newspaper occasionally. But when comparing opportunities, it became clear that this field was the right one. It is a great advantage for us to be in health care and, there should be no doubt about this, anyone in health care who is not growing is doing something wrong.
Raphael Boos: You played a key role in shaping Fresenius. But the question occurs to me: To what extent did Fresenius play a role in shaping you?
Dr. Gerd Krick: I don’t have an answer for that. I am what I am. The key thing that I would say to those who are just starting at a company is: Remain true to your ideals. I have never compromised my standards. That’s why I can’t really say that Fresenius has changed me. I am what I am.
Raphael Boos: That’s a very good trait to have. As a trainee mechatronic engineer, I would like to delve a bit deeper into the aspects of engineering, and ask: What is more important to an engineer; technical expertise or creativity?
Dr. Gerd Krick: Basically, creativity. You have to say to yourself: What do I need to make something better? And the answer is: To make something really better, you must be creative. I think creativity plays a much greater role in this than pure technical expertise.
Nathalie Neubert: Although you hold a doctorate in engineering, you have long been a part of company leadership. What advice would you give young people like us, who are also interested in a management role – should we pursue studies in engineering, or classic business administration?
Dr. Gerd Krick: At the risk of sounding superior, I would very seriously advise studying engineering. This is something in life you will not be able to get anywhere else, whereas making sales and keeping books can be learned later in the course of a business career. The skills gained from studying business administration are easier to obtain in daily life than engineering expertise.
Raphael Boos: If you wanted to develop another new product tomorrow, what would interest you the most?
Dr. Gerd Krick: I would say dialysis is the obvious candidate. The one truly unsolved problem in dialysis is the shunt, meaning the connection from vein to artery. The shunt is a synthetic product. The connection is there to achieve high blood flows. You can’t perform dialysis with low blood flows.
A shunt can break and cause infection – that is a fundamental problem in dialysis. Fresenius Medical Care has just entered into an agreement with Humacyte, which is developing a vascular system that is based on human cells. This is a breakthrough innovation. If I had to decide what I was going to do all over again, this is where I would begin.
Nathalie Neubert: For the past 15 years you have been Chairman of the Supervisory Board. We believe not many people at Fresenius really know what the person in this position actually does, and it certainly is no ordinary job. So, we would like to ask you if you would be so kind as to give us a brief glimpse into your duties.
Dr. Gerd Krick: To do that would take a very long time, but I’ll try to make it brief. With the knowledge gained over the years about products, innovations, markets and “how to sell,” we discuss and evaluate projects submitted by the Management Board.
It is nearly impossible for the Supervisory Board to check all facets of any of these projects. This would necessitate preparing them ourselves. It would require us to conduct our own negotiations. This is beyond the means of a Supervisory Board. This means that what we do is employ knowledge gained in the profession to evaluate and discuss projects with the Management Board. They must supply answers to the questions we raise. This latter point is the most important function. If someone intends to run the business from the Supervisory Board – and I have always said this – then they should stay on the Management Board.
Nathalie Neubert: We have reached the end of our interview. Just one more question: Would you like to use this opportunity to send another key message to Fresenius employees?
Dr. Gerd Krick: The message is very simple: Continue to be successful – and be better than your competitors!
Raphael Boos: Many thanks, Dr. Krick, for this wonderful interview. We wish you all the best in your future endeavors.
Nathalie Neubert: Many thanks for taking the time to talk with us.
Dr. Gerd Krick: It was a pleasure to talk with you. Thanks. I hope that I can be part of the continuing growth for some time yet.