Over the course of his career, Marcus Hähner has become something of a mentor. He has had the opportunity to share his professional knowledge with many ambitious young people, some of whom even refer to him as “dad”. It’s a role he has become incredibly proud of, and continues to put effort into even now, as the Managing Director of automotive aftermarket alliance Global One Automotive.
Marcus’s love of his role as mentor comes back to the emphasis he places on the concept of family – both personally and professionally. “The most important topic of my life for sure is my family,” he tells The CEO Magazine, referring to his wife, three adult children and two-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback dog.
“We hurt together, we are sad together, we motivate each other, and we win and lose together.”
This family focus also reflects in his attitude towards his workplace, whether it be Global One’s shareholders, its suppliers or its own team. “We hurt together, we are sad together, we motivate each other, and we win and lose together,” he says. “That’s what makes our company a great place to work. A homogenous team can achieve goal after goal.”
Ensuring Global One maintains close cooperation with its suppliers and shareholders and nurturing long-term relationships with them is also massively important for the alliance to function effectively, according to Marcus. Those traditional family values of open communication and mutual trust are key pillars of these selective partnerships, and perfectly complement the alliance’s tagline of ‘We are one’.
These strategies appear to be working well. The alliance, founded in 2016 by two shareholders WM SE in Germany and SSF Imported Auto Parts from the US, now has a shareholding of 19 companies with a global turnover of €3.3 billion (US$3.8 billion). It is working to secure the future of the independent aftermarket amid a massively evolving landscape, and provide a platform for its shareholders to exchange market information and best practice ideas in addition to helping its suppliers develop business opportunities.
“I was obliged and honored to press the reset button and create a completely new story for Global One.”
However, when Marcus came on board as Managing Director in July 2020, there was work to be done. “The company needed to be transformed and prepared to become a modern and future-oriented structure,” he explains. “I was obliged and honored to press the reset button and create a completely new story for Global One.”
These are all lessons that Marcus has learned the hard way. Looking back, this “family spirit” is what was lacking in many of the places he has worked, motivating him to do things differently now as Managing Director.
“If I think back in time to the beginning of my career when I was a young man, my former bosses were often not perfect leaders, they were always shouting, never in a good mood, completely strict and always clinging,” he recalls. “For me, it is about forgetting this former style of being a boss – you will not have good, motivated people on your side, and you will never create added value for the work or the team.”
Marcus began his career at the age of 16 as a cutting machine operator before quitting his job to study mechanical engineering. However, he finished his studies in 1994 – an economically difficult year in Germany, which meant it was difficult for him to find suitable work.
Staring down the barrel of unemployment, he decided to take a job as a door-to-door salesman for vacuum cleaner manufacturer Vorwerk. “It was a really hard time for me, but at least I got this hard sales training – if you get no sales, you will get no money. But I think it helped to develop my personality,” he reflects. “I’ve never forgotten these times and I’m still humble and grateful that I can live my life like this today.”
Eventually he was snapped up by Japanese-French company NTN-SNR as a sales engineer, where he worked his way up the ladder building up its automotive market across Germany, Australia, Switzerland and Benelux.
“After more than 25 wonderful years with NTN-SNR, it was time for me to look for another challenge within my business life, and this was also supported by the fact that I was about to turn 50,” he admits. “So I took the opportunity to accept the offer to become the Managing Director of Global One Automotive from July last year. And so, here I am.”
Now looking ahead, Marcus has big plans for the next chapter of the organization. “What I would like to create here is a more service-oriented ideology for our shareholders and our suppliers,” he shares.
“We are more an intermediary that helps from time to time as a mediator to bring things forward between different parties. Now our ambition is to create and develop the necessary environment around the business to secure our entire future within the automotive aftermarket.
“If you want to be successful in our market, you have to build up a strong network with important market players you can trust.”
“It is not enough to just look to the next three to five years. If I have not set the course today for the future in 10 years to come, I think it would not be professional. Nobody can read a crystal ball, but due to my long-term experience, I have a certain kind of clue what the future will hold. And that’s exactly what I would like to bring to Global One.”
Building a network is critical to the success of a venture such as Global One, Marcus insists. Fortunately, he is well equipped with the relationship-building skills required to achieve this. “If you do not like human beings, you cannot do this kind of job,” he stresses.
“If you want to be successful in our market, you have to build up a strong network with important market players you can trust. It’s an enormous investment of time and perseverance, especially in the beginning of your aftermarket career. But it’s the most important investment that you can make and have to make, because this business, the independent aftermarket, is still made up of human beings.”
Over his 25 years in the industry, he has built up his own strong network in a variety of ways. Today, his contacts include people he has met in meetings or are former colleagues from the sales side who have now become his suppliers.
In order to conquer new horizons, Marcus plans to adopt a “completely different way of thinking,” he reveals. “It’s not going to be a copy-paste version from our highly appreciated five market companions. We would like to build something completely new – bring people together, develop the business and personality, and create value for the business,” he points out.
“We have to create something around the spare parts business which is going to help our shareholders in the entire industry to move it forward. We are not interested, also we have no entitlement, to become the biggest player as some of our competitors are attempting to do, which means having more shareholders than the others, or showing a higher turnover than the others.
“Our motto is definitely ‘quality beats quantity’. This is our spirit. We want to stay exclusive and that is very important with healthy and trustworthy shareholders.”
The sagacity of this type of approach was verified during the pandemic as lockdowns and a range of other shockwaves threw the industry into disarray. “Within the past 18 months, it is very important to have the healthy shareholders on your side, because what we have seen is that some of those distributors on the European market have collapsed,” Marcus reveals. “The market will not see major changes by adding a variety of new shareholders to Global One because there is no need to do so. However, we’re open to discussing every single candidate and will add a new shareholder if it’s a perfect match in quality and commitment towards our philosophy.”
“Some companies understood the depth of the situation and reacted very quickly, but others did not.”
He is confident that the organization and its network will emerge from the crisis in a strong position thanks to its progressive way of thinking. “When the pandemic situation arrived in 2020, everyone was shocked. Some companies understood the depth of the situation and reacted very quickly, but others did not,” he ponders. “From my personal point of view, those who did it very fast are the winners of these circumstances.”
And as for the words of wisdom he happily shares with his mentees, Marcus reveals that top of the list is: “You should never forget where you come from. You should not change your character.”
“You have to stay honest even if the situation will not end up in your favor, because I’m completely convinced your honesty will pay it back to you,” he insists. “Stay strong and committed to your personal business as well as private targets. Do not let them out of your sight and grant a second chance if it is appropriate.
“For me, they are strong words.”
The global automotive aftermarket is forecast to climb to €468 billion (US$533 billion) by 2028, expanding at a compound annual growth rate of 3.8 per cent between 2021 and 2028. This growth will be driven by the digitalization of automotive repair and component sales complemented by technological advances in the manufacturing process. A surge in demand for electric, hybrid, semi-autonomous and autonomous vehicles in the years to come is also predicted to boost demand for new components.