Wolfgang Grupps career tips: Anyone who has big problems is a failure

Trigema boss Wolfgang Grupp in his factory in Burladingen.

Trigema boss Wolfgang Grupp in his factory in Burladingen.

Sebastian Gollnow / picture alliance via Getty Images

Wolfgang Grupp has always known how to put his company Trigema at the center of media reporting. Most recently, he demonstrated this in the “Corona Spring” in March 2020, when he quickly stopped producing polo shirts and sportswear in his factories, but switched to the production of face masks. He made 2.3 million masks back then, he says in an interview with “After that I was happy that we could go back to our normal production.”

In an interview with, the Swabian reveals why the crisis has not changed much in corporate culture and why he refuses to work from home. He also talks about his distrust of applicants from large cities and career ladders, who can almost exclusively be climbed internally.

“I had all the walls torn down 51 years ago”

Grupp doesn’t think much of Anglicisms like “New Work”, and he makes no secret of it. When asked whether the practices that are hidden behind the pair of words are also lived at Trigema, the company boss says: “New work? 51 years ago, when I came to the company and we were all sitting in individual offices and nobody knew the term open-plan office, I had all the walls torn down because I couldn’t work like that. “

The company boss needs his people around him, so sit right in the middle. This is the only way he can make quick decisions and involve his people in the process. “My employees expect me to make serious decisions. However, all decisions are made by my employees and, above all, they are also supported. If the employee stands behind the decision, he will do everything to ensure that the decision does not turn out to be negative. “

Even during the Corona crisis, Grupp largely did not send its employees to work from home. “For me, home office is not feasible,” he says. On the one hand, this is due to the fact that the seamstresses cannot operate the machines with which the polo shirts are made from home. Everything also “has to be decided on a daily basis and this is not possible with a home office”, says Grupp.

However, those who indulge in the company and its boss can have steep careers. Provided they don’t come from too far.

Every manager started at the bottom

Grupp eyed applicants from distant federal states and large cities suspiciously. It has always been clear to him, “if someone from Hamburg, for example, applies to us and thinks he is top and still doesn’t get an opportunity in Hamburg, then he doesn’t necessarily have to come to us in Burladingen”. Because if he were really that “top”, then “he would have been given a job in Hamburg long ago.” Grupp had always known “that good people don’t want to go to Burladingen, but rather to the big cities”.

So if you want a management position in the business you have to start as an apprentice: “At Trigema, all of the leading people were originally apprentices. We know them and we can choose the best from them and they reach the management positions because they consistently perform! “, Says the 78-year-old company boss. “This means that the apprentices already know that they have the chance, depending on their performance, to be at the top later on”.

However, there is one thing that the candidates for management positions at Trigema should understand. Hiding problems is not an option for the self-proclaimed “largest German manufacturer of sport and leisure clothing”: “Problems are not there to be discussed, but to be solved. Anyone who comes to me with a question leaves with an answer! ”. Anyone who has a big problem, says Grupp to, “is generally a failure for me, because every problem was small and if they had solved it as a small one, they wouldn’t have a big one!”


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