"Decisions that benefit everybody"

In the following interview, Monika Wörwag and Dr. Marcus Wörwag talk about the advantages of a family-owned company, the significance of cultural differences and why every employee should take an entrepreneurial outlook.

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The story of WÖRWAG Pharma began with the city pharmacy in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen founded by your father in 1965. Do you still go to see it?

Marcus Wörwag: Our family is from Zuffenhausen, and in spite of our international orientation, our roots are still there. Even today, our pharmacy still belongs to the company. I still maintain close contact to the customer base and understand the needs of the pharmacists, physicians, and especially the patients. After all, our core task has not changed in 50 years, namely to supply people who need treatment with the best possible drugs.

From a city pharmacy to an international player in more than 30 countries - how is such a success story written?

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Monika Wörwag: From the start, our father identified fully with the company – a life's work. His philosophy still applies today: "The human being is the focus." Specifically, those human beings who suffer from diabetes and its comorbidities: cardiovascular diseases and diabetic neuropathy. In addition to the preparations suitable for this, minerals and vitamins – so-called biofactors – represent the company's naturopathic priorities.

Marcus Wörwag: With our successful preparations such as Milgamma, Thiogamma, and Magnerot, the company not only relied on the right products, but the right markets were also essential for success. WÖRWAG Pharma was one of the first companies that recognized the potential in the Eastern European markets and established our own business there.

The focus of this expansion was likewise the human being: our employees. From the start, we relied on self-assured teams made up of experts from each respective country who not only have a direct line to us but are also close to the customer.

Monika Wörwag: Precisely because we strongly stand up for independent and self-assured employees, they commit themselves to WÖRWAG Pharma. The combination of this know-how, the quality of our work, and the necessary vision and speediness in making important decisions account for the company's success story.

What does such growth mean for WÖRWAG Pharma?

Marcus Wörwag: Above all, to be able nonetheless to keep concentrating on the essentials. Not to lose sight of the small and big objectives, as we have also been doing all these years: The steady expansion of the markets, of sales and of the range of products. All decisions originating from this are based on an attitude centered on everybody's benefit. Therefore, our entrepreneurial decisions are never designed for short-term objectives, but always for sustained, durable successes.

Monika Wörwag: We owe this attitude not least to our employees and their families. On the one hand, the company's financial independence is important for us, the feeling of not being dependent on banks or investors. On the other hand, the independence of our employees, because they can and are even encouraged to contribute and assume responsibility, both as individuals and teamplayers.

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Why are you so successful with diabetes medications and biofactors?

Marcus Wörwag: We have a clear positioning with an unequivocal profile: tailor-made products for a core target group. In short, we are specialists who devote their entire know-how and expertise to this target group. Additionally, therapeutic concepts and service materials offer big benefits to patients. Throughout the world, the number of diabetes disorders will keep increasing in the coming decades. We have recognized this and see our future commitment therein.

Monika Wörwag: Our medications are not just high-quality. We also imposed strong ethical and environmentally-compatible standards on them. WÖRWAG Pharma drugs are well tolerated; they should promote a healthy lifestyle and improve overall healthcare.

You have ambitious objectives – how do you want to achieve them?

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Marcus Wörwag: I can only repeat: By concentrating on the essentials. First: through the expansion of our range of products, which includes performing our own R&D, secondly, through the development of new markets, and thirdly, through the enlargement and further development of our team.

How do you succeed in motivating employees from the most varied countries to attain these objectives?

Monika Wörwag: Since we know our employees well, staff development is also an extremely important subject in the company: Not without reason we regard ourselves as a big team acting according to the principle: "All for one and one for all". We try out and promote new things and everyone can contribute with their own entrepreneurial thinking and acting.  And if mistakes are made after all, we are a learning organization that accepts mistakes and transforms them into something positive. This lived team concept leads to the commitment of each individual – and this humanity plus the ability to succeed together in something, make WÖRWAG Pharma what it is.

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Nonetheless, it is surely not so easy to implement the team concept and fill it with life beyond national and language borders – while still making workable decisions.

Monika Wörwag: Naturally, the cultural differences are a big challenge. It's not always easy to accept them – but respecting intercultural individuality is the core of our team concept. While doing so, we require a great deal from our employees: The willingness to change must be there. Our brand values are performance, responsibility, and identification.

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Marcus Wörwag: Our teams have become increasingly larger in recent years. Not too long ago, a country manager was responsible for five employees, whereas nowadays there can even be more than 100 employees per country organization. This requires high qualifications from all of them and the willingness to keep learning. However, thanks to our flat hierarchies and transparent processes, we succeed in taking incorporating everybody – not just going beyond national borders but also beyond mental boundaries in people's heads.

International, i.e. mixed teams are becoming ever more important. Many well-educated women would like to reconcile family and work. How do you adjust to these challenges?

Monika Wörwag: I would like to state that we have already come a long way in this respect. Many women work in our company – as is generally the case in the health sector – and many are in a leading position. It depends on the individual person and her attitude. For example, from the start we have had a strong female country manager team, female physicians with PhDs who are still mostly with us today. Just like the company, they have developed and are actively supported and promoted by us. Nowadays, 12 of the 21 country managers are women. 

Many highly qualified women from many different nations also work in our international marketing authorization department, which is managed by a woman. We deliberately use the respective individual strengths of our employees in mixed teams. This takes the employees and the company further.

What does the future look like for the company?

Monika Wörwag: Above all, we are and we will remain a family-owned company! What is more, we will know how to benefit from this advantage, as our down-to-earth attitude makes us reliable partners. The short decision-making channels within the company allow us to react flexibly and quickly.  Last but not least, it is the team spirit, the common goal of wanting the best that inspires all of us in our daily work. A better starting point can hardly be found.

Marcus Wörwag: Naturally, we want to continue with our current growth dynamic. So far, it has been hard work and will remain so in the coming years as well. We accept this challenge – but we want growth with a human face – and this also means securing employment. Since our teams are highly motivated, we will reach our objectives.

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Marcus Wörwag: Naturally, we want to continue with our current growth dynamic. So far, it has been hard work and will remain so in the coming years as well. We accept this challenge – but we want growth with a human face – and this also means securing employment. Since our teams are highly motivated, we will reach our objectives.