A Dresden success story

Rolf Heinemann, Illustration
Julian Rentzsch

No climber stops short of the summit. Rolf Heinemann loves the mountains, and he loves his company. He regards Robotron as his child, albeit a foundling, because Heinemann took over the ​​data processing business of East Germany’s state-owned IT flagship when the Treuhand administrators were just about to liquidate it. By Christina Wittich

A foundling comes of age

Heinemann had the necessary self-belief because he had been working at Robotron since the late 1960s. He and his colleagues used to develop databases and analyse the technical advances made by the West. “We were convinced that our own developments were better than anything on the market,” he says. “We knew what everyone else was doing inside out.”

He and eight colleagues entered into joint ownership of the new Robotron in 1990. They initially had 28 employees. Today, the workforce has increased to 480, and the boss still knows all of them by name. So far, Robotron has focused on the creation of databases as well as the evaluation and administration of large amounts of data. Clients include Vattenfall, the Dresden State Art Collections, the Saxony police, more than half of the local government authorities in Saxony and even the public utilities in Moscow.

Heinemann has an explanation for this ongoing success story: “We have always financed expansion from our own resources without taking on loans. We’ve always grown only to the extent that we could cope with it, and we’ve only taken on as many trainees as we could eventually offer permanent employment to.”

He considers it important to treat staff well. In order to retain the services of skilled IT people, he offers them more than just an attractive salary. On the company premises there is a climbing wall and a volleyball pitch. Heinemann also arranges parties for his staff at Christmas and on the anniversary of the company’s spin-off. Robotron is now run by Heinemann’s sons. In 2015, the entrepreneurs purchased a villa with its own garden to provide crèche facilities for the children of staff with young families. They called it ‘Robolino’, and three full-time child carers look after the kids. Heinemann senior, however, still oversees those vital organs of a thriving company, finance and staffing. Retirement? The only future scenario that he doesn’t waste time thinking about.

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