Brigitte Vöster-Alber has been managing director of GEZE since 1968.
1968 was a year of revolution: Student protests, the Vietnam War, Prague Spring. VAT was introduced in Germany and people on board Apollo 8 circumvented the moon for the first time. Brigitte Vöster-Alber took over as managing director of Gretsch & Co. GmbH during this year.
50 years of development with courage, intelligence, and heart
She acquired her shares in the company from her grandfather Reinhold Vöster. Her father had died shortly before, when she was just 24 years old. Since then, she has headed up the business which later became GEZE GmbH, and has been the driving force behind many developments and changes during that time.
At the end of every year, you think it was the most exciting yet – for whatever reason. You might have stronger memories of the more negative times, as they were also major learning experiences. And the company then benefited from them the most. There have been some of these moments in the last 50 years...Brigitte Vöster-Alber, Managing Director
New technologies, digitalisation, and worldwide expansion
In 1968 we had around 900 employees – today we employ some 3,000 people worldwide. We achieved a financial and conceptual turnaround in the 1980s, and also made the leap into international markets. GEZE stopped producing ski binders and focused on elegant solutions for the automatic opening and closing of doors and windows. Mrs Vöster-Alber placed a rigorous focus on new technologies, digitalisation, and worldwide expansion.
I had to become accustomed to, and then assert myself in a man’s world. Women in management are still not particularly visible, and traditional images and clichés still come into play.Brigitte Vöster-Alber, Managing Director
Brigitte Vöster-Alber in the 1960s
The proportion of female employees at GEZE is also in line with the times. Indeed at almost 30 per cent, the proportion of women in management positions is extraordinarily high for a technology company. There are also many female trainees.
In her five decades at the helm, Brigitte Vöster-Alber has also shown herself to be socially engaged. All of GEZE’s fund-raising activities bear her signature. These include children’s charities such as the ’Olgäle-Stiftung für das kranke Kind e.V.’ and ‘Plan International’. She has been awarded the Bundesverdienstkreuz in honour of her social commitments. In addition, she received the ‘Soziale Marktwirtschaft 2016’ prize.
"She is the driving force behind the goals of the family business, and the guardian of its values. For example, she advocates a broad entrepreneurial vision, the capacity for innovation, and takes a high level of responsibility for the company's employees, the wider society, and the environment," said the jury in its statement.
And if mistakes happen, then so be it - we wouldn't have any progress without mistakes. I hope for a culture of errors that we can and should learn something from, because everyone is dealing with it openly - that is intelligent and safeguards the future for us.Brigitte Vöster-Alber, Managing Director
Global player and traditional family business
GEZE currently has production sites in Germany, China, and Serbia, 31 subsidiaries all over the world and several sales representatives. We’re also a global player whilst remaining a traditional family business that achieves organic growth from just its own resources. Our focus is not on short-term profit, but on ensuring that the company survives for future generations. We therefore think in terms of generations - not quarters. This is why we consider ourselves to be responsible for employees, people, and the whole region. Our employees strongly identify with the company and they often remain with us for a long time.
Brigitte Vöster-Alber and GEZE employees have no need to worry about successors: Three of her offspring are active within the company and they will continue to manage the company as an independent, family-ran company that is active worldwide.