Good Corporate Management
Lesson No. 76

Helmut F. Schreiner: Entrepreneur – Family Business Owner – Mentor – Teacher

by Manfred Hoefle


To get right to the point: this is the story of a committed and extremely successful entrepreneur who took on, built up, and handed on a major international family business.

Growing Up In Hard Times

After World War II times were hard in very many geographies. Helmut Schroeder too experienced a childhood in harsh poverty, walking bare-foot to school. In 1951 his parents set up a small label-making enterprise. Helmut and his sister were the first two employees in a 45 square meter garage, where they began producing special labels on a single-color seal embossing press. Helmut's main task was printing, embossing and punching.

Helmut’s professional progress was marked by training, learning, training and yet more learning. After a first apprenticeship as an Industrial Clerk, he went on to qualify as a Letterpress Printer. Then after some years gaining diverse professional experience, he studied Printing and Operating Technology at an Academy for the Graphic Arts. He paid for the study fees by tutoring, working night shifts, deputizing for others during their vacation, and still learning by doing all the time, earned other professional qualifications, and later qualified as a German Master Craftsman – a Master Letterpress Printer. He then joined the prestigious Bruckmann Verlag in Munich, where he learned the theory and practice of a whole new range of printing processes.


Helmut Schreiner not only focused on vocational training; he was also an avid self-educator. His self-chosen teachers were Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965), Oscar Schellbach (1901-1970) and Nikolaus B. Enkelmann (1936-2017) whose motivational teaching was founded on the logotherapy of Viktor Frankl.

Generational Change

After returning to his parent’s business, first as an employee, as workshop manager, head of sales, and then executive officer, the expected hand-over was taking time, so he decided to gain further professional experience elsewhere, and spent several years in management positions at other companies. In 1974, twenty-three years after its foundation, the family business was handed over to Helmut and his wife Ulrike. With 16 employees, a sack full of ideas, and the willingness to commit themselves fully to the business, Helmut and Ulrike set out to take the Schreiner business to the next level.

As in many family businesses, the handover to the next generation can take years of preparation and years of execution. Bearing this in mind, 38 years later Helmut und Ulrike Schreiner successfully planned and handed over their firm to Roland Schreiner of the third generation. As sole managing director, Roland has since been responsible for Schreiner Group with 1,200 Employees.

From A Small Factory To A Hidden Champion

Today, Schreiner Group has production sites in Oberschleissheim and Dorfen in Germany, the USA and China, and a global presence. The Group with the divisions Innovative Labels and Smart Solutions achieves annual sales of around 200 million euros. The four product areas are Healthcare (multifunctional safety labels, needle protection systems), Mobility (airbag fixings, license plates), General Industry (printed electronics, laser foils) and Government Security (parking cards with RFiD, secret number protection, adhesive labels).

An integrated management system emphasizes quality certification, focusing on zero product defects. Schreiner Group has earned an excellent reputation for its environment sustainability management (CO2-neutral green building in 2016, no oil and gas from 2026). The management system also includes comprehensive occupational safety and environmental protection management.

Schreiner management aims to be a strategic partner for customers, deliver top performance, engage and retain first-rate employees, be a sought-after employer and, finally, act responsibly toward people and environment. The four core values of the Schreiner Group management are intended to be both formative and memorable: Innovation, Quality, Performance, and Joyfulness (one of life’s purposes).

After handing over the executive management of the family business, Helmut founded Schreiner Innovation with the focus on real estate (now with over 80 residential /commercial properties). In addition, it directly promotes social and charitable activities, particularly in the Ukraine city of Kherson, and provides necessary living accommodation.

Based on his own experience of life and as an entrepreneur, Helmut Schreiner also acts as a coach and mentor for the younger generation.

Positive Attitude To Life

An entrepreneurial attitude has been a characteristic of Helmut Schreiner since his youth. He holds firm that, “You are what you make of yourself – Not what others will make of you”. For Helmut, the will to form yourself must be paired with a sense of proportion, identity and relentless learning. In fact, he sees life as an unending journey of learning: "Those who learn like an apprentice today, will be the master of tomorrow.”

His building blocks in the quest for success are: Self-development, Thinking flexibly, Thinking positively, Aspiring to a higher level, Learning from failure, Writing down your plans, Never giving up until you reach your goals.

For Helmut, the idea of self-leadership embraces the insight, "Everyone is their own leader." And leading means serving. "It is serving that makes you great, not ruling”. Another rarely heard insight is, "You can only lead well if you like people."

Then and since, Helmut Schreiner has been guided by a life-long motto, "Use your Time Wisely, Be a Blessing to Others, and Rejoice".
Also one his guiding rules is that being honest is a sound foundation and makes life a lot easier. In fact, lying is a form of self-imprisonment.

Helmut Schreiber is convinced that one underestimated aspect of organization or leadership is bonding and relationship. A business, in which and for which a large part of everyday time is spent, should be like "a home", a place to belong and feel comfortable. Relationships have greater value if they are personal, but in the age of the internet and globalization these have become a rare but precious commodity. For the cohesion and long-term continuity of a business, relationships and friendliness are essential. Appreciation and gratitude are the life-blood of a successful business enterprise.

For Helmut Schreiner, a personal sense of belonging is important, and his belief that he is a beloved child of God. That feeling is not only a source of joy and spiritual strength, but also an obligation and fundamental mission to preserve nature, which is, after all is said and done, God’s creation. Sustainability is more than just an ecological footprint; it also has a human and social foundation.

From his early days Helmut Schreiner has always, one step at a time, worked hard and relentlessly and achieved so much. At the same time, he still believes himself to truly be a child of fortune.


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