Most Germans are familiar with the drink “Capri Sun”, which is now sold in 100 countries under the brand name “Capri Sun”. The company’s founder, Hans-Peter Wild, has now written his autobiography.
The recently published book “Mr. Capri Sun” is the fascinating biography of a fascinating person – a book that inspires entrepreneurship and shows what is possible when you set big goals. “Constantly setting new goals and achieving them, this attitude not only permeates my personal memories, but also my entrepreneurial commitment,” writes Capri Sun inventor Hans-Peter Wild right at the beginning of his book.
The thoroughbred entrepreneur, born in Heidelberg in 1941, was not satisfied with being successful in Germany: “After all, my goal from the start was to make Capri-Sonne and WILD-Flavors global players. You have to set goals and not lose sight of them, despite some imponderables along the way.”
His father calculated that if everyone in the then Federal Republic of Germany drank just one Capri-Sonne a year, his company would sell 60 million bags. His collaborators thought such large numbers unrealistic, but they were too small for Wild. His goal was to sell several billion Capri Suns worldwide each year – and he achieved that goal, which most people would surely have dismissed as “unrealistic” or even “impossible”. Today Capri-Sun is available in 100 countries.
Wild writes that he actually lives in the future: “My thinking, my commitment, my investments had and still have distant goals in mind. These are concrete goals that should and will shape our future, both within the company itself and beyond.”
Rainer Zitelmann has a doctorate in history, sociology and has been a member of the FDP for 28 years. He is also the author of the book “Psychology of the Super-Rich”.
What drives entrepreneurs like Wild? I used the term “productive dissatisfaction” in my book “Setze dir bigger goals”, Wild calls it “constant dissatisfaction”, “when an entrepreneur is not satisfied with what has been achieved but is constantly looking for new challenges “. Because, as he writes elsewhere: As soon as an entrepreneur is “completely satisfied with what has been achieved”, he stops wanting to get better. “Then his company will gradually decline over time.”
The economist Joseph Schumpeter characterized the type of entrepreneur and his psychology with these words: Those who want to do something “new and unusual” not only have to reckon with external resistance, “but also have to overcome it within themselves”. The type of entrepreneur described by Schumpeter swims “against the tide”. “The fact that something has not yet been done is not perceived by him as a counter-argument. He doesn’t feel those inhibitions that otherwise form fixed barriers to the behavior of economic subjects.” Anyone who reads this book will find countless examples of how well this description applies to game.
Above all, his book shows one thing: the combination of perseverance and willingness to experiment is crucial for entrepreneurial success. Perseverance is important, but it will get you nowhere if you don’t combine it with the joy of experimentation. I was reminded of the fascinating history of McDonald’s when I was told how difficult it was to develop the Capri Sun product.
A “Capri Sun” and a portion of fries look easy, and one has no idea how difficult it is to perfect such a product for the world market, how many difficulties and setbacks have to be overcome. This only succeeds if the entrepreneur enjoys experimenting. “In fact, it applies to me,” says Wild, “that I was and am always open to new things, to experimental things… About every five years, starting something creatively new without neglecting the basics of experience, this attitude has made a significant contribution that I was able to establish and expand my two global corporations.” First he succeeded in conquering the world markets with Capri-Sun, then with his second company WILD Flavors.
Only those who think big can achieve big goals. For Wild, thinking big means above all thinking globally. At the beginning of the 1960s, the company was still very much focused on the German market. But early on he made the decision to expand worldwide. He conquered one country after another. In 1994, in cooperation with Kraft General Food, Capri-Sun also became the market leader in flexibly packaged fruit beverages in the USA. “A quarter of a century after the start of production in Heidelberg, the usual reverse path in the beverage market was completed. The surprise was perfect: a soft drink from Germany had conquered the American market.”
This would not have been possible if Wild had not understood the importance of marketing. It is also characteristic here that Wild thought big and was not afraid of the seemingly “impossible”. For worldwide expansion, he needed an advertising medium that was known around the world. In a session with staff, he went through the names of world celebrities, and Wild jokingly said that the Pope would be his first choice, but sadly it wasn’t an option. The same probably applies to the heavyweight boxing world champion Muhammad Ali. “But the moment I spoke in our session about the sheer impossibility of attracting this world-renowned athlete to our team, the idea of hiring ‘the greatest champion of all time’ was already in my head.”
Later on, Ali did some advertising for many products, but at that time he had never signed an endorsement deal. The “Handelsblatt” was amazed that Wild had “snatched what is probably the most popular advertising medium from under the nose of the entire international advertising elite at the moment”.
Wild could have made it easy for himself, sat down and took over his father’s company. But that’s exactly what he didn’t do. He got hired by a company in a completely different industry and was promoted to managing director after six weeks. This is of course very unusual, but in addition to his abilities, it proves one thing above all: Wild is someone who people trust quickly. Trust is crucial in business. None other than John D. Rockefeller, one of the richest men in history, has consistently emphasized the importance of trust. People who gain the trust of other people are quick to trust other people themselves.
Wild describes how he always knew how to turn disadvantages into advantages. For example, there were no suitable filling machines for the “Capri-Sonne” beverage bags. And there was also no machine builder who could produce such. Others would have been deterred. Wild became a mechanical engineer himself, which gave him a head start, because nobody could easily copy his idea because he didn’t have the machines to do it. A core sentence of Napoleon Hill’s famous book, “Think and grow rich” is: “For those who are convinced of themselves and their goals and do not slacken in their efforts, every failure carries the seeds of a far greater success within it!” There are many examples of this in this book.
In the USA, successful entrepreneurs often write autobiographies – unfortunately very rarely in Germany. That’s a pity, because in the course of an entrepreneur’s life, the entrepreneur collects a lot of experience that can be very valuable for younger people. In addition, books like Wild’s motivate and show young people an alternative to the usual life as an employee or civil servant.
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I think books like Wild’s should be read in schools. Yes, Goethe is important and great, but how should students get interested in entrepreneurship if not through the experienced history of entrepreneurs? The teacher who has never worked in business himself, but went from school to university and then went back to school, will usually not convey any desire for entrepreneurship. I would like entrepreneurs like Wild to tell their stories at school – and I’m sure that would be at least as exciting for the students as Wild’s autobiography is for the reader.