For more than 50 years, Trigema boss Wolfgang Grupp has been trying to solve his problems when they are small. That is not possible in the current gas crisis. In an interview with FOCUS online, the entrepreneur explains where the shoe pinches and what he expects from politics.
FOCUS online: Mr. Grupp, are we currently experiencing the biggest economic crisis in Germany that has ever existed?
Wolfgang Grupp: I can’t judge that, but in this crazy world I haven’t been angry for some time now if I’m at the end of my working life. Because what I am currently experiencing is not expedient for me! For 53 years I have tried to solve my problems on my own and adapt to change. But now politicians are putting obstacles in my way that I can’t clear away.
What do you mean specifically?
Grupp: Trigema has practically no chance at the moment. In the New Economy crisis or the Corona pandemic, I always found a way out. But now? We use gas and cogeneration, so we’ve done everything we can to move forward. But now we are confronted with exorbitant prices and have no alternative in the short term!
How are the costs affected?
Grupp: In 2020 I had gas costs of 100,000 euros a month, i.e. 1.2 million a year. That doubled in 2021 to 2.4 million euros. And the projection for 2022 looks like we will end up at 12 million euros. That’s ten times what it was two years ago!
Can you still do that?
Grupp: My company has 100 percent equity, I can hold out for a while. But I have a print shop that prints t-shirts and no money!
Can’t get off the gas?
Group: That’s what we’re trying to do. I commissioned the company Alois Müller in Memmingen, which specializes in this, to look for solutions for us “off the gas”. You have now advised me to use an oil boiler. We ordered it immediately, but the delivery time is over 1 year! How do you intend to move forward quickly in the meantime? We’re bound to have a problem if our gas turbines fail!
What exactly do you need the turbines for?
Grupp: The gas turbines produce electricity, which is used to heat water and use the resulting steam to operate the machines in the equipment. We already use all degrees of heat, keyword: combined heat and power. But that’s all we can do right now.
What about hydrogen as a gas substitute?
Grupp: Nice idea, but we’re talking about more than three years until we can use this to generate energy. That’s what I mean. I usually solve my problems right away, as long as they are small. But unfortunately that is not possible here.
Can you pass on the costs by raising prices?
Group: Just a small part. Last twice by three percent!
A polo shirt costs 59 euros from us. For this you get a super quality from us, the shirt lasts for many years. But I can’t go any higher in terms of price, because brands like Lacoste etc. are positioned there and can charge more.
If we slide into a recession now, it will be even harder for Trigema.
Grupp: Of course: We make products that you can afford, even though you don’t absolutely need them. If you are cold and need a cheap vest, buy it from a discount store. If you are hungry, don’t go to a three-star restaurant, but buy something cheap to eat. When the economy is booming, people can afford something and that’s why we need a functioning economy!
How do you deal with your employees, who are also groaning under the massive price increases for food and energy. Does trigema help?
Grupp: I automatically adjust wages based on what our association negotiates, even if we’re not in the association! And in April every employee received 1,000 euros when I turned 80.
You say that politics has brought you a big problem. What do you want from our representatives?
Grupp: As far as the Ukraine war is concerned, I would like to see skillful diplomacy in everything. In my view, the sanctions are useless because not everyone is pulling in the same direction. And anyway, you have to ask yourself two questions: 1. How is it possible that we have been dependent on Russia for energy technology for 20 years and now Putin is our biggest enemy? There has to be someone who can mediate. If I do good business with someone in my private life for so long and then we fall out, then I also ask that they be mediated.
And the second point?
Grupp: We have to look honestly at who is profiting from this war in order to remain a great power. Not China, not Russia, not Germany and Europe either. There’s not much left.
Grupp: The question must be allowed as to whether this war isn’t serving America in particular. I know nobody wants to hear that and it’s a touchy subject, but it’s fair to ask who ultimately comes out as the true winner and what price we pay for it.