An anniversary is always the moment to look back and appreciate what has been achieved. At the same time, it is an opportunity for the Bertelsmann Stiftung to recognize that more remains to be done and, as a result, to begin focusing on the challenges that will affect our everyday lives in the future.

Between Occupation and Calling

Author: Anjoulih Pawelka
Photography: Besim Mazhiqi

It’s 7:30 a.m. when Thomas Steidel, 52, crosses the threshold and enters what might be called his own personal universe – the place he has spent 12 hours at, sometimes more, day in and day out for the last 23 years. The place where he listens, laughs and compliments his customers. Steidel’s universe is his hair salon, some 70 square meters in size, located in Sinsheim, just south of Heidelberg. A small town of 35,000 inhabitants, Sinsheim is known for its soccer team and palm-filled spa. It boasts clean sidewalks and a small pedestrian mall – a pleasant combination of prosperity and modesty. Your average German town, in other words.

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The hair salon

Steidel was 28 when he opened the salon. The décor is mostly white with black accents. The grey floor tiles reflect the halogen lights he has just switched on. The air has a slight chemical smell, a reminder of yesterday’s appointments. Soon after the owner walks through the door, the first customer appears. It’s time to “flip the switch,” as Steidel puts it. “I leave any unpleasant thoughts outside,” he says. “The last thing people want when they get their hair done is a depressing conversation. Thank God I’m usually in a good mood.”

The dental practice

A 15-minute drive away, a bit closer to Heidelberg, Beate Gozdan starts her workday at almost exactly the same time Steidel does. Beaming, she walks into her practice. She’s obviously glad to be here. Gozdan, 50, is an oral surgeon – through and through. She strides down the long, brightly lit hallway to her office, where her eight employees, wearing purple smocks, assemble around the computer, just as they do every morning. The day’s appointments appear on the screen. All of the regular slots are taken; beneath them are the slots reserved for emergencies. Making sure everything goes smoothly is very important, since only well-organized medical practices survive financially.

What Steidel’s salon and Gozdan’s practice have in common is their place in German society or, more precisely, their roots in the country’s middle class. After 17 years of running her own practice, Gozdan has a very comfortable life. Yet it never would have been possible without her parents. After arriving in Germany as refugees, they worked hard and moved up the economic ladder. They also made sure their daughter got a good education.


Work is an important part of most people’s lives. More than half of all Germans say they would continue to work even if they won the lottery. That is true regardless of educational level or financial situation, as a study by the Bertelsmann Stiftung and market research firm GfK shows. According to the study, most people in Germany say that only their family and spouse are more important than their job.

Work also plays a key role in the social market economy, Germany’s postwar economic model. For the model to work, as many people as possible must work, pay taxes and purchase goods and services – thereby stimulating the economy. The self-employed play an important role in the social market economy. Although they make up only about 11 percent of the total workforce, they are still a significant economic player in German society. Two things make them indispensible to the country’s well-being: their energy and their desire to get things done.


Gozdan and Steidel are no exception. Like many self-employed people, they feel that their work gives meaning to their life. They are not afraid to assume responsibility – for themselves, their customers, their employees and society as a whole. The hairstylist and oral surgeon have much in common and are typical of the small-business owners in Germany who help hold society together, especially beyond the major cities. The biggest difference can be seen in their take-home pay. Yet money is not the main factor in their jobs. A hairstylist earns an average income, a medical professional considerably more. That, however, is not the best way to measure the value of the work they do. It’s more about an ethos, an attitude of doing things right. And that is measured in whether the results benefit others. That attitude, well-known to Steidel and Gozdan, can often be found among the self-employed. As Amway’s Global Entrepreneurship Report shows, independence and self-determination, not income, are the main reasons people decide to go into business for themselves.

Thomas Steidel, hairdresser
Beate Gozdan, oral surgeon

Focused, purposeful

Steidel and Gozdan have different backgrounds, to be sure. And the paths that led them to self-employment clearly show how varied this economic sector can be. Steidel, for example, completed a standard three-year vocational training program, learning his trade before opening the salon. Gozdan, conversely, runs her practice together with her husband. Before opening the practice, she had to invest a lot – above all, a lot of time. Ten years passed between the day she enrolled at university and the day she completed her medical training – the same amount of time all oral surgeons spend learning the ins and outs of their profession. In other words, a willingness to work hard is one more thing the two business owners share. Neither Steidel nor Gozdan takes a break. Both remain focused, proceeding purposefully through their well-organized days, only allowing themselves a moment or two for a brief chat.

Steidel even used to come to the salon at night, directly after arriving home from a vacation, to enjoy the atmosphere and inhale the familiar smell. It’s a ritual he no longer indulges in – out of consideration for his wife.

Work ethic

The boundary between work and downtime is blurry. That, too, is typical, although not just of the self-employed. When Gozdan is at home taking care of her two children, she still thinks about work. The practice is open from early until late, and Gozdan usually does not leave before 5 p.m. Her husband often works until 9 p.m. Sitting around the kitchen table in the evening, they discuss the practice. Work schedules are assembled, case histories revisited. “I read dental publications as if they were whodunits,” Gozdan admits. “There are always new developments in our profession. It’s very exciting.”


Money is a means, not an end. When she was at university, Gozdan lived in a room that was barely bigger than a broom closet. When she later did her medical training, the pay was secondary – the work was important. She knew there would be enough money. Today she and her husband put most of their surplus income back into the practice. Certainly, they have more than enough to get by on – the car they drive is one of the nicer models on the road and their home is spacious and has a pool. Yet for their last vacation they travelled through France in a motor home. Not exactly the lap of luxury.

Steidel’s material existence is more modest. All the same, he owns his own home, drives a Mini and occasionally takes his family on an extended vacation. A few years ago they went to the United States. His income is sufficient, he says, “but that’s only because I still work at the salon as much as I can. Month for month I definitely have to make sure the business rocks.”

Gozdan’s and Steidel’s lives are strikingly similar. The differences are, upon closer inspection, fewer and smaller than one might think.


What is happiness? “Having a healthy family,” says Steidel. “Sounds like a cliché, but it’s true.” He found out how important health is when his daughter developed leukemia 15 years ago. Back then his wife had just had their second child. For six months he divided his time between the hospital and the salon – a difficult period, certainly. But what does money mean, when you consider a situation like that? The idea of leading a rich man’s life – fast car, high society – doesn’t interest him in the least, he says.

When Gozdan thinks about having another life, she dreams of going abroad – to join a development aid organization. In a few years, when the children are done with school, she and her husband would like to take a leave of absence from the practice. They want to go to Africa or Asia for a few weeks – maybe even months – to provide dental care to people who would not otherwise receive it. Volunteering your skills to help others – that, too, is a sort of luxury.

The Bertelsmann Stiftung

This text appeared in a book published by the Bertelsmann Stiftung about the social market economy.

“The social market economy has stood the test of time. Its basic principles are the foundation for Germany’s prosperity. Yet it constantly faces new challenges.”
Aart De Geus, chairman and CEO of the Bertelsmann Stiftung

How are people in Germany responding to these challenges? Has Germany’s economy developed in a way that reflects the lives of the Germans themselves? A number of young journalists set out to find answers to those questions and others.


Deutschland in Nahaufnahmen
Sozialreportagen aus dem Land der Sozialen Marktwirtschaft
New publication
Wachstum im Wandel
Chancen und Risiken für die Zukunft der Sozialen Marktwirtschaft
Look inside
Wachstum im Wandel
Die Experten in Wort und Bild

The Future of Work

Author: Tanja Breukelchen
Photography: Achim Multhaupt

Are immigrants a financial burden for Germany? Hardly! The opposite is actually true, as many successful businesses – and a current Bertelsmann Stiftung study – show.

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Some statistics speak for themselves: Between 2005 and 2014, the number of jobs in Germany created by small-business owners of non-German heritage rose from 947,000 to 1.3 million, an increase of 36 percent. At the same time, the number of small-business owners of non-native heritage rose by 25 percent, from 567,000 (2005) to 709,000 (2014). Those are just some of the findings from a new study carried out by Prognos AG on behalf of the Bertelsmann Stiftung.

What does that mean? That migration creates jobs. And we’re not talking about pizzerias and kebab stands. On the contrary: In Germany almost half of all self-employed persons of non-German heritage (48 percent) work in service jobs that are not part of the retail or food-service industries. Only 28 percent work in retail or food service, a decline of 10 percent since 2005. And one in five self-employed individuals of non-German heritage works in construction or manufacturing.

“If I come here, I want something to do!”
Fadi Friek, “Kalte Schnauze” ice cream parlor
“Freedom is only possible with financial independence.”
Jasmin Taylor, JR Touristik
“You can become happier through good deeds than with more money.”
Abdullah Altun, Altun Gleis- und Tiefbau

These people create jobs, drive economic growth and promote social integration – by serving as role models, on the one hand, but also by employing migrants. In 2014, for example, some two million people in Germany had jobs as the result of businesses run by non-German proprietors.


people in work

That figure, moreover, had increased by one-third since 2005. That is all the more remarkable since the percentage of immigrants in Germany grew by less than 9 percent in the same time period.

What is needed if even more immigrants are to join the ranks of the country’s small-business owners is better coordination of the advisory services offered by trade associations, local governments and the business community. “Training works. That becomes evident when we look at small businesses owned by people of non-German heritage. The public and private sectors, however, have to cooperate more if they want to help non-Germans start successful businesses,” says Aart De Geus, chairman and CEO of the Bertelsmann Stiftung.

“Training works. That becomes evident when we look at small businesses owned by people of non-German heritage. The public and private sectors, however, have to cooperate more if they want to help non-Germans start successful businesses.”
Aart De Geus, chairman and CEO of the Bertelsmann Stiftung


Migrantenunternehmen in Deutschland zwischen 2005 und 2014
Ausmaß, ökonomische Bedeutung, Einflussfaktoren und Förderung auf Ebene der Bundesländer
Neue Gründer hat das Land!
Sieben gute Beispiele zur Förderung von Migrantengründern
Neue Gründer hat das Land!
Migration als Chance für Gestalter und Ankunftsland

Workplace 4.0

Digitization. New forms of employment. Demographic change and its unexpected opportunities and risks. The Bertelsmann Stiftung’s publications look at the developments shaping the world of tomorrow.

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Author: Tanja Breukelchen
Illustration: Lennart Andresen, Cristian Wiesenfeld
Photography: 3alexd /

Job market – here we come! What do young people imagine the world of work will be like in the future? What are their hopes, fears and expectations? What kind of work environments and collaborative partnerships would they like? A number of young people came together at a workshop to provide answers to those questions by imagining tomorrow’s working world. Their ideas are documented in the publication Meine Arbeitswelt 2015 (My Working World 2015).

A more in-depth look is taken at the same subject in the study Inklusives Wachstum für Deutschland (Inclusive Growth for Germany), which examines the interdependencies and impacts of globalization, digitization, demographic change and increasing social inequality, among other trends.

Possible scenario: The Internet of Things has established itself by virtue of a first-class network infrastructure and the extremely successful New Economy goes hand in hand with really fragmented labor market.

Another interesting perspective on digitization can be found in the study Auf dem Weg zum Arbeitsmarkt 4.0 (On the Way to Workplace 4.0), which discusses the changes that will result from digitization by the year 2030, including six possible scenarios of how Germany’s job market will develop.


Proklamation Zukunft der Arbeit
„Meine Arbeitswelt 2025″
Auf dem Weg zum Arbeitsmarkt 4.0
Mögliche Auswirkungen der Digitalisierung auf Arbeit und Beschäftigung in Deutschland bis 2030
Wachstum im Wandel
Zehn Konfliktfelder wirtschaftlichen und sozialen Wandels in Deutschland

Doing Good Every Day

Author: Tanja Breukelchen
Photography: Arne Weychardt

In 1912, Iwan Budnikowsky led the way – but not on a skateboard. Having just turned 23, he opened his first soap store in Harburg, a town that was later incorporated into the city of Hamburg. His objective was to make it possible for people with limited incomes …

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… to purchase toiletries and other personal-hygiene articles. Detergents and soaps for housemaids and stevedores. It was a vision that ultimately led to a unique brand image, a new mindset even, one that can be summed up in a single word: Budni! That is how the denizens of Hamburg refer to Budnikowsky, the chain of drug stores that employs 1,900 people at 182 locations in the greater metropolitan area. And despite the many years that have passed since the business was first established, its commitment to social responsibility has not diminished at all.

Motivation and goodwill

And, yes, although Christoph Wöhlke sometimes still rides his skateboard to the chain’s various locations, these days he is more likely to hop on his bike. It’s simply more practical, given the distances he must cover. Wöhlke now runs the business, together with his sister Julia and his father Cord. With his full beard and easy-going manner, he’s very approachable – down to earth, purposeful, clear and direct when he speaks with others. For example, with Anja Münch. She manages one of the chain’s stores in the center of Hamburg, overseeing 19 employees, from trainees to retirees working part-time. “It’s a lot of fun,” the young woman says. What is typically Budni? “The atmosphere. It’s welcoming, friendly. We have our own brands, natural skincare products, special campaigns. Like the one to help refugees. That was intense.”

Bags for refugees

It all started when customers at one store asked if they could buy merchandise and donate it to the refugees arriving in the city. The answer was “yes,” and after that it snowballed: Masses of people turned up, purchasing products and leaving them at the front of the store. “In the beginning we didn’t even have boxes, the customers just put the bags on the floor,” Münch recalls. “They trusted us. They said, we know you’ll handle it. When we started, our employees were taking the bags with them after work and dropping them off at the refugee shelters on their own time.”

Employee involvement

It was a typically Budni thing to do. Just like the energy-saving measures in the company’s stores, the diaper-changing tables with free diapers, the commitment to “buying local,” the free lollipops, the customer advisory board and the special campaigns to support Budnianer Hilfe, the charity Budni has founded. The nonprofit’s logo features a small creature sporting a headband with a feather at the back. “That’s because we used to take the children to the Karl May Festival,” explains Gabriele Wöhlke, Christoph’s mother, referring to the summer theater festival that features cowboys, Native Americans and other figures from the Wild West, as depicted in the books of Karl May. Gabriele is the former chairwoman of Budnianer Hilfe, a role she has now passed on to daughter Julia. She remains a member of the board, however. It was actually Budni’s employees who founded the nonprofit in 1997 in order to help local children and young people. Even today, each store still supports its own project. For example, it was Budnianer Hilfe that first sponsored the Bookstart Bags that one-year-old children in Hamburg receive when they visit the doctor for their regular checkup.

“It starts by smiling when you arrive at work in the morning.”
Gabriele Wöhlke, Budnikowsky

Doing good

Doing good every day. How is it possible to make that principle come alive and, at the same time, pass a sense of corporate responsibility on to the next generation? “It starts by smiling when you arrive at work in the morning and by finding a few friendly words to say to people. We do the same thing at home. We talk to each other a lot,” explains Gabriele, the wife of Cord Wöhlke, whose father married Iwan Budnikowsky’s daughter Ruth in the 1960s. Gabriele Wöhlke is actually a private person, who likes spending time with her three children and three grandchildren. Everyone still gets together for shared meals, celebrations and weekend activities. “Setting an example for others is the most important thing. Naturally that also means helping the next generation by bringing them onboard. And doing it while they’re young,” she explains. Remembering how he supplemented his allowance at the age of seven by working in the family store, Christoph laughs. “I have more than 30 years of professional experience behind me – working for 50 cents an hour,” he says. “Earning the minimum wage would have been a dream come true.”

Sharing values

Then he grows more serious. “You can’t order a company to do good,” he says. “At the end of the day, what is good is subjective, which means it has a different meaning for both employees and customers. What’s important is communicating values, then backing that up with actual deeds, thereby motivating people to pass those values along within the company. The campaign to help refugees was not a top-down idea. It started in one of our stores. But it was our job to create a multiplier effect and spread the benefits, or at least not to prevent good things from spreading. The problem is frequently that everything becomes too regimented. Yet our employees are often the ones who have a much better idea of what would be good for us.”

“It’s our job not to prevent good things from spreading.”
Christoph Wöhlke, managing director of Budnikowsky


The company founder’s great grandson has children of his own. And he sets an example, demonstrating to them one of the things he, too, learned as a child: modesty. When he was young he worked after school in the family’s stores, as did his two siblings. He had to earn the money needed to get a driver’s license. And to buy his first car. “I had the good fortune to learn at an early age what it means to work for your money,” Wöhlke says. “When I was young I sometimes wished things were easier. Now I appreciate that they were the way they were. Sure, everyone is happy to have money and not to have to worry about buying this or that. But one of the things I learned is not to define your self-worth through money. And that’s tremendously helpful today.” Jeans instead of a suit, a bike instead of a flashy car. “It doesn’t make sense if, on the one hand, I tell people we want to work well together and as equals and, on the other, I show up in a Porsche,” he explains. “We have to walk the talk when it comes to the commitments we make and what we expect of others. Ultimately our employees are also our customers. What we do sends a clear signal.”

My Best Practice

Organized by the Bertelsmann Stiftung and the nonprofit organization Unternehmen für die Region, the My Best Practice competition recognizes ideas that help companies assume social responsibility. The competition awards prizes to small, midsized and family-run businesses that get involved on a regional level on behalf of employees and the community.


Die gesellschaftliche Verantwortung von Unternehmen angesichts neuer Herausforderungen und Megatrends
Das Projekt
Creating Corporate Cultures ist ein Projekt des Kompetenzzentrums Führung und Unternehmenskultur. Es unterstützt Führungskräfte und Organisationen bei der Entwicklung einer zukunftsfähigen Unternehmenskultur.
Mein Gutes Beispiel – Für Gesellschaftliches Unternehmensengagement

Training for the Future

With the “Network for Career Advising” Seal of Approval and the Academy for Media Development, the Bertelsmann Stiftung paved the way for two innovative projects on timely topics.

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Photography: Archiv Bertelsmann Stiftung

“Network for Career Advising” Seal of Approval

Preventing young people from becoming unemployed, promoting in-school vocational training, ensuring quality – those are only three of the goals the Bertelsmann Stiftung project SIEGEL Training-Friendly Schools (SIEGEL ausbildungsfreundliche Schule) set out to achieve when it was launched in 1999. Originally meant only for the region of Eastern Westphalia, the project proved to have widespread appeal. As a result, the national “Network for Career Advising” Seal of Approval (Bundesnetzwerk Berufswahlsiegel) was established in 2005. Even today, it is still improving the quality of career-advising activities in Germany’s schools. It also networks the schools with each other and with local businesses.

Academy for Media Development

The Academy for Media Development (Akademie für Medienentwicklung GmbH) was also a response to current events when it was founded in Cologne in 1997. Designed to help people use new media more professionally, the academy offered a number of services, from courses for interns to training for companies in the areas of multimedia applications, e-commerce and the Internet. The academy still exists, now as an independent organization.

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