How to Run a 170 Year Old Company Like A Startup

October 4, 2017, 2:45 PM UTC

Joe Kaeser is not wasting time—he’s taking action. He’s the CEO of Siemens AG, one of the world’s largest industrial enterprises with revenues of $88 billion. Since he took the helm of the German conglomerate in 2013, Kaeser has been moving fast to transform the industrial giant into the digital age and focusing on businesses that will serve society’s needs.

Kaeser is a staunch advocate for what corporate America calls “leading with purpose,” or how businesses can do well by doing good.  Siemens has been a leader in cutting the company’s carbon footprint and a strong supporter of apprenticeship programs that train students for next-generation manufacturing jobs. As he puts it, “If you’re not in the business to improve society, you shouldn’t be in business.”

Kaeser joined Siemens right out of college and has worked there for 37 years. He spent five of those years in Silicon Valley where he became inspired by the fast pace of successful startups. Ever since then, he has urged Siemens employees to adopt an entrepreneurial mentality. He’s relying on his workforce of 350,000 people to help him lead the 19th century-origin company in the age of Apple, Google, and Amazon.

“I’m not going to be the one who turns out the last lights of the last conglomerate,” he says. “So we need to reinvent ourselves all the time. We’ve been around for 170 years. It’s great to have a great past and history. But it’s even greater to have a good future. So the most important history is the history we make today. Irrespective of our past, we need to look forward.”


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