Portrait / hans t. gonder
The entrepreneur HANS T. GONDER and thousands of employees ensure every day that offices are clean and processes are reliable – for the benefit of workers and the environment
hen Hans T. Gonder talks about sustainable ideas, he of- ten uses the following anecdote: one of his large cus- tomers from the financial sector had a reoccurring prob-
lem with fruit flies in a small kitchen. The challenge was to solve this problem without using poisonous or environmentally-harmful methods. Gonder’s team came up with the unusual solution of us- ing carnivorous plants. The flies disappeared. The customer was impressed.
This is just one small episode from Gonder’s daily business; how- ever, it underscores the larger picture: a company that treats peo- ple well and improves its impact on the environment by protecting resources and reducing the use of chemicals and ultimately emis- sions. “It’s great that successful entrepreneurs have the opportuni- ty to improve people’s lives overall,” says the 58-year-old. He took over the company from his late father, after embarking on his ca- reer by establishing his own company in the facility management sector.
The Gonder Group is the leading facility manager for financial and consulting firms in the Rhine-Main region and has expanded its portfolio to extend far beyond the realm of cleaning offices. The company supports breweries with special logistics services aimed at bottling and distribution, provides for the timely production and delivery of newspapers thanks to its own personnel, and ensures that fruit and vegetables freshly and reliably reach supermarket shelves. But all this work can only be accomplished with a large team and this is where Gonder sees the focus of his work as an en- trepreneur: “Treating employees well is important, because their work is the key to our success.”
He has gathered practical experience from the ground up, since he himself used to wear the company’s workwear. “The feeling of how I was sometimes treated had a lasting impact on me,” recalls Gonder. “Back then I swore that my employees should never feel that way.” Therefore, the boss places the utmost importance on creating an environment where people enjoy working, managers have freedom and take on responsibility, and there is a prevailing mutual respect. Sometimes the boss also helps out families, for ex- ample when it comes to financing an education.
The married father of three is generally optimistic about hu- manity and understands that sometimes it is just the circum- stances preventing people from unlocking their full potential. Therefore, he and his company work in a voluntary capacity to de- velop structures that are aimed at helping people. As the co- founder and member of the Supervisory Board of the non-profit Joblinge AG, he supports young people unable to find work after completing comprehensive school (Hauptschule) and secondary school (Realschule). As a sponsor of the rugby club SC Frankfurt 1880, he is working on the dynamic development of the youth de- partment, including youth tournaments for guests from all around Europe. Moreover, he is on the Acquisition Committee of the Städel Museum and supports the Frankfurt Opera.
Gonder is convinced that his obsession with having a positive impact on employees, the environment and society is due to his name. “If your company and your family share the same name then every day you feel sense of responsibility to act in a good and fair manner,” he explains. And thus he also wants to be fair to the envi- ronment. Sometimes this occurs in the form of carnivorous plants, cloths made of recycled material or honey from the company’s own premises. Gonder was also the pioneer when it comes to the chem- ical-free cleaning of buildings. “Even I thought that it was impossi- ble, but it’s fantastic to see how much you can change with the right approach,” he says.
TEXT: Tim Farin
ILLUSTRATION: Carla Fuentes
The Gonder Group in Frankfurt is com- prised of several companies specialising in facility management, logistics and person- nel services. Gonder has increased annual revenue from €3.5 million in 2000 to most recently €75 million. His companies cur- rently employ 3,700 people. And the 58- year-old still has a lot of plans: He would like to achieve €100 million in revenue by 2024, which would coincide precisely with the 100th anniversary of the family-run company. Gonder is married and the fa- ther of three children.
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