By James Wells in Gutersloh, Germany

GUTERSLOH: In 1994, Miele relied on the German market for half of its sales, but with a new generation running the family-owned private company, its home market will soon represent less than a quarter of sales.

In an exclusive interview conducted at the company’s head office in the German town of Gutersloh, company co-owner Dr Markus Miele said that the business is increasing its international focus.

“Just 10 years ago, my father and Peter Zinkann were in charge,” said Dr Miele, who is co-owner of the business with the other fourth generation owner of the private company – Dr Reinhard Zinkann.

“In 1994, 50 per cent of our sales were split between Germany and other markets. When we were developing new products we would rely on Germany to do 50 per cent of our job, but this has completely turned around.

“The ratio now is 28 per cent in Germany and 72 per cent abroad and when we are now launching products, we have to make sure that the top three or top five markets are happy with the products.

“It is not just a case of telling our engineers what to do, you have to go out and see what the customer wants in the USA, South Africa or Australia and particularly with cooking products, what recipes they are using and the ingredients they buy,” he said.

One of the other major changes to the business in addition to the next generation inheriting the whitegoods manufacturer has been the appointment of the head of Miele’s Switzerland subsidiary Dr Reto Bazzi as board manager for sales and marketing.

“Dr Bazzi has a different mindset and a different view. If you want to be international, we need a multinational view. Moving from a German or Euro-centric company to a really multinational company — this is our biggest challenge.”

While the short term goal is clearly globalisation, when he is asked what his ultimate goal is for his tenure at the company, Dr Miele takes no time to answer.

“The long term goal is to hand it to the next generation — we want to grow and grow in a sustainable manner. We have the next generation in place if they are able and want to do it — this is the pre-requisite.

“At the moment, getting more and more international is the key for Miele. We will keep on the sustainable growth path. In the short term, we will continue to finance it ourselves and create more markets with Miele sales subsidiaries.”