New Company or New Manager?

Two young graduates successfully set up their own business with the support of Steinbeis

For an entrepreneur’s ideas to work, a variety of important questions need to be answered in advance. The Steinbeis Consulting Center Business Start-up is helping entrepreneurs with their first steps into self-employment through EXI startup vouchers. One company that got off to a successful start through the program was KPI GmbH from Tuttlingen.

KPI Engineering is a new engineering company that has introduced some innovative and carefully designed solutions, allowing itself to carve its way into the regional market for automation solutions. The firm provides consulting services to SMEs and carries out detailed on-site evaluations with the aim of developing suitable automation solutions with its clients. It then offers its client ways to ramp up machines into full scale projects, by taking on the responsibility of project management, management of procurement, and dealing with development and design. If the solution involves a robotics system, it will also take care of programming.

The brains behind KPI Engineering are two energetic mechanical engineers with a thirst for success: Marvin Plantius and Arthur Klinger. They both studied at Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences, graduating in 2016 with distinction. A market analysis of the automation industry actually formed part of the bachelor theses written by the two entrepreneurs for their degrees. They also worked as interns in industry to gain work experience and it was during their studies that they first turned to Steinbeis expert Felicitas Steck for advice on making a success out of a business concept. Steinbeis provides free, short consulting sessions of up to eight hours for innovative, technologybased spin-offs from universities of applied sciences.

“The founders were highly motivated, pursuing some totally realistic goals, and they had a winning business concept – so it was an optimum situation for an entrepreneur,” summarizes Steck, who is a business consultant and systemic coach and provides startup advice to service providers, freelancers, IT specialists, and engineers. The key question Plantius and Klinger came to her with at the Steinbeis Consulting Center was whether they should set up a new company or take on an existing company as new managers. During the first advisory stage of the project, the priority was to check the idea and compare the startup risks to the succession risks. A detailed discussion took place between the entrepreneurs and the consultant to examine their venture. This showed that there were many factors speaking in favor of taking on a company, which would already be established in the market, with a customer base, experienced staff, and a network of business partners and suppliers.

But there were also downsides to this option. Long-established structures and a responsibility toward people at the company would make restructuring the business and becoming accepted by staff as the new bosses extremely challenging. After a detailed analysis and advice from the Steinbeis expert, the two young graduates decided to start their own business venture. “Our goal is to manage a company based on our own values, offering carefully designed engineering solutions without being tied to existing structures,” explains Plantius. The duo quickly moved on to the next questions: How do I set up my own company and what type of company should it be? Given the nature of risk encountered in the industry and general acceptance, the duo chose to make their firm a German limited liability company, or GmbH. Existing networks and a checklist provided by Steck meant they could set up the GmbH within four weeks.

There is always a risk when setting up a business that customers do not yet trust the company enough and the firm fails to enter the market. The entrepreneurs managed to sidestep this issue by drawing on the advice of the Steinbeis consultant and entering into a fixed cooperation agreement with a firm already established in the field of automation. In the long term, KPI Engineering hopes to produce a number of components required in the automation industry by itself. The founders also received advice from Steinbeis on financial backing, with two suitable options being backing through the ZIM program and hi-tech innovation vouchers (voucher B) through the federal state. The two engineers are already drafting their business expansion plans.


Felicitas Steck has been working as a business consultant and management coach for 12 years. Her work at the Steinbeis Consulting Center Start-up involves advising clients on company startups, consolidation, and succession. She also provides training and gives talks.

Felicitas Steck
Steinbeis Consulting Center Start-up (Stuttgart)

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