Nowadays, one can only dream of having such a start into the world of self-employment. In the Seventies, while still a salaried employee, Karl-Heinz Sprenger worked some of the time in the company, and some of the time at home. Back then, that was par for the course for the surgical mechanic. Young Sprenger was soon inundated with inquiries for products that he might be able to manufacture. His manual dexterity was in great demand. When his boss finally asked him to make up his mind, the 24-year old decided to become self-employed. “Orders simply arrived unsolicited. All I had to do was to ensure that I could supply by the agreed date and to a high enough standard of quality”.
The surgical master mechanic became an entrepreneur with a milling machine and a vise. “I like to look back at that time. In summer, I worked on the balcony, and listened to political discussions on the radio. I knew very precisely the volume of work needed to ensure that we were doing well”. In 1997, the Sprengers built their first workshop, measuring 130 square meters. In 2009, a new building was constructed at the Riedgraben address where the company head office remains to this day.
Karl-Heinz Sprenger is very proud of the fact that he has managed to retain all of his original customers. “In all of those years, only one single customer has jumped ship”, he reminisces. He maintains personal contact with many of them, in a spirit of mutual esteem, and each knows what an asset they have in each other. “One of our customers in the USA has been placing orders with us for 30 years. Every time he visits Germany, he drops by and thanks us for the good work we do. For me, that is the greatest accolade”.
This experienced businessman knows that the future of the sector does not lie in contract manufacturing. “It is becoming progressively less worthwhile to make products that can also be produced in Pakistan. In my view, the future lies in the development and production of high-caliber, certified quality products.
At the present time, all the talk is of certification. However, while the sector is now only just beginning to measure jaw parts, Sprenger has already been working from technical drawings for the last 20 years. For us, the step to certification was therefore only a small one.
Even after 20 years, Sprenger the entrepreneur has remained a hands-on craftsman. “Over the years, you tend to acquire a lot of knowledge. I still enjoy doing the craftsman tasks myself. For me, it is a great source of satisfaction when I can place completed pincettes in the drawer of my bench, knowing that I have made something that is going to be used in a hospital”.
For a long time, Christian Sprenger, born in 1979, had nothing whatsoever to do with surgical mechanics. After graduating from high school, he studied mechanical engineering on a combined academic/practical course – ‘dual study’ in Germany – completing a traineeship as an industrial mechanic alongside his degree studies. After that, he worked for 10 years as a salaried member of the development staff in a German SME. He drew his salary, he went on vacation and had no need to worry about his future. Then, one day, it became clear to him: “I want something different. I want to be independent”.
His father had never asked him if he would like to join his parent’s company. “It was entirely my own decision”. In 2014, he took a step into a less certain future. Which landed him squarely in a sector that appeared to have more past than future. To shape his own future as well as that of the Sprenger workforce. This graduate engineer has not regretted this step – indeed, quite the reverse is true. “For me, the most important thing is to pursue my own objective in life. I believe that is only possible as an entrepreneur”.