AGCO Corp.’s chief executive doesn’t paper over the differences between Germany, the country of his heritage, and France, where he has pursued a life of learning that culminated in his being knighted by the French government this week.
When the tractor and agricultural products manufacturer decided to move the home of its Massey-Ferguson brand to Beauvais, France, from England, some feared there would be a clash of German directness and French sensitivity.
Instead, AGCO Chairman, President and CEO Martin Richenhagen focused on the promise of marrying German precision and French creativity, and today the company is set to embark on its third expansion in the northern French city since taking over a local plant nearly 25 years ago.
Since joining AGCO in 2004, Mr. Richenhagen has made use of experience gained at a young age, when he visited France on multiple high-school exchange programs.
Negotiating with French labor unions has been relatively painless, contrary to outside perceptions, and it’s made easier by understanding the way they think — and the way they think about him, he said.
“Our language always sounds very tough and very unfriendly,” he said of his own mother tongue. “Germans are known all over the world for the lack of humor, so when you can relax a little bit, make a joke about yourself, then you get a lot of tension out of the discussion.”
Those talks have been key to AGCO’s success since choosing France as the home base of the Massey Ferguson tractor brand. Overall, the company has invested 300 million euros to date and plans to swell its total workforce from 2,500 to 3,000 in the coming years as it takes over yet another building recently purchased from Swiss food giant Nestle in Beauvais.