A start-up that makes implants out of biosynthetic tissue. A supplier that ensures products can actually be delivered. Or a platform that facilitates additive manufacturing: The companies that ZEISS invests in, ZEISS acquires or with which ZEISS establishes strategic partnerships are diverse and ensure that ZEISS becomes more and more adaptable.
But how do these kinds of transactions even come about at ZEISS? Who checks whether the partners are actually a good fit? And who ensures that ZEISS' interests are represented? Johannes, that's who! As Mergers & Acquisitions Manager – or M&A Manager for short – at ZEISS, he arranges and coordinates partnerships, investments, and company takeovers. Although he was actually doing something completely different when he first joined ZEISS.
Johannes started out as a physicist. The subject fascinated him back when he was at school. Getting to the bottom of things, looking into the Earth's core while also understanding the significant correlations – this was what inspired him to study physics. “Then came the question: Postdoctoral research or job?” Johannes says, thinking back to when he launched his career. “I wanted to get to know the industry first. The decision to do an apprenticeship at ZEISS was an easy one to make – especially as the company offered me long-term prospects from day one. I'm a good example of the opportunities an agile company can offer. From a physicist to M&A Manager – I'm excited about what comes next.”
But Johannes did take things one step at a time: After his apprenticeship, he became a systems engineer in product development in the Sport Optics division. He then transferred to the Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology (SMT) segment. Here he managed the transfer of technology between various ZEISS sites – a major step toward management. “This expanded my horizons and made me want to learn about other management concepts. Not only did my boss at the time help and advise me, but she also paved the way for me to do my MBA – and ZEISS paid for this further education.”
As Senior Manager M&A, Johannes is currently responsible for mergers and acquisitions. He analyzes business models and corporate data, liaises with contacts, and opens the lines of communication.
Johannes and his team aim to attract passionate people and acquire promising innovations for collaborations with ZEISS. This could be through a friendly takeover, a partnership, a minority interest or through the purchase of patents. But the overall vision is always the same: “To create a successful community and ensure that the merging companies are stronger and more valuable together than what they would be if they were on their own.”
Could ZEISS not develop the technology it has acquired itself? Johannes is confident: “In many instances, yes it could. But not so quickly and perhaps not efficiently enough. That's why we look for partners who can complement us and our technological portfolio.” But what does this have to do with physics? “Quite a lot! Science and corporate acquisitions revolve around mathematical models, formulas, and key figures, which are then used for accurate research and holistic analysis. With my experience, I can debate from a scientific or a business management perspective based on my judgement and depending on who I'm dealing with.”
Initiatives for potential partnerships usually emerge from the ZEISS divisions' strategic areas. This is where Johannes and his colleagues come in. After requesting initial information about the company, talks begin – always in secret. “Both sides appreciate discretion,” Johannes explains. “And mutual interest! We try to win them over and build bridges. But not every project leads to a successful acquisition, as we are constantly learning with every M&A process, and initial assumptions can turn out to be incorrect. The important thing is that both sides benefit. If it's not a good fit, we wish them luck and go on our way.”
It is worth incorporating a range of expertise throughout the M&A process: Tax consultants and attorneys, accountants and bankers, advisers and decision-makers. Johannes manages all the stakeholders and is proactive in ensuring each project progresses. On average, it takes six months to a year from the first phone call to the final signature.
With his work on various M&A projects, Johannes is also helping to shape the future of ZEISS. “It's very exciting. I'm really grateful that I can get to know so many different sides of ZEISS and therefore make a positive contribution to ZEISS' development,” says Johannes.