“At first one actually thinks one will live forever.”
Mo Bader

Work was the hobby

At the age of 66, Mo Bader cannot imagine simply to do nothing.  And yet, he sold his company.  How now to live a life that has always been about work? A conversation.

The stern eyes of Mo Bader spot something on the floor of the conference room.  What exactly is that? he asks in the direction of an employee.  He bends down and picks up a paper scrap.  Later during the interview, he will laugh about this moment.  I can't help myself, he says.  Once the boss, always the boss.  The founder of inotec Barcode Security is wearing a chequered jacket, a pocket square, and a white shirt.  His white hair is well groomed.  Having sold inotec to Obermark in 2015, he still works there two days a week.

When did you first think about having to resolve the succession, Mr. Bader?
At some point in my mid-forties, I wondered for the first time what would actually happen, if I were no longer there the next day.  After all, 50 employees and their families depend on this company.

Did your children not want to take over the business?
No, they have their own plans and signalled early on that they have no interest.  There was no one else who had the desire and necessary skills to run the business.  Therefore, a sale was the only reasonable solution.  But of course this is hard, that can’t be denied.

What exactly is hard?
I’m 66 years old, I still feel young enough to be active.  Nothing to do, nothing to produce, no longer to have a purpose - I can’t even imagine it. I’m not ready yet.  Of course I could now do all the wonderful things for which I have never had time.  But at night I ask myself:  What good did I achieve today?

So far you are still active in the company.
Yes, I’m still here two days a week.  I’m always immediately engaged with the matter, always find something that I do not agree with, tinker with the employees in production, I still have a lot of ideas.

No hobbies for the rest of the week?
Oh well, I don't play golf, nor tennis.  I also don’t care for soccer.  My hobby has always been work, there never was anything else.  Twelve to 14 hours every day, I did everything, I even got under the machines and tinkered around.  I have to learn to let go.

“Selling was the only reasonable solution. But of course this is hard, one can’t deny it.”

What then was crucial to your decision to sell inotec to Obermark?
It was important to me that the company continue to exist here at the site and that the employees keep their jobs, I owed them that.  I also wanted to experience the moment that someone else leads the company, so I sold now, although I certainly would have been able to work for a few more years.

Does it hurt that your own children didn't want to continue your life's work?
Pain is not the right word; one is surprised by reality catching up.  At first one actually thinks one will live forever.  Then one starts to believe that one’s own son will continue the life's work.  Finally one realises that none of all this is true.

Have you since been able to reflect on yourself as a business leader?
I’m a difficult person who certainly didn't make it easy for anyone.  A patriarch surely, with all the good and bad sides.  I always maintained some distance, we weren't on a first name basis.  We didn't believe in jeans on the job.  I demanded discipline but also always exemplified it.  First and foremost, quality demands discipline, it’s the basis of our success.

“At my age,
others check the
weather every day,
I will always check
what's going on at inotec.”

How important is money in the decision to sell?
You only think about money for as long as you don't have any.  Money eventually becomes unimportant.  For the sale, I had the price negotiated by lawyers.  The price always has to be right, no question, but money doesn’t drive my work.

In hindsight, what would you have done differently during your time as owner manager?
Maybe I wasn’t always brave enough. inotec was always debt-free, we always financed our growth with our own capital.  Accordingly, the many steps we took were mostly small.  I was also often too kind, should have parted with some employees earlier.  Furthermore, we modernized the company relatively late – in short, we probably didn't take advantage of all the possibilities that we had.  Nevertheless, we are proud to be very healthy and solid today.

What are your hopes for the next chapter in your life?
At my age one wishes for health.  Otherwise, I have some ideas, maybe I can manage to make something of them.  Maybe even in another industry.  But I don't have the stamina to take on corporate responsibility yet again.

What do you feel today when you walk past your former company?
It's like a house in which one lived for long time.  The memory remains.  If the new owner keeps it in good shape, then one’s happy.  In a few years I want to walk past here with my cane and be able to proudly say: I built this.  At my age, others check the weather every day, I will always check what's going on at inotec.

December 2015