DM founder Götz W. Werner died at the age of 78. Credit: Alex Stiebritz / DM

On the death of DM founder Götz Werner: Why his Entrepreneurial Legacy is so Important

Like hardly any other entrepreneur, Götz Werner has combined social and business acumen. That is why now it is important not only to say goodbye to a valuable economic player, but also to recognize his social legacy.

Götz Werner, founder of the pharmacy chain DM, died at the age of 78. Werner grew up as the son of a druggist. According to his family, his greatest wish was to one day become a druggist himself. After completing a relevant apprenticeship, he started to work at his father’s „Drogerie Werner“. But his innovative ideas did not appeal to his father’s idea of business. Since he was not able to implement his business ideas in other companies either, Werner decided in 1973 to found his own company, DM-drogerie markt. He literally founded a drugstore empire out of nothing but by introducing the discounter principle. This fundamentally changed the drugstore market and made him a millionaire himself. But for Werner, the focus was not only on economic success, the focus was on people and their needs. He was also committed to the fair treatment of his own employees and was a pioneer of the idea of unconditional basic income for society as a whole.

Humanity as a Synonym of Success 

If you take people’s needs seriously, said Werner, you can’t avoid success. Today DM-drogerie markt is active in 14 European countries. More than 66,000 people work there. With a turnover of 12.3 billion euros, the company is a market leader in Europe. In fact compared to other companies, things are going differently at DM. Sales employees sometimes attend theater courses to develop their personality, and they can actually make comparatively many decisions for themselves. In any case, Werner’s idea of success has always proven to be right.

Werner had been campaigning for the unconditional basic income since the early 1990s and even more so after he left his managerial responsibility in 2008. He saw it as an important social contribution, to give people the freedom to take their own initiatives, and to participate in the life of free civil society, even in times of increasing globalization, digitization and automation. “He was always aware that he would not live to see the completion of this idea,” says the DM – press release on his death. 

His legacy is more important than ever

Even if you think universal basic income is less effective than Werner, his legacy is more important than ever. Companies with an attitude of social responsibility are in demand in the face of major social and economic challenges, such as climate change, increasing globalization and demographic change in the labor market. The vehemence with which Werner devoted himself to the issues of sustainability and social justice should be appealing to all of us as well as a source of inspiration to follow his example. His vision, ideas and last but not least, his passion were meant to have a lasting effect in our society.

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