Silke Eckstein on the management challenges and top skills: sustainable leadership in every aspect.
Published on 05.10.2023
Sustainability has gained enormous importance in recent years. We interviewed Silke Eckstein, Managing Director of SND PorzellanManufaktur, about how she sees sustainability in personnel management.
At PSI 2023, the Ladies’ Lunch was held for the first time to strengthen and bring women in particular together in the promotional products industry. What was your impression?
Silke Eckstein: “Basically, I very much welcome the fact that such get-togethers are organised. Unfortunately, I was only present for the first few minutes, as I had to return to our stand at short notice due to a very large number of visitors. For that reason, it is difficult to make a statement on this.“
How did you achieve the position in which you are now working?
Silke Eckstein: “My parents have always been self-employed. Accordingly, I experienced from childhood what it means to be an entrepreneur. It was clear to me very early on that I wanted to join my parents’ company. The SND PorzellanManufaktur was actually founded in 1998 together with my father. For this reason, I was able to grow into this position over many years. But then I was also able to implement my own style after my father left.“
What is the biggest challenge in your job?
Silke Eckstein: “For me personally, it’s about managing a company sustainably. For me, sustainability in this context means that the company should still be able to exist on the market in the medium and long term. It can only do that if I have employees who are committed to this idea. Accordingly, the selection, management and retention of the right employees is essential – that is a very big challenge here and there.” (laughs)
There are still few women in management positions in the promotional products industry. What do you think are the major causes for this?
Silke Eckstein: “From my point of view, this is a complex question that cannot be answered in such a general way. I’ll try anyway: On the one hand, there are societal influences as to whether a woman can do it at all – which is of course total nonsense, because a woman can do it as a matter of course! But then there is also the family factor. It is an incredible balancing act to reconcile everything. Because here – as we already experienced with our parents – unfortunately, in most families it is primarily the women who are in charge.
But in some cases, positive developments can be observed in the next generations. Here, the men are taking on more responsibility for the daily needs of the family, which take up so much of their time. I’m optimistic about that – even if it will take longer before everything is desirable.“
Speaking of New Work: Let’s talk about digital and remote working, job sharing, mentoring and work-life balance.
Silke Eckstein: “I would like to answer this question only for my own company. SND PorzellanManufaktur is a production company. Eighty per cent of the employees produce goods by hand – the question of ‘new work’ does not arise here. Nevertheless, we have also adapted to the needs of our employees for shorter working hours. Whereas we used to have only full-time employees, today around 30 percent have reduced working hours. Most of the colleagues who can work from anywhere are also allowed to take full advantage of this. Nevertheless, we value the personal interaction at work very much.“
From your experience: Are there certain moments or competences in business life in which women are superior to men or which they find more difficult than men?
Silke Eckstein: “No. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses – regardless of gender.“
What would you say are the most important skills required in your job?
Silke Eckstein: “Empathy, determination, assertiveness, flexibility, composure. Professional know-how, which doesn’t mean you have to be able to do everything yourself, but you should know what you’re talking about.“
What is the best piece of professional advice you have ever received – and from whom?
Silke Eckstein: “I am a person who takes decisions quite quickly. The prerequisite for that is that I trust my gut feeling. I learned that from my parents.“
What is the last thing you learned?
Silke Eckstein: “Well, we just set up a new webshop – I learned a lot there.“
What motivates you anew every day?
Silke Eckstein: “That’s actually a very good closing question – I love my job because it’s varied and I spend my time with amazing people.“