The Lessons from the Hidden Champions

Lessons from the Hidden Champions

The innovation fabric of Germany's economy

> Target audienceKey benefitsKey topicsMeet the staff

Hidden champions are mainly medium-sized companies that hold a leading international market position and are predominantly family-owned. Their leading roles, their creation of wealth, and their global success attract managers from all over the world who are in the process of developing their own strategies to turn their companies into hidden champions.

This program will help them to explore the phenomenon of hidden champions and examine both the sources of their success and the challenges to come. Furthermore, participants will analyze to which extent their own companies already have what it takes to become – and stay – hidden champions and to what degree they need to make structural and strategic changes. This can affect their business segments, their global positions, the role that innovation plays in their enterprises, their customer relations, and their corporate cultures.


Target audience

Executives of mid-sized companies who are in charge of business development or strategic management and who wish to understand the success of hidden champions; sales executives who intend to do business with hidden champions and build solid relationships with them.


Key benefits

By exploring the challenges they may face when attempting to turn their companies into hidden champions, executives will gain a clear sense of the mindsets, competencies, and strategies needed to succeed in this endeavor. They will learn how to capitalize on and leverage their strengths and weaknesses – as well as those of their employees, peers, and superiors – on their way to reaching the goals they have in mind.


Key topics

  • Germany’s economic development and the role of hidden champions
  • How Germany’s hidden champions think
  • The wealth creation of hidden champions
  • Germany’s mid-sized companies as champions of innovation
  • Success factors of Germany’s hidden champions
  • Challenges for current and future hidden champions


Meet the teaching staff

Johannes Habel (Program Director)

is an associate professor at ESMT Berlin and co-director of the Hidden Champions Institute (HCI).
In his research and teaching, he focuses on sales and marketing strategies of hidden champions. Johannes has cooperated with hidden champions in industries such as machine-building, automotive, construction, power tools, and imaging.
Johannes’ research has been published in some of the world’s most renowned academic management journals, such as the Journal of Marketing, the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, and the International Journal of Research in Marketing. Furthermore, Johannes has published case studies with Harvard Business Publishing and The Case Centre.
Before joining ESMT Berlin, Johannes worked as a strategy consultant for Booz & Company and as a radio journalist for several years. Johannes studied business administration at Mannheim University and completed his doctorate in sales management at Bochum University.


Bianca Schmitz (Program Director)

is a co-director of the Hidden Champions Institute (HCI) and a program director at ESMT Berlin.
She is responsible for establishing new international alliances with other business schools, institutions and networks, such as the Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM).
Her focus lies on agile innovation processes, especially of so-called Hidden Champions. She has been trained in Design Thinking by Hasso Plattner Institute and is a certified SCRUM Product Owner.
She studied Regional Sciences of Latin America at the University of Cologne and finished with a diploma. Her focus was on economics and the Spanish language. Bianca worked for three years at the International Association for Sports and Leisure Facilities (IAKS), a nonprofit organization based in Cologne, Germany, with branches throughout the world. Bianca’s international profile is supplemented by two years of work experience in Spain.