Josefine Palfinger: “Our employees were always most important to us”

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, Josefine Palfinger, wife of the late Hubert Palfinger Senior, recalls how they drove the growth and expansion of innovative technology company PALFINGER into a world market leader.

90 years of PALFINGER – Mrs. Palfinger what does that mean to you?

Seeing how our small family business has become such a big, internationally successful company makes me very proud.

You have played an active role in the company since 1965, when it was located on Vogelweiderstrasse in Salzburg, Austria. What are your memories of the early days?

Back then, we were still a very small company with no more than 18 employees. We did not have a lot. Computers had not arrived yet and there were not even any price lists available. Barely imaginable from a present-day perspective. Preparing the first price lists for spare parts and tippers by hand was the first task that I took on.

Over the years, you have taken on a wide variety of responsibilities at PALFINGER.

Yes, in the early days – to be matter-of-fact about it – I was a jack of all trades. All the office work passed across my desk. My husband was busy in the workshop, and I took care of the administrative tasks in the office, with the effect that we complemented one another well.

I issued invoices and did the cash books, added up the employees’ hours and checked the stamping times, and also maintained relationships and cultivated contact with our customers. Of course, my activities changed as time went by. In the end, I had a number of business responsibilities, such as checking purchase invoices, whereby I definitely kept a close eye on expenditure too. But due to automation and the introduction of SAP, everything is running very smoothly without me as well these days.

Your wide variety of tasks must have taken up a lot of time. How did you reconcile having a family and a family business in those days?

I was very lucky to have my mother there. She was a great help and looked after the children so that I could spend a lot of time in the company.

How did you assert yourself as a woman in an industrial company? What was important to you in your role in this context?

Of course, coming from a small company, I grew into this important role. And as an owner, I didn’t really find it difficult to assert myself. But it was always very important to me to be honest and respectful when dealing with our customers and our employees.

Times were not always easy during PALFINGER’s process of growth – for example, there was the oil crisis in the 1970s and the currency crisis in the 1980s. What was your experience of these periods and how did you cope with them?

Times of crisis are tough for all those affected. But we always had the overriding goal of successfully guiding the company through these crises, and the strong will to do so. If nothing else, that was for our many loyal employees, who went through these difficult periods with us. To us, it was essential to carry on and not give up especially because of them. It is an attitude that PALFINGER stands by to this day.

How was your relationship with the PALFINGER dealers in those days?

We had a very good, close relationship with the dealers, outside work as well. In some cases, this led to life-long friendships, which you could count on also in difficult times.

You see PALFINGER products and therefore your family name all over the world. Has it always been clear to you that the company would become a success story? Have you ever had any doubts regarding its success?

No, I have never really had any moments of doubt. I had and still have complete faith in our employees, our dealers and our products. I have also always considered it our duty as the Palfinger family to do everything we can to create the right conditions to ensure the continued existence and future of the company and offer our employees a secure job.

Do you still feel connected to the company today?

The close link between the Palfinger family and the company is unbroken. Even though I am no longer involved in the operational business, I am still as delighted as ever about every PALFINGER crane that I see. But what fills me with pride in particular is the fact that my sons, as members of the Supervisory Board of PALFINGER AG, together with our Executive Board are doing such a good job taking the company forward.

What are your hopes for PALFINGER and for the employees on the occasion of the 90th anniversary?

I hope that we continue to enjoy such success in the business, that the employees are happy to come to work, that they are proud of our company and that we can also celebrate the 100th anniversary together in ten years’ time.