Where the nail really is hit on the head

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Where the nail really is hit on the head

Schweizerische Nagelfabrik is situated in the industrial sector of Winterthur-Grüze. A very unprepossessing place, it is the last of its kind. Time seems to have stood still there, but this is far from the truth. We met up with Rainer Thomann, the former managing director, and Milan Matic, Head of Production, to find out more about "Nagli," as the nail factory is known. The conversation covered the company's pioneering spirit, values, retirement provision and flexwork.
Where the nail really is hit on the head
Rainer Thomann has actually already retired, so he doesn't walk through the door until 10.00 a.m. At the age of 66, Thomann, who is from Winterthur, still works the equivalent of two days a week in administration. This has long been something born not of compulsion but of privilege – a sort of meaningful hobby. "It is a wonderful feeling to remain welcome in the business and to be made use of," explains Thomann. He plans to continue in this manner until his 70th birthday. Then he wants to start drawing his postponed AHV pension, keep climbing mountains – and of course look in on "Nagli" at least once a week.

At 50 it's worth starting to think about the second half of your life – and not just in relation to retirement provision.

Rainer Thomann

What will the second half of life be like?

Money or quality of life? Thomann has always opted for greater quality of life. Not that financial security in old age wasn't important to him. He took good care to provide for himself. At the age of 55 he reduced his working time to the equivalent of four days a week. "I am aware that I am in a privileged position. For 30 years I had a regular income and was able to build up my retirement provision." Thanks to a skillful retirement strategy, Thomann was able to optimize his occupational retirement provision toward the end of his working life. He recommends that everyone think about their old age in plenty of time and optimize their retirement provision to the extent possible for them: "From 50 you shouldn't just start thinking about your retirement provision but generally about how you wish to spend the second half of your life. If you have the opportunity to do something good for yourself, you should do it. Why always be dictated to by money and a hectic pace? It makes sense to question common values critically."

To have your foot on the gas non-stop until the age of 65 and then retire overnight is something that Thomann considers extremely unhealthy. He wonders why the working model in Switzerland is still so rigid. After all, he believes that flexwork models are to everyone's benefit: Companies benefit from the transfer of knowledge and employees from a gradual withdrawal from working life. Thomann is grateful that "Nagli" introduced flexible working models early on, with great success.

We don't have any hierarchies or bosses – it works perfectly.

Milan Matic

Success without any hierarchical levels

The nail factory has always kept pace with the times and is perhaps even somewhat ahead of them. The SME is managed by its six employees – there is no boss. "Nagli" has for many years practiced the corporate philosophy "people before profit." Viewed in this way, it seems a matter of course that in 2013 the idea arose of reorganizing the SME as a cooperative and abolishing hierarchical levels. The shares of Schweizerische Nagelfabrik AG – and hence the factory and site – belong entirely to the cooperative. "This construct guarantees the continued existence of 'Nagli' – it is in our hands what happens to the site and the factory," explains Thomann. Another milestone was the introduction of the 34-hour week in 2016. "Back then, hardly anyone had talked about a four-day week. Now the model appears more and more often – we, on the other hand, have already been using it for six years," says the former managing director with a smile. He believes the model to be more efficient and cost-effective. After all, there is no boss with a high salary.

Head of Production, Milan Matic, adds: "The atmosphere in the team is great: We are all pulling together and everyone is their own boss – this creates a good feeling and makes me very proud". Matic has worked at Schweizerische Nagelfabrik for 25 years and wants to continue to do so until his retirement. When he is 50 he wants to take things a bit easier and reduce his working hours to spend more time on his beloved racing bikes. How will he manage it? He doesn't know yet. But Matic is following the guidance of his colleague Thomann and seeking advice early.

Six "bosses": Does it work?

The two men report that a key requirement for successful self-management is a good working environment. The model represents good training for getting involved in a community and not putting your own needs above everything else.
"There are differences of opinion everywhere. But our aim is to resolve conflicts amicably," explains Thomann. The most important decisions are discussed in staff meetings: Talks normally last until everyone is in agreement. Apart from on one occasion this has worked every time.

Our corporate philosophy is certainly pioneering. We believe in people before profit.

Rainer Thomann

A view to the future

Fairness has always played a crucial role at "Nagli"; both in the team and with respect to customers and suppliers, in line with the corporate philosophy, "people before profit". "We aren't the right partner for someone who is merely looking for the cheapest price. We stand for a high level of service and flexibility. Even if a customer forgets to place an order, we take care of their issue," says Thomann. "Nails will always be needed, but perhaps just different types. Our job is to continuously adapt to customer requirements," explains Matic. "We always have been, and still are, open to new things, which is why it's going so well." "Nagli" now produces over 320 types of nails – a figure that is growing. As well as from loyal Swiss customers, more and more inquiries are being received from abroad with respect to custom-made products.

The factory's future is particularly dependent on the people who work there. For this reason, succession planning is ascribed a high level of significance. A good mix and the perfect age structure are essential: The youngest employee is 33, while the oldest is 66 years old.

Facts about Schweizerische Nagelfabrik

"Nagli" was founded in 1895, more than 125 years ago. It is now the only nail factory in Switzerland. The SME has for many years trusted in its partnership with Vita to provide its retirement provision solution. Vita is dedicated to fair, sustainable and transparent occupational retirement provision. Anyone who wants to take a look inside the factory can do so: The association Inbahn organizes regular tours of Switzerland's only nail factory with its over 125-year-old machines. It's definitely worth a trip!


As an entrepreneur, how can you optimize your occupational retirement provision?

Our tip: Take advantage of the opportunities offered by the first and second pillar.

  1. Type of payment: As the head of a company, you can determine your income yourself and decide which portion is paid out as a salary and which as dividends. Dividends bring tax benefits. However, if your salary is low, your AHV pension and pension fund credit balance will also turn out lower. Buying into the pension fund – a popular way to save taxes – is only possible to a limited extent if dividends are paid out. The optimal ratio between salary payment and the distribution of dividends is best determined by a fiduciary or tax advisor.
  2. Good pension plan: Insure yourself and your management staff with your pension fund beyond the mandatory coverage. This is possible for annual salaries of up to 860,400 Swiss francs. This enables you to build up additional pension assets and reduce your tax burden. It is best to plan your super-mandatory retirement provision for a period of at least ten years.
  3. Pension fund purchases: If you buy into a pension fund voluntarily, you will improve your retirement benefits and can benefit from tax breaks. The specification of the purchase amount is subject to a holistic assessment and can best be determined with the help of a financial or insurance advisor.

Why is it worth considering your occupational retirement provision?

Occupational retirement provision is a complex topic – and for most people in Switzerland it is one that they would prefer to stay well clear of, even though our personal assets in the second pillar are likely to make up the largest part of our assets. Many people are unaware that the status quo is being maintained at the expense of the future. This affects current workers specifically, as they bear the main burden of the redistribution taking place due to unrealistic assumptions. We have to call attention to these correlations more often – and in a way that ensures that a broad swathe of the population can understand them. This is the only way to achieve a consensus that the reform of occupational retirement provision is necessary. The Sotomo study on behalf of Vita and Zurich Switzerland demonstrates how important this educational task is. And it creates hope that better informed people will be more open to modern solutions for making occupational retirement provision sustainable.

Fairplay in occupational retirement provision

Vita is committed to fairplay in occupational retirement provision and provides transparent information on redistribution. Vita also creates future-proof pension products and supports you in choosing the right pension solution for yourself.

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