Uwe Hueck is a man who can be easily called a hero of our time. For many years, he has been building, brick by brick, a career which has led to the top of the automotive industry, making the fight for success part of his credo. Already during childhood, he learnt how to fight for himself, becoming European Thai boxing champion twice during his adolescence, and then defending his right to work for Porsche nearly “with his fists.” Today, he stands for social justice in Germany. Despite a very successful career, he admits to being truly happy only when he goes to the football field with his children to play ball. Meet Deputy Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG, social activist, exemplary family man, and father to three children – Uwe Hueck.
How did you end up at Porsche?
After becoming a two-time European Thai boxing champion, I dreamed of winning the World Cup in Thailand. But it so happened that my manager lied to me: for every fight he received 20,000 marks, and I only got 2500 out of it. As a result, I had to fire him. I realized that to make money I needed to work. I sent my resume to Porsche. I wanted to become a car painter. However, I was told that I did not have the appropriate qualifications. If they had told me that the position had already been taken, I would not have paid attention to it, but their response had a certain effect on me. I called them and asked what right they had to call me a fool. As a result, they invited me for an interview. Frankly, I went there with the intention of figuring out what was wrong with them. But I was offered the job and I accepted it. I had to work for two years in order to go to Thailand for the World Cup.
I remember one night shift I had. At that time, our superiors treated ordinary workers very badly. I went to one of my bosses and warned him that if he did not start treating people with respect from that moment on, then both of us would get fired, because I would have to deal with him like a man. At that moment, other workers saw in me a person who could defend their rights and later chose me to be their representative. I was trained in the fields of labor, social and tariff regulations. Today, I work as Deputy Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Porsche. Nevertheless, I do not forget that once I used to work night shifts. It’s very important to remember where you come from. Looking at a beautiful tree, you shouldn’t forget that it grew from a small seed and that it needed a lot of water and sun. People who have already achieved a lot often forget that they were born little and that they also needed sun and water. Sometimes it seems to me that many of them feel as if they were born strong and powerful. This is not the case, and it’s very important to remember that.
You wrote a book. Can you talk to us about it?
Unfortunately, this book is not yet available in English, for the moment it’s only in German. It’s my story, which I would like to dedicate to children and young people. In my book, I try to prove that no matter how badly your life began, you can still succeed.
Could you share your success story with us?
I am not sure whether it’s a success story or not, but it’s definitely an interesting story. I grew up without parents in an orphanage. My brother, also an orphan, committed suicide because he couldn’t deal with the difficulties. When I was 8 years old, I turned to God and asked him why he gave me life. I promised him that if he made me strong and successful, I would take care of the weak. Now I am fulfilling that promise. It gives me strength and I realize that society has given me a chance to be prosperous, and, of course, it’s important to give something back to society.
How did society help you become prosperous?
In the beginning it didn’t support me at all. It just kept on saying that I was a loser. I grew up in an orphanage and went to the worst school in Germany, Hauptschule. But on my way, I met some people who said I wasn’t stupid and that I had to achieve something in this life. We live in a social state, which creates certain prerequisites for success. However, I always say: “A sports jersey does not sweat by itself”.
Who or what has played a crucial role in the life of Dr. Hueck, where did the motivation come from?
It was one of my teachers at the orphanage, who said: “You’re not stupid, you’re just not happy with yourself.” We arm wrestled together. I always seemed to lose, when one day, during training, he said: “If you train hard, you will win.” This was very good motivation. Overall, I am convinced that Germans live in prosperity, meanwhile forgetting to love children. Children are given too much wealth, and too little love.
How does one instill values in a child? In your family, besides your child, there are also two adopted children. How do you maintain common values among them all?
Values are based on the fact that you have to believe in something. You need to have some kind of religion. I am an Evangelical Buddhist, while my adopted son is Catholic. Values are also very closely linked with discipline and respect. Children should be taught by example. If parents do not respect each other, you can’t expect the children to have high values.
How did you manage to save and educate yourself? You didn’t have parents or someone you could use as an example to follow…
Sport taught me to respect others. I am sure that a person learns to respect the same way he learns to walk or talk. I was a professional athlete, and sport taught me decency and lucidly showed that there is nothing wrong with losing. But you’re right; I was standing at the crossroads. I could become a good Uwe or a bad one. Some of my orphanage friends followed the latter path. But I believed, I made a promise to the Almighty, and I was going to keep my word. I am also convinced that young people and society need regulations. Otherwise, our lives would be like a football game without rules and referees. Society needs laws and there is one in Germany (the so-called Grundgesetz). It was created by people who survived WWII. We shouldn’t forget that freedom and integrity are more important than owning 25 cars or 25 villas. I’d rather give up some of my assets to society, to make it more satisfied. This is extremely important. I am convinced that successful people become successful only because of society. When getting something, don’t forget to say thank you. However, people are usually ungrateful, they are afraid that they will have to give something back. But it’s better to give than to receive. Otherwise, the concept of humanness gets lost.
How do your life principles translate into your work and relationships with your subordinates?
For example, if people have to work overtime on Saturday, I stand at the exit and personally say goodbye to each one of them. Another example: before Christmas I walk around our facilities and wish everyone happy holidays etc. Thus, I show employees that I respect them and their work.
Are you interested in politics? Have you thought about starting a career in politics?
I am a member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany. If I ever think that their policy moves in the wrong direction, then I will just leave. You can compare it to a bus. If we have agreed that we will be going to Hamburg, and instead the bus goes in the direction of Munich, then I’ll change the driver or the bus, but I will not sit back and silently go to Munich. Thus, if I ever decide to go into politics, I will surely be taking up a leading position. But, at the moment, I’m busy in the economical sphere, and, here, we still need to continue fighting for the rights of the workers.
What should the political structure of a modern state look like, so that both the old and the young people are paid attention to and are taken care of?
First of all, young people should be given possibilities. This means that everyone should be able to work according to their abilities. I absolutely do not want everyone to be engineers, because we also need masons and painters. These professions should also be prestigious. The first thing that I would improve is the right to an education and vocational training. This is especially true in an economy where billions are earned, but where there is still a constant shortage regarding the labor force. There can’t be compromises here. This is how we work at Porsche. We give people an opportunity to be trained, and then employ them with indefinite contracts. Because of this, we have multibillion-dollar profits. The second problem is the issue of pensions. I believe that society should be ashamed of the fact that we are turning our backs on people who built this country at the time they need us most. I support the introduction of a cumulative pension entitlement. This means that anyone who doesn’t have enough money to survive, for example, because they had to take care of children and couldn’t work or because they worked in the kitchen, should be granted an additional cumulative pension from the capital of the company. If, for example, someone has 100 million EUR, only 1% of that money is 1 million, and I believe that this percentage should be part of the cumulative pension. When it comes to Germany, we are not talking about millions, but about 2.5 trillion EUR. One percent of this amount would be enough to buy a villa for each retiree.
Recently same-sex marriages have become an important issue in Europe. Representatives of various organizations are fighting for the equalization of rights for homosexual and heterosexual couples. Is this the way it should be? How will our children live in such a society?
Of course, the ultimate benefit of marriage is the possibility to have children. On the other hand, if my son were gay, he would still be my son. Why should I renounce him? When it comes to buying shoes, it’s different; you can throw out a pair of ill-fitting shoes and buy new ones. But if I throw out my son’s life, what will he have left? This should be understood. The most important thing for a person is to remain decent and to respect others. It’s great when people are different. You can compare it to the fingers on your hand. If they were all the same, you wouldn’t be able to use your hand. But, because the fingers are different, the hand can function. Society should function in the same way. Therefore, I do not make decisions based on the sexual orientation of a person; I rather look at the character and the attitude towards others.
What kind of young people would you consider to be successful?
Speaking of young people, I would like to add something else. Today’s youth around the world, whether in Asia or in Europe, wants to be heard. Thanks to social networks, they have understood that they are not alone, and now, they’re not going to continue putting up with one situation or another. I think that we need to encourage (and I will be doing the same) youth revolution, because they need to connect and participate in the democratic process. It’s impossible for the elderly to decide for the young. The older generation needs to understand, that one day they will become weak, while today’s youth will only become stronger. And when I’m 80 years old, I will continue to defend the rights of young people, just as I have always done.
To answer your question, I can say that today’s young men and women need to be able to think globally and to understand that life is not always good to us, but can also be cruel. They should not forget the fact that love is one of the main components of success. Young people need to be more open, to not always take everything seriously, and to take problems in stride. While fighting for well-being, don’t lose your family’s love. There is nothing more pleasant than playing ball with your child on a football field, coming back home dirty and being told off by mom. Mind that I am the one telling you this, a person who hasn’t had any of this, a person who grew up without a childhood.
Photo: From the Archive of Uwe Hueck