Story 18: Lessons we’ve learned – Pearls of wisdom gleaned from 20 years of asphericon

Failure often has a negative connotation in our culture. There is a great fear of making mistakes and an increasing pressure to succeed in our society. The experience of failure and making mistakes is nevertheless inevitable. And every defeat can bring something positive. It is only by understanding setbacks as a challenge that we can learn important lessons from them, lessons that are essential for our ongoing development.

There have of course also been moments and situations at asphericon that did not go optimally. Every project and every order has its own story. The following story presents four of the most important lessons we can glean from 20 years of asphericon.

Expect setbacks.

As a computer scientist, but especially as CEO, Sven Kiontke is used to having to make several attempts: “It’s rare in life that you have a problem, think briefly about a possible solution, try it out, and then everything works smoothly right away. Failing is an integral part of life.” Gains in knowledge are often the result of a process of trial-and-error. You can only continue to develop yourself and the project by openly and honestly analyzing the failed attempts.

The easiest path is often not the one that leads to success.

The founders of asphericon can confirm this on the basis of a large number of past decisions. The development of mounted optics offers one example. Although we could have easily outsourced the manufacture of mounts to other companies, none of our external partners could meet our high quality standards at the time. It would have been easy to rethink our goals and be satisfied with lower quality results. However, our principles and confidence in the skills of the entire team helped us decide to manufacture the mounts ourselves. By acquiring the technologies and skills internally, asphericon succeeded in meeting the high quality standards for its own products. This courageous step also means that our customers stand to benefit directly from this added value and asphericon leverages another unique selling point that helps us prevail in the market.

Perfection is good, perfectionism a hindrance.

The pursuit of high quality and the best possible results is what sets asphericon apart. However, perfection must be pursued in a measured manner in order to reconcile customer needs with the product’s added value. The fact that the quest for perfection incurs costs and efforts has taught asphericon a lesson, as Sven Kiontke explains: “We now take a different approach as a company. Today, we shape our aspirations to ensure that the products remain affordable and offer the customer significant added value. The selection of projects is also important. We know that we can live up to our high quality standards if the order fits our requirements for the right mix of perfection and added value. This helps us save resources while strengthening our customers’ and partners’ trust in us.”

Trusting your employees leads to success.

When asphericon started up back in 2001, the three founders themselves performed all the tasks that are normally the responsibility of different positions. CNC mill operator by night, CEO by day – or vice versa. This is how Sven Kiontke describes the early days, when 80 hours of work per week were the rule. Delegating responsibility is crucial. As Kiontke says: “It’s important to strengthen our confidence in our own abilities. We are sometimes not really aware of the value of our human resources at asphericon. Without the skills of each individual employee, asphericon would not be where we are now. It’s wonderful to see the different departments interacting and getting creative, contributing ideas, and all of us working together as a company at a high level. Facilitating and promoting participation in the company is just as important to the company’s success as having a clear strategy.” Alexander Zschäbitz agrees: “It cannot be emphasized often enough that what we are at asphericon cannot be defined without our employees.”

… with this in mind, we are looking forward to what we will experience as a team in the next 20 years and the lessons awaiting us.