A philanthropist. An astute businessman. A pioneer. A mentor. A devout Christian. A family man. A true leader.
It was almost a century ago that a young pioneer, OTH Beier, left Germany and set foot on South African soil, arriving in Port Elizabeth in 1929 with little money, but big ambitions. This was the beginning of a South African industrial success story, a rich story filled with courage, creativity, entrepreneurial spirit, vision and compassion for humankind.
Within the space of a few years, OTH Beier went from having his first job as an assistant wool buyer to taking over his own scouring plant in 1933 and building a Carbonizing Plant a year later. On 2 October 1936, Hermann Hans-Heinrich Beier was born.
Whilst his friends were being boisterous boys, preoccupied with playing games and chasing girls, the young Hans Beier first dipped his toes into the family business, using his father’s office every day after school to do his homework. Instilled with the work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit of his father, this studious young man joined his father’s business in 1962, a time when South Africa had just witnessed the horrors of the Sharpeville massacre, becoming more isolated from the rest of the world with each year that passed.
Over the course of the next six decades, Hans worked relentlessly and with laser focus to diversify and expand the family business into the major industrial group that it is today. In 1963, Beier steered the local footwear industry in a new direction with the introduction of automation. The installation of the first 10-station 701 Desma Direct PVC injection machine in South Africa enabled the company to rapidly expand its market presence with direct injected slippers and school shoes.
The growth trajectory continued with a number of new Desma’s installed to cope with the increased demand. By 1978 the company was the first manufacturer in the country boasting an 18 Station Desma single density direct injection PU machine. With Hans Beier as the Joint Managing Director during this time, the other divisions including Wool Processing and Trading, Plastics, and Carpets and Felts similarly prospered.
One of the many lessons learnt from his father was the value of hard work and delaying reward, rare qualities in an age of instant gratification. Whilst this advice guided his career, hard work never came at the price of people.
Whilst Mr Beier was an industrialist at heart, he never lost sight of the importance of people and sought to achieve a balance between the efficiencies effected by machinery and automation, and the contributions of employees. Throughout his career, he had an unwavering belief in individuals and a passion for upliftment, human development and changing lives.
After Nelson Mandela’s release from prison and the unbanning of political parties in 1990, violence erupted in the communities surrounding Pinetown and Pietermaritzburg. It was during this time that the chairperson of the Beier shop stewards’ committee requested Mr Beier to become involved with the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) in an effort to bring peace to the communities. To this day, many members of the community remember the efforts that Mr Beier played in bringing normalcy to their turbulent and violent lives.
A captain of industry with an even bigger heart, it was Mr Beier’s compassion for his fellow men and women that will always be remembered. A firm believer in the potential of people and giving back to the community, Mr Beier’s legacy will continue to live on in the thousands of lives he touched over the course of his career.
He drove countless bursary programmes aimed at developing the maths and science skills of young people. He hired a maths specialist and invested in maths and science projects at the Sithokozile Secondary School in KwaDabeka, of which he was a major sponsor. He donated classrooms and hired a teacher to teach chess, which resulted in learners from underprivileged areas attending the South African Chess Championships on multiple occasions.
Of the many notable achievements over the course of his illustrious career, one that he was particularly proud of was the founding of the legendary Bova brand in 1997. Today, Bova is the flagship brand in the BBF Safety Group (a Beier Group company) stable, selling over 1 million pairs of safety shoes per annum and continuing to innovate and expand into new product categories.
His family was always one of the most important things in his life, and having married his childhood sweetheart Veronika in 1963, they raised their family of 5 children during turbulent times in South Africa, while also building the family business; a business now being run by the third generation in Beier Group, Wolfgang Beier, CEO.
Hans’s philosophy was to surround himself with excellent people to make the business run like a well-oiled machine. It is this philosophy that established a local manufacturing business built on the principles of industrialisation and transformation – made possible by a diverse and passionate workforce.
Gone, but not forgotten. We celebrate your life and legacy, Mr Beier.