The Victorinox Company has been around for more than 130 years, outlasting competitors, partners, and imitators alike. Today I learned that in the process they have utilized a novel business model that my Grandmother would have appreciated – in good times they sock money away for natural downturns in the business cycle (crazy, I know)). What is most impressive is that in the process, they have avoided laying off a single worker, ever.
The company set up a unique system that would allow them to pay their 900+ workers even when business is bad. They allocated certain amount of funds that were made during boom periods and set them aside in case the company was suffering. Those funds are then used to pay their employees even when the company isn’t making money. They also outsourced labor to other companies so Victorinox employees are never left without a job.
After the 9/11 attacks, Victorinox lost 40% of their business because Swiss Army knives were considered easily concealed weapons. Thankfully, Victorinox was like a boy scout (always prepared), and used their boom profits to pay employees.
Well done Victorinox, well done.
Apropos of nothing at all…One evening I looked up the comparative history of both Victorinox and Wenger, in an effort to understand which was the “real” SAK. The best explanation comes from Wikipedia:
Elsener, through his company Victorinox, managed to control the market until 1893, when the second industrial cutler of Switzerland, Paul Boéchat & Cie, headquartered inDelémont in the French-speaking region of Jura, started selling a similar product. This company was later acquired by its then General Manager, Théodore Wenger, and renamed the Wenger Company. In 1908 the Swiss government, wanting to prevent an issue over regional favouritism, but perhaps wanting a bit of competition in hopes of lowering prices, split the contract with Victorinox and Wenger, each getting half of the orders placed. By mutual agreement, Wenger has advertised as the Genuine Swiss Army Knife and Victorinox used the slogan, the Original Swiss Army Knife.
On April 26, 2005, Victorinox acquired Wenger, once again becoming the sole supplier of knives to the Military of Switzerland.
Up to 2008 Victorinox AG and Wenger SA supplied about 50,000 knives to the Military of Switzerland each year, and manufactured many more for export, mostly to the United States. Many commercial Victorinox and Wenger Swiss Army knives can be immediately distinguished by the cross logos depicted on their grips; the Victorinox cross logo is surrounded by a shield while the Wenger cross logo is surrounded by a slightly rounded square.
On January 30, 2013, Wenger and Victorinox announced that the separate knife brands were going to be merged into one brand: Victorinox. The press release stated that Wenger’s factory in Delemont would continue to produce knives and all employees at this site will retain their jobs. They further elaborated that an assortment of items from the Wenger line-up will remain in production under the Victorinox brand name. Wenger’s U.S. headquarters will be merged with Victorinox’s location in Monroe, Connecticut. Wenger’s watch and licensing business will continue as a separate brand.
Many other companies manufacture similar-looking folding knives in a wide range of quality and prices. The cross-and-shield emblem and the words SWISS ARMY are registered trademarks of Victorinox AG and its related companies.
Just in case you were curious.