The unknown world market leaders


"Hidden Champions" is an original theory and concept that relates specifically and exclusively to small and medium-sized companies (SME) and encourages them to implement a strategy that combines the claim of market leadership with focus and globalization. The term "Hidden Champions" was first introduced as a research construct in 1990 in a study by Hermann Simon, It was first published in Zeitschrift für Betriebswirtschaft. Simon defined the criteria for classifying a company as a hidden champion as follows:

Market leader

Hidden champions rank among the top three in their industry globally or are leaders on their home continent.

Market niche

The company operates in an often narrowly defined market segment.

Annual sales

Annual sales of 5 billion Euros are usually not permanently exceeded.


The company is known its industry, but hardly in public.

Hidden champions form an elite among companies. In particular, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can learn from Hidden Champions, since many markets are local or regional, in which one can strive to become number one. Large companies can also learn a lot from Hidden Champions to manage their business units. Hermann Simon vehemently contradicts the thesis that good corporate governance can only be learned from large companies. It applies to investors that such companies are determined, clearly focused and that continuity is maintained.

Only focus leads to world class. Hidden Champions are focused on their technologies and markets. They create unique products that make them better than everyone else. And that’s what they focus on.

Undeterred by the changing management fashions, Hidden Champions in their ambitious pursuit of market leadership are characterized by a strategy of focus and depth as well as continuous internationalization and consistent innovation orientation.

Hermann Simon: „Hidden Champions – Innovative Speerspitze der Globalisierung“, in: Fallstudienkompendium Hidden Champions, Springer, 2018

Hermann Simon: „The strategy of the hidden champions in three circles“

Founder of the Hidden-Champions-Theory

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. mult.
Hermann Simon

Hermann Simon (Website) is the Founder and Honorary Chairman of Simon-Kucher & Partners. He is an expert in strategy, marketing and pricing. He is the only German in the “Thinkers50 Hall of Fame” of the most important management thinkers in the world. In German-speaking countries he has been continuously voted the most influential living management thinker since 2005. The magazine Cicero ranks him in the top 100 of the 500 most important intellectuals.

Before committing himself entirely to management consulting, Simon was a professor of business administration and marketing at the Universities of Mainz (1989-1995) and Bielefeld (1979-1989). He was also a visiting professor at Harvard Business School, Stanford, London Business School, INSEAD, Keio University in Tokyo and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. From 1995 to 2009 he was CEO of Simon-Kucher & Partners.

Professor Simon has published over 35 books in 27 languages, including the worldwide bestsellers Hidden Champions (Boston 1996, cover story of BusinessWeek in 2004) and Power Pricing (New York 1997), as well as Manage for Profit, Not for Market Share (Boston 2006). Hidden Champions of the 21st Century, Success Strategies of Unknown World Market Leaders (New York 2009) investigates the strategies of little known market leaders. Confessions of the Pricing Man was published by Springer, New York in 2015. His newest textbook Price Management has been published in 2019.

Prof. Hermann Simon became Honorary Advisor of the China International Investment Promotion Agency (CIIPA).

Prof. Hermann Simon during a speech in Chengdu, China

Simon was and is a member of the editorial boards of numerous business journals, including the International Journal of Research in Marketing, Management Science, Recherche et Applications en Marketing, Décisions Marketing, European Management Journal as well as several German journals. For several decades he regularly wrote columns for the German business monthly Manager Magazin. As a board member of numerous foundations and corporations, Professor Simon has gained substantial experience in corporate governance. From 1984 to 1986 he was the president of the European Marketing Academy (EMAC). Simon is co-founder of the first Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC) listed on the German Stock Exchange in Frankfurt, and the first search fund in Germany.

A native of Germany, he studied economics and business administration at the universities of Bonn and Cologne. He received his diploma (1973) and his doctorate (1976) from the University of Bonn. Simon has received numerous international awards and holds honorary doctorates from IEDC Business School of Bled (Slovenia), from the University of Siegen (Germany) and from Kozminski University Warsaw (Poland). He is a honorary professor at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing. In China, the “Hermann Simon Business School” is named after him.

Hermann Simon
Business School

In November 2019, the Hermann Simon Business School was opened in Weifang, Shandong Province. The new business school will take the hidden campions idea system as its core, with the aim of solving the problems in the process of globalization of Chinese SMEs. In addition, one will refer to the advanced experience of Germany and global hidden champions in the field of internationalization and innovation. A first-class business talent team with international vision and leadership will build the business school into a first-class incubator for SMEs as hidden champions.

Subsidiaries are established in six other cities in China, including Zhuhai, Wenzhou and Taicang. The business school will promote management training and related activities in China, in particular through seminars, courses, workshops and coaching, development of case studies on hidden champion companies, teaching the hidden champion concept, further training of executives of medium-sized companies.

Hermann Simon Business School in China.