He completed an apprenticeship in the precision tool-making industry in the Black Forest and in 1889 took a job in Frankfurt at the renowned watchmaker's tool factory, Uhrmacher-Werkzeugfabrik Lorch, Schmidt & Co. With the increasing popularity of the bicycle in the 1880s, Sachs, a seasoned athlete, discovered a keen interest in cycling. As an amateur rider and member of the elitist Frankfurt “Velociped-Club,” he enjoyed glorious victories riding penny-farthings, tricycles and two-wheelers. He was later drawn to car racing, where he added more trophies to his collection.
In 1895, together with Karl Fichtel, Ernst Sachs established “Schweinfurter Präcisions-Kugellager-Werke Fichtel & Sachs,” the company from which the modern-day ZF Sachs AG developed. Karl Fichtel – a partner with commercial talent, born in Schweinfurt in 1863 as the son of a factory owner. Fichtel studied business and worked abroad for ten years. On meeting Ernst Sachs, it quickly became apparent that their knowledge and skills were mutually complementary. The patent registered for a Sachs invention in 1894 was the impetus to establish a joint company on 1 August 1895.
Ernst Sachs served as the technical director, while Karl Fichtel, who had provided the necessary capital, handled the commercial affairs. The men equipped a single story building in Schultesstrasse on property belonging to Fichtel's parents as a small shop and initially employed two journeymen and one apprentice. Fichtel's organization of the embryonic company was expansive and imaginative for the time. His market-led approach, combined with the quality of the products, brought rapid success. Fichtel received various awards from the Bavarian Government and was given the prestigious honorary title of “Kommerzienrat” in 1909. He died unexpectedly on 8 September 1911, following a mental breakdown.