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Patriarch at the call of the daughters

Alexander Lux has big dreams.

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Patriarch at the call of the daughters

Alexander Lux has big dreams. The 65-year-old wants to move to Berlin temporarily, for at least six months. And to Amsterdam, at least as long. And he wants to live in Paris for a while and do a language course. "I want to see more of the world. And not just as a hotel guest,” explains the entrepreneur, who has lived the opposite of his planned big city adventures for the past few decades. Because Lux's center of life is in Georgensgmünd, a small community with not even 7000 inhabitants in Middle Franconia. The family business Luxhaus, which he is managing in the third generation, is located in the provincial town.

The man in his mid-sixties has been managing the prefabricated house manufacturer for 30 years now, with 400 employees and a turnover of a good 100 million euros. Now it should be over. "It's time to pass the company on to the next generation," he says. Lux seems to be spoiled for choice. There are five daughters and one son in the family tree.

But the interests of the offspring also diverge in this family. One daughter, for example, has established herself as an artist. For another, country life, with which entry into the company would probably be associated, is out of the question. The youngest child is still at school. And the son also falls into the category of adolescents.

But even with the reduced number of candidates in the end, the recently completed selection process was anything but a sure-fire success - although scouting had started many years ago, i.e. before the different paths of the children crystallized. In between, the father even panicked that in the end no offspring would succeed him. It would not be the first family business in Germany that does not find a successor in the family. More and more companies are struggling because the next generation has other plans.

But now the decision has been made. In the future, Luxhaus will be managed by two women: Julia Lux, the eldest daughter at 34, and Maria Lux, her sister who is three years younger. For a long time, the father believed that only one heir would take over the almost 100-year-old company in order not to endanger the company through crippling arguments at the top. All children therefore had to sign a waiver of the compulsory portion on their 18th birthday.

Over time, however, during “quite emotional kitchen table meetings” in the family circle, dual leadership emerged as the solution. What surprised the two sisters after years of saying something different from their father. "Now we like the idea, and we want to fill the model with life," says Maria Lux, who seems much more reserved compared to her sister.

For the father, who has also repeatedly sought advice in seminars and from fellow entrepreneurs, the mixture is ultimately decisive, as he says. "Both have their strengths and talents and complement each other perfectly." The beginnings are the same. Because both studied business administration – albeit for different motives. "For me it was rather lack of imagination," admits Julia Lux. Sister Maria, on the other hand, wavered between business administration and law, but saw economics as a better preparation for her parents' house construction company - and also the flexibility to switch to other industries if necessary.

Both are deep in the topic. While Maria started at Luxhaus right after her studies and is now in charge of project management there, after a few years at the cleaning equipment supplier Vermop, the older sister and her husband set up the start-up "Bauen wie wir", which belongs to Luxhaus and pre-planned type houses in Prefabricated timber construction sold via internet sales - which should soon also benefit the parent company. "In the future, I want to bring the topic of digitization even more into the company," she announces.

A specific date for the handover has not yet been set - Lux does not want to expect his daughters to start with an economic crisis. Nevertheless, there should be a change soon, because he wants things to be different than with him and his father. "I don't want a gradual process, but clear relationships," says Lux.

"At the time, my father always talked about succession and generational changes - but nothing happened for a very long time," the entrepreneur recalls of a bumpy transition, both organizationally and interpersonally, because the father found it difficult to let go. “I was practically always in wait and waiting. That was terrible for me, I was on the verge of finding my bearings differently.” But then, within a short time, Alexander Lux's father fell ill with cancer and died.

From that time, the entrepreneur took with him the resolution to better organize his own handover. "I don't want to and won't be the patriarch in the background," Lux clarifies to his daughters. "I don't want my children to have to experience a situation like mine did back then." That's why he now puts his own professional departure in the family business into her hands. "If they both say that I should go, I'll be gone immediately." He no longer has his own office in the company, nor does he have his own secretariat.

"It's not pretty, but it's the best thing you could do," says WELT energy expert Daniel Wetzel on the electricity price brake. “Deep market interventions were discussed. It's good that the federal government didn't do that.” Germany will need every gigawatt hour in the next few years.

However, he does not want to leave immediately - mainly because of the economic crisis that is just looming. And the current mixed situation with the Ukraine war and the corona pandemic and the resulting energy crisis, inflation and supply chain problems are shaking both the Franconian medium-sized company and the entire prefabricated house industry. "The numbers have recently collapsed dramatically," reports the senior.

"We are currently selling just 25 percent of the houses that we would normally sell," says the entrepreneur, referring to increased building interest rates, reduced or even canceled subsidies and, on top of that, sharply increased building costs. Luxhaus has already raised prices several times this year due to increases in material and energy prices, most recently in August. New customers now have to pay an impressive 20 percent more for a house made in Georgensgmünd compared to the previous year.

The production of the medium-sized company, whose pride is a climate wall technology for a pleasant indoor climate developed together with the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Biology, is already working at full capacity until the beginning of 2024. Just like most other prefabricated house manufacturers. Nevertheless, the nervousness increases. Because improvement is hardly in sight. “Building has to do with security and trust. However, politics is currently not conveying either of these things,” says Achim Hannott, Managing Director of the Federal Association of German Prefabricated Construction (BDF).

The Federal Statistical Office reports that the number of building permits in Germany fell by almost 15 percent in the first half of 2022. But that doesn't reflect the true crash of the industry. Because the building permit statistics are trailing. The extent of the crisis will only become apparent in the coming weeks and months. Prefabricated timber construction is doing somewhat better than the industry as a whole. At least the segment was even able to slightly increase its market share in the first half of the year, to 22.8 percent. Lux is convinced that timber construction is experiencing a renaissance and that his daughters are entering an industry of the future.

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