The middle class is on its way to the future! Gebhardt Schick, head of the Schick Marble business in Ulm has taken the ball and asks, "What's in this for the natural stonework industry?" The Augsburg master stonemason Willi Brenner, Dieter Finkelmeier, Gebhardt and Magnus Schick have been beating on that question. The result: The Natural-Stone Thesis of Ulm.
And so much the better for all of us! The wealthy elderly plan their own monuments -- in stone of course! The wealthy young dream of aristocratic bathtubs - in stone of course. The lady next door is never so content to scrub things as when she's doing the tilework in the front room -- of natural stone, and Frau Doktor the-lady-next-door never so pleased as when she's rustling up her Tuscan specialty in her new kitchen -- natural stone of course!
When a market or market share is lost, for example in grave monuments, new markets and, above all, new customers must be sought out. "Strategic alliance" is a buzzword but it's becomming an important one for the stonework sector. Trade, commissions and export are the three legs that must support the business.
All three are equaly important and for all three quality must come first. Work for architectural sites must certainly be of high quality. Others can do the hack work, and cheaper too.
On the other hand, we have to recognize that the unemployment rate (including a considerable number of academics) will remain high; People are disinclined to accept personal responsibility for things, whether in the private sphere, in society or in business. Anonymous irresponsibility is in. The customers of tomorrow are the self-centered egos of today. Never miss a new experience, live for the day even if it cuts into your career acheivements, they say. So in the workplace there will be more people who refuse to make sacrifices to their careers or even drop out. At the same time others are becomming even more dedicated to career goals and absorbed in their work.
With this simplified demographic sketch in hand, we see that that the stonework industry must take aim at disparate strata of customers. There is on the one hand the plonk/tennis-shoes/jogging-togs type, the cutomer who wants to get eveything cheaper, always on the lookuot for a bargain, who will happily take your professional consultation but won't want to pay for it. For these customers we should have ready-made articles in stock, good quality for the money but things that can be suitably used or installed without consuming our valuable consulting time. And who know? These people may later want to purchase somthing better -- custom work -- and then we can bill for our professional time. And we must take advantage of such opportunities. The word is: master craft from the hand of master craftsmen.
This is the statategy that will address another important group of customers.. This group is composed primarily of relatively young people with exceptionally large incomes. For these people price is of secondary importance and for them, individual, expert consultation is important; They want, as it were, a suit tailored to exacting and personalized measure. In this market segment, natural stone work is very competitive, particularly when it is presented as a medium for a unique, individualized product.
And finally there is a third, hybrid type, the type of people that serve their plonk in Remy-Martin bottles. They are hardly likely to be interrested in a substantial product like natural stone work.
Stone is environmentally friendly, especially when it comes from domestic quarries. It is economical because it entails little post-installation cost and cleaning and maintainance are inexpensive. Natural stone has, for all practical purposes, an unlimited lifespan, is easy to maintain and offers high value for money spent. Those are the arguments in favor of stone. What about arguments aginst it? Well, stone is boring! It's a millenia-old design concept that doesn't yield to change. Stone is quarried and prepared in underveloped countries at exploitive wages, often by child labor. The infrastructure that gets the stones from the quarries to the craftsmen consists of long passgaes by sea on aged freighters. None of this is "environmentally friendly". You should be aware of these arguments and have suitable answers in mind. There will be customers in the coming years that view stone from this viewpoint.