Trend towards Specialization and Increased Service

"Top start-up company in the trade in 2004" awarded a prize at the International Trade Fair in Munich - two main laureates from the Land of Baden-Württemberg - 33,333 euro prize money - Professor Reinhold Würth delivers ceremonial address

Künzelsau/Munich. Young entrepreneurs in the trade are specializing to fill niches in the market. They distinguish themselves in the market by rendering more services and better services than their competitors. This trend can be observed among applicants and prize winners at the competition called "Top start-up companies in the trade in 2004".

151 young entrepreneurs participated in the competition "Top start-up companies in the trade", which had been organized for the eighth time by the economic journal "handwerk magazin", this time in co-operation with Adolf Würth GmbH & Co. KG and the Signal Iduna Group. A jury selected five main prize winners and 15 special prize from the group of candidates. Altogether, they will receive a prize of 33,333 euro donated by Würth and Signal Iduna.

The five best entrepreneurs ("German Champions") received their prizes at the opening of the International Trade Fair in Munich on Thursday, March 4, 2004. The awards were presented by the patrons of the competition Reinhold Würth (Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Würth Group) and Reinhold Schulte (CEO of the Signal Iduna Group) together with Trade President Dieter Philipp and hm chief editor Gerd-Ulrich Brandenburg. Two of the main prize winners have their headquarters in Bavaria, two of them in Baden-Württemberg and one in Thuringia. The jury observed the following trends among the successful start-up companies.

Specialization: The top start-up companies offer innovative products and services. They have been specializing and filling market niches.

Service: Service is an integral part of their business concept. They aim to render more services and better services than their competitors, that is to say they intend to excel in the market by means of service.

Internet: The Internet is a central factor for success in the entire business sector. However, the prize winners do not only use the Internet to present their businesses, that is for means of advertising, but they also use it for intensive electronic business.

Taking over companies: It is pleasing to see that the willingness to take over existing trade businesses - either inside the family or outside - is still very high. Most candidates stated that they had changed their predecessors' business concepts.

Three of the first five prize winners have taken over family businesses. Their parents' companies and those of the other candidates were in a difficult phase at the time of the takeover. Only thanks to the effort and the commitment of their successors was it possible to bring about a turnaround in these companies.

Financing: The top start-ups also distinguish themselves byinvesting heavily in operating resources and machines. This indicates that the capital-labor ratio of the trade is very high. While many banks were prepared to give the start-up companies unlimited support, several candidates explained that they had not found any banks from whom they could obtain loans. Therefore, family loans were mentioned when it came to financing the founding or the takeover of a company, at least as a complement to usual loans but partly also as a replacement for bank or promotional loans.

Depreciation: The depreciation on savings is a legal instrument to save taxes. Most of the laureates make active use of this tool.

Controlling: The prize winners repeatedly mentioned the key word "controlling" as a factor leading to success.

Business plans: The business plans presented have turned out to be a lot better than those in previous years. For people starting a business drawing up such a plan is a decisive step because it helps them to become more conscious of the strengths and weaknesses of their undertaking than would be the case if they just formulated a plan in their minds. For banks a good plan is a "must".

Employees: To find qualified employees, founders of a company have to play their trump cards when it comes to staff-related issues. This includes further training and activities to create a good work climate, flexible working time as well as performance-oriented remuneration systems and other incentives such as quality bonuses.

"The situation in the German trade is dramatic. The number of insolvencies and job losses is at a record high", stated Professor Reinhold Würth, Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Würth Group in his ceremonial address on the occasion of the presentation of the prizes. The Würth company therefore intends to support the trade more intensely and extend its commitment to this field of industry. Even today, the Würth trading company - market leader in the field of fasteners and assembly technology - offers practical support to the individual craftspeople in the form of further training or product training at the Würth Academy.

The five prize winners:

1st prize (10,000 euro)

Fritz Glock joinery with master joiner Sven Höfer and clerical worker Katrin Höfer in 07629 Hermsdorf (Thuringia)

2nd prize (7,500 euro)

Joro Doors with master joiner Martin Rohwetter and graduate in business management Antonie Rohwetter in 77871 Renchen (near Offenburg, Baden-Württemberg).

3rd prize (5,000 euro)

REBARO District-heating Technology with master metal worker Hans-Peter Bauer as well as Andreas Baur, Volker Baur, Karl Roller and Ulrich Reule in 72181 Starzach (District of Tübingen, Baden-Württemberg).

4th prize (3,500 euro)

Roof tiler and master carpenter Stefan Janker in 90552 Röthenbach (near Nuremberg, Bavaria).

5th prize (2,333 euro)

Master bricklayer and master concrete engineer Michael Bornschlegl in 89358 Kammeltal-Behlingen (District of Günzburg, Bavaria).