Four Generations, One Thought

Interview with Mag. Lisa Schilowsky-Käfer, Managing Director of SCHILOWSKY Building Materials GmbH

Sufficient storage capacities – an important asset in the market

Times could be better. Interest rate developments and inflation are causing uncertainty in the construction industry, forecasts remain difficult. SCHILOWSKY Building Materials GmbH sees it that way too. But while competitors are reducing staff and closing locations, the family business is focusing on healthy growth. Also thanks to a strong partner.

In nearly 100 years, four generations of the Schilowsky family have turned the company into one of Austria's leading building materials dealers. The focus has always been on customer satisfaction.

Family Business par Excellence

Robert Alexander Schilowsky founded the company in 1926 as a regional product dealer – at that time, goods were transported by horse-drawn cart. When his son took over the company, he specialized in building materials and opened a hardware store with a wide range. Under the leadership of Christian Schilowsky, in the 3rd generation, the hardware stores were transformed into specialist stores, aimed at meeting the specific needs of professionals.

SCHILOWSKY Management Lisa Schilowsky-Käfer and Christoph Schilowsky-Käfer
Management of SCHILOWSKY Building Materials Trading GmbH: Mag. Lisa Schilowsky-Käfer and Christoph Schilowsky-Käfer

Today, the responsibility lies in the hands of Lisa Schilowsky-Käfer and Christoph Schilowsky-Käfer. "My father always made the right decisions and made the company what it is today," says Lisa Schilowsky-Käfer. "That's why I'm glad to continue his life's work. I grew up with the company, spent a lot of time here, and have a very close bond. The welfare of the employees, who have always been like family members to me, is especially close to my heart."

Lisa Schilowsky-Käfer shares the management with her husband and focuses primarily on the areas of marketing and personnel; Christoph Schilowsky-Käfer is responsible for finance, logistics, and sales – a perfect division that allows them to complement each other.

180 employees work for the company - despite this size, a family spirit prevails

Strong with STARK

Not only was the takeover of the management by the 4th generation a break this year; the entry of the STARK Group into the company also marked a turning point. “The change of ownership was a very emotional decision for us as a family,” says Lisa Schilowsky-Käfer. “We made this decision in the firm knowledge that we can only grow healthily with a strong partner. It is a partnership on a strong foundation, where the chemistry was right from the start. It was important for us that the STARK Group shares the same values and puts people clearly at the center.”

With DACH UND WAND, there is another subsidiary in the group, which is represented at seven locations in Austria. “STARK is showing a stronger presence in Austria,” says Lisa Schilowsky-Käfer. “With SCHILOWSKY and DACH UND WAND, there are two strong brands; SCHILOWSKY as a generalist for building materials, DACH UND WAND as a specialist for roofing and facades. An ideal division that allows for many synergies.”

All-around comfort packages

SCHILOWSKY employs 180 employees at four locations, most of them, 94, at the headquarters in Neunkirchen, which was reopened this year after a general overhaul. 3,000 m² of exhibition space, 30,000 m² of warehouse space, a workshop for repairs, and a new market concept with low shelves for a better overview are well received by the customers.

“Everything appears more open, modern, and generous,” says Lisa Schilowsky-Käfer. “We want to offer an all-around feel-good package here. Customers can borrow and test devices, expert consultants ensure well-founded advice. This personal and qualified service is our big plus over online trading.”

In Vienna, SCHILOWSKY is present in the 21st and 22nd districts; in the 22nd district, in addition to sales and exhibition, which cover all assortments well, there are digital shelves that allow access to the webshop or the comparison of products. The focus in the 21st district is on dry construction with a total area of 20,000 m2. In Graz, customers find a well-sorted offer from the dry construction and screed sector. The merger with STARK also provides an unused hall in the south of Vienna - for SCHILOWSKY a strategically valuable location to serve the Vienna market from the south.

“Since we are only located twice in the north of the city, this location is a stroke of luck for us,” says Lisa Schilowsky-Käfer. “The start in Achau is planned for November and, similar to in Graz, the focus should be on dry construction and screed. We see this small, yet fine market as a kind of lighthouse project for the merger. DACH UND WAND is right next to the market, so two specialists can be found under one roof here.”

Competent support for professionals and private customers

With the specialist markets, SCHILOWSKY primarily targets professionals; private customers only account for about 10% of the turnover. Nonetheless, their needs are taken seriously. SCHILOWSKY organizes events and promotion days with exciting challenges and plans events that deal with current topics such as subsidy measures to support private house builders. For SCHILOWSKY, this is a way to “find solutions for private customers in difficult times and to support them,” explains Lisa Schilowsky-Käfer.

Unique own brand

High material costs and rising interest rates pose great challenges for the entire industry. That SCHILOWSKY remains optimistic despite uncertain market conditions has a reason. “Our advantage is that we operate counter-cyclically and with the SKY System we have a strong own brand in the dry construction segment,” emphasizes Lisa Schilowsky-Käfer. “This way, we can cushion certain market downturns.”

Under the SKY System brand, SCHILOWSKY offers various brand products combined in a tested dry construction system for fire protection, sound insulation, and statics. “Because we aspire to be a merchant of solutions, we want to establish more own brands in the future. Time and money can be saved on construction sites with these products.”

Professional, with a personal touch

SKY System is a growth engine for SCHILOWSKY. Behind the extraordinary products and services is a special team of employees. “The culture of the company is very important to me,” underlines Lisa Schilowsky-Käfer. “Our employees should feel comfortable and like coming to work; we come up with quite a bit for that. There’s not just the classic fruit basket, we are constructively looking for solutions for our team and we keep our word.”

The company introduced flexible working hours, offers home office in certain departments, organizes training, team events, Christmas parties, and barbecues. “We are constantly looking for benefits,” says Lisa Schilowsky-Käfer. “Our credo is ‘The person at the center’ and we take this credo very seriously. I personally feel a great bond with the employees and a closeness that goes far beyond professional aspects. A topic that is particularly close to my heart is women's empowerment. That’s why we not only offer special craft courses for women but also want to create the prerequisites for being able to combine family and career.”

To further consolidate the market position, SCHILOWSKY will also advance digitization in the future. “There are many ideas, but we are only at the beginning of digital transformation,” says Lisa Schilowsky-Käfer. “Our most important goal is to become number 1 for solution-oriented building materials trade with STARK, to utilize synergies, and grow healthily.”