How to build competitive advantage
Interview with Claus Pfeiffer, Managing Director of Pfeiffer Bauplanung u. Hallenbau GmbH
European Business: Mr. Pfeiffer, your company is specialized in steel construction but you cover a very wide range of buildings and structures.
Claus Pfeiffer: Yes, that is right. We do everything from car dealerships, shopping centers, office buildings and residential buildings to industrial structures, warehouses and logistics facilities, carports and roofing. In addition, we cover the complete value chain, from computer-aided, 3D design, planning and structural engineering to technical execution, project management and turnkey delivery.
European Business: When did you start your business?
Claus Pfeiffer: My background is in metalworking, and I set up my own company in 1986, as a construction firm for agricultural buildings. When the sector became more and more difficult, we changed the focus to industrial construction in 1996. Since 2005, we have exclusively been handling projects developed by ourselves.
European Business: Your company was one of the first construction firms in Austria to build residential houses from steel.
Claus Pfeiffer: Steel is the perfect material for dry, rapid construction. In combination with insulated sandwich panels, steel walls offer superior heat coefficients compared to solidly constructed buildings. When we started using steel for residential projects several years ago, it was almost unknown in Austria.
European Business: Another competitive advantage of Pfeiffer is that you offer free, advance services.
Claus Pfeiffer: We always work in close cooperation with the customer and provide 3D drawings and calculations free of charge. Only when the customer agrees, do we go on with the detailed planning and structural engineering. There are not many companies in the construction industry with such an approach, which has earned us many loyal customers.
European Business: What role does sustainability play in your construction projects?
Claus Pfeiffer: We have been using environment-friendly building materials and renewable forms of energy, such as photovoltaic and heat recovery, for a long time, and we try to integrate them in every project, whether residential or industrial. Particularly in the heating sector, there are many new, innovative technologies that we are actively promoting.
European Business: What are the latest projects completed by your company?
Claus Pfeiffer: Among the most recent projects are two car dealerships, one for Porsche in St. Völten and another for Vogl+Co, a multibrand car dealer in Oberwart. Both objects have become very attractive buildings, and the entire planning and construction phase went off without a hitch.
European Business: How would you describe your market position?
Claus Pfeiffer: We have not been that long in residential construction yet, but 90% of the commercial and industrial structures in the region have been built by us.
European Business: What are your main target markets?
Claus Pfeiffer: Our focus is on car dealerships, showrooms and logistics facilities, which account for approximately 50% of our overall business. In general, however, we accept any construction job, from supermarkets to chemical facilities.
European Business: Do you have any ambitions do expand abroad?
Claus Pfeiffer: There were many opportunities I could have seized. However, I have always been content with the status quo. A while ago, I accompanied our Federal President on a trip to Qatar where I had the chance to acquire a local company constructing football stadiums. Nevertheless, I declined the offer. Looking back, I should have risked more, but I wanted to keep the firm within certain limits in order to concentrate on delivering first-rate quality instead.
European Business: What are the key challenges in the construction sector?
Claus Pfeiffer: Everything must go fast. As soon as the mortgage is available, the building must be ready to move in. The speed has accelerated. The greatest challenge, however, is the skills shortage. We are increasingly looking abroad to find qualified workers, such as in Croatia, to be able to meet growing demand.
European Business: So your company is on a growth path?
Claus Pfeiffer: Yes, we are developing rapidly, and the prospects are very good. I still have a couple of years until retirement, and we want to continue growing at a steady, sustainable rate.