Luxemburgish craft - Ben & Pol Weisgerber

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Without windows, a house would be nothing more than a few walls inside which it would be cold and damp or dark and sad. Windows give life to a house. Weisgerber & Fils has been closing the buildings in Luxembourg while letting the sunshine in since 1955. Ben and Pol, its young managers, are modernising this tradition of quality and design.

No more parking spaces. Access to the parking lot is limited. On foot, you have to weave your way through the many vans, carts and other vehicles ready to be loaded or unloaded in front of the workshop. It's hard work at 2A of the Z.I. Breedewues in Senningerberg, where a delivery truck is just showing the large blue logo on the gray facade of the company, bathed in the rare rays of sunshine on an overcast morning.

Premises in line with their values

The reception area is on the left. With just a few clicks on Google, you can find the two values that the aluminum window company emphasizes – tradition and modernity – and the entrance to Weisgerber & Fils is a perfect reflection of this: a soberly colored, modern and totally glassed-in meeting room on the left, an industrial staircase on the right and a counter, behind which hangs an old retro steel sign on a white brick wall, straight ahead.

"It's pretty cool, huh?" says Pol Weisgerber, accompanied by his brother, Ben. The company has two young managers – 32 and 30 – and they've just arrived. They look exactly alike, except for a beard. Smiling, friendly and relaxed, just like their Canadian shirt, jeans and sneakers. "We found this poster while cleaning up my grandfather's barn after he died. The colors (yellow and blue) are super beautiful. We put it there right away and it's now the inspiration for our new posters in the same genre, but new."

"We make various elements that are very important to a house: the ones that close the building so that the work can continue."

Pol Weisgerber

Ben and Pol put on their coats and start walking to the workshop. Although it's only a few steps away, they take the opportunity to explain what their production is made of. "We produce and assemble aluminum windows, doors and facades. Emphasis on 'we produce them ourselves'. Here in Luxembourg. We manufacture various elements that are very important for a house, but also for the customer: those that close and insulate the building so that the work inside can continue."

"It's a high-end product", Pol insists. "A design window, safe, hyper quality. It's not a window that comes completely finished from abroad and is installed at the customer's home. I often tell people who live in the region to come and see their windows being made. They are always surprised because they ordered without knowing that we produce them here. People are not aware of that anymore. They think we order them from Amazon. (laughs)"

We walk through the garage door of the warehouse. It's full, yet spacious. The gray of the walls, blue of the bars and yellow of the ceiling beam dominate. The same colors as those on the sign at the reception desk. The first machine is on the right. "This is where the first stage of production takes place", Ben explains, "and this machine is the heart of it. It has built-in tools that it chooses itself and cuts and reworks the profiles. Every cut is different, according to the customer's request."

The second step is a few meters away. The profiles are attached to each other before going upstairs for the third and final stage of production. Upstairs, five men are busy. "This is where the doors, the fronts, the locks are made… Basically, we don't start drilling the profiles until we get upstairs." In the middle of the platform, a large hole overlooks the garage door to the warehouse. "We load the trucks from the second floor." Everything has been thoroughly thought through.

Here too, the employees have all the room in the world to move around, even though there are window frames in every corner. It gives the place a real charm and personality. A rainbow, in a craftsman way. There's yellow, green, red, gray, blue, white, purple – whether they come from the profiles, their protective stickers or stickers on the wall. "As you can see, there's a lot of work going on right now… but it will be more quiet after Christmas. Everything we're working on right now, it's not for this year." A useful clarification, just to make sure we're not in Santa's workshop.

One door down, the kitchen. Pol and Ben stop in front of three different sports jerseys, all sponsored by the company. "We're active in sports", they recount as their father, the former manager, walks by. "You can take a picture of him", laughs Pol. "No, no. Ech sinn net méi am Rennen (I'm not in the race anymore) (laughs)." At the end of the hallway, a staircase takes them back to square one: the reception area.

One more detail, framed and placed in front of the secretary's desk, stands out. It is also the one that attracts the press to Weisgerber & Fils these days: the title of Best Company Creator (or Best Succession) in the Craft Industry 2021 awarded by the Chambre des Métiers. A real pride for managers so young who put forward a company in which they grew up and which is part of the family.

Because before they took over, their father and uncle were at the head of the company. Their grandfather before them, since 1955. Ben and Pol have never known anything that the company wasn’t in some way involved in. They grew up there, "even though it was in the Rollingergrund, where our premises were from '55 to 2003, before we moved here", says Pol, while Ben is out getting coffee. "There was a house inside the company. It was common in those days. My grandmother used to live there, and since we often spent weekends at our grandmother's house, we spent a lot of time there. The more we were there, the more we felt at home."

But even though they belonged there, the fact that they would one day make it their job was not so obvious. "I always say it's a job you can't imagine as a kid. It's not as easy to identify with as if your parents are farmers or bakers… I was fascinated by baking", says Pol. "If you go into a class of 20 kids and ask them what they want to do later, none of them will talk about windows."

Als Kand am Betrib

Ben Weisgerber on his and his brother's right hand in the company.

*in Luxembourgish

"And neither did I", adds Ben, who returns, four cups of coffee in hand, and joins his brother at the meeting table. "As a little boy, I never walked around thinking, 'I'd like to do that too someday'. In fact, the question simply wasn't even on the table." Until it clicked. For Ben, it happened in 10th grade. "I chose computer science and noticed that it wasn't for me. I thought, 'I need to find something I like', and I decided on mechanics." He took his CATP in that field at the Lycée des Arts et Métiers and joined his father's team in the process, in 2011.

"When one of my dad's friends told him he saw a pickup truck with his name written on it, I was like 'wow, my name!ˈ"

Pol Weisgerber

Pol, meanwhile, started with the company in 2012. At home, it all clicked while driving with his father. Not at a specific moment, but as time went by. "During our drives, he would tell me 'look, this big construction site here, it's grandpa who did it', 'this one is me who put it together'… Or a friend of his would pass by and tell him that he had seen a van with his name written on it. I'd be like 'wow, my name!ˈ That's how I realized it was still something special." And he and his brother are still passionate about it today. "Ask our girlfriends", laughs Ben. Pol bursts out laughing. "They can't get enough of us in the car: 'You've already told me three times that it was your work site!ˈ" So Pol soon felt the urge to work for Weisgerber & Sons… but changed his mind along the way. "I was at Lycee Emile Metz, determined to be a locksmith. But I changed my mind in 9th grade and went to Mamer Lycee. At Emile Metz, there were no girls! (laughs) No, I'm kidding, it was my friends who weren't there. I finished my 13ème in civil engineering there." After that, he went to study architecture in Vienna for a year and a half before realizing that it wasn't for him, came back without a degree and directly started working for his father.

Passioun

Ben Weisgerber on his passion for his work.

*in Luxembourgish

So Pol and Ben were finally together in the business, ready to take over. But one thing was still missing: neither of them had a master's degree in locksmithing. "We could have gotten it automatically after 5 years in the company, but together with my father we chose to earn it through evening classes. It shows our willpower… because we had a hard time", recalls Pol, joined by Ben: "It was four hours on Saturday and Sunday mornings and Monday nights… but it was a great school for us."

Then one day, their father said, "That's it, I'm retiring!" That was in 2017. "We were thrown in cold water, even though he had said it a little in advance and prepared everything 'tip top' so we could get off to a good start. We had to learn from our mistakes. Mistakes that we wouldn't make again today, like accepting too many projects at once. Fortunately, they didn't have any serious repercussions." It was also clear that they would take over the management of the family business hand in hand when the time came. Their maturity and ease of working with each other proved that this was the right decision.

"Without our employees, we would be nothing."

Ben Weisgerber

Their roles were naturally defined. "Pol takes care of human resources and calculations. I do the work schedules, the technical side and the billing", explains Ben. "What I find most exciting is to see the projects I have planned take shape at every stage. When the profiles I've ordered arrive, I get all excited", like a child on the morning of December 6th.

Pol found a second passion for negotiation through his job as a manager. Then, in their relationship with their employees, "Ben remains available for all questions concerning the work sites and I speak with each person present when I arrive in the morning and when I leave in the evening. It's the best way to stay on top of things. So a real family atmosphere prevails in the company.

D'riets Hand

Ben Weisgerber on his and his brother's right hand in the company.

*in Luxembourgish

Indeed, the brothers never cease to emphasise their employees. Two in particular: Mr. Varga and Mrs. Pallaro, "without whom we would be nothing." They thanked them by making them their companions at the awarding of their title of Best Business Creator of the Chamber of Crafts. "We were the only ones not accompanied by a family member, but we discussed it with them and they accepted it without any worries. Mr. Varga and Mrs. Pallaro are our right hands and they deserved it as much as we did."

Modernising while respecting tradition

But as humble as they are, Ben and Pol have modernised their company in every respect in just four years. A feat that makes them an example. "We invested in a new machine, replaced the people who retired with fresh and competent blood, renovated the premises, centralised everything in terms of computer servers and digitalised with the help of iPads. Now everyone takes notes with their Pencil in meetings. It makes work easier, so it seems logical… even if not everywhere", says Pol.

Finally, for the future, the objectives will remain the same. "We don't want to grow, we just want to continue doing what we do. But for that, we will have to adapt. Find young people to replace the older ones. And if there are no more competent workers, train them ourselves. Because there will always be work. That's the goal for the next five to eight years."

So Pol and Ben are looking far ahead, long term. They don't have delusions of grandeur, they want to continue on their momentum and not stop. And there is no reason why they can't do it if they keep the same energy, the same values and the same passion through which they don't back away from anything and don't put up any walls. Just a beautiful, large bay window signed Weisgerber & Sons that overlooks a radiant golden hour horizon.