Technology and innovation are reshaping the business world faster and faster with each passing year. Some companies keep up, a few stay ahead of the curve and many fail altogether. And COVID-19 has only added another layer of complexity to the situation.
So how do the organisations that have existed for decades or even centuries futureproof themselves and continue to endure in such a unique and dynamic landscape? For the leading German modern prefab home builder HUF HAUS, which has been in business since 1912, the answer is multifaceted but, ultimately, it all comes down to family.
To the Huf family, futureproofing means looking and working towards the future while learning from the past. So as CEO Georg Huf recently stepped down from his role as Managing Director this past spring after a quarter of a century of heading the company, his son Benedikt Huf and nephew Christian Huf, who represent the fourth generation of Hufs, are now following in the father’s, grandfather’s, and great-grandfather’s footsteps, navigating the successful operation of the family company.
With this, they inherit nearly 110 years of company traditions, experience and expertise while delivering their own fresh perspectives and aspirations to take the company into its next century of success.
“I look forward to continuing the Huf heritage while infusing my own personal touch to the business,” says Managing Director and Head of Sales Christian Huf. “When you see a Huf house, you can immediately recognise it, even if it was built as far back as the 1970s. And I’m not coming in to change that legacy; I just want to optimise it.”
The Huf Haus difference
Prefab houses have gotten somewhat of a less-than-fab reputation for being low quality, cookie-cutter and, to put it quite bluntly, cheap, likely due to their earliest beginnings. Around the turn of the 19th century, these mass-produced homes started gaining traction as a solution for affordable housing.
We’re not just looking for short-term profits. As a family business, we want to ensure our business is sustainable for future generations.
With construction focused on cost-cutting measures, quality wasn’t exactly a prerequisite. Even though HUF HAUS was already in business at that time, it didn’t actually start making prefab houses until 1960 when modular homes started to become available for purchase from department stores.
It was a decade before the consumer demanded something different, something unique. And the company delivered. In 1972, HUF HAUS had a breakthrough. The company developed its flagship design, the FACHWERKHAUS 2000 post-and-beam house – the style that would underpin the company’s architectural approach for years to come.
“Our post-and-beam architecture with lots of glass ushers in an abundance of daylight. It’s a combination of indoor and outdoor spaces that allow the owner to live in harmony with nature,” Christian says.
“We produce our homes in a very modern way and at a very premium level. Every house we build suits our clients’ needs and starts as a blank slate. So in the end, their house is completely unique.”
What differentiates HUF HAUS from custom-home builders then, besides its iconic timber and glass facades, is the process. It’s a process the company has been finetuning over the years, infusing generations of know-how into each step, making it hard for newcomers in the industry to keep up, since houses this sophisticated can only be the result of a very long heritage.
“Every house is a ritual. We have this system that makes every house we build better and better,” Christian shares. With roughly 50 years under its belt, crafting premium, prefab homes, apartments and office buildings in a varied array of designs and styles, Christian says it’s time for HUF HAUS to expand its portfolio, keeping up with customers’ dynamic wants and needs.
“Our clients’ needs must be at the forefront of our design development, and we work tirelessly to offer the absolute best, not only to meet but to exceed our clients’ wishes. HUF HAUS architecture evolves with the changes of time and tastes – building houses for individuals.”
The HUF HAUS philosophy maintains that a luxury lifestyle and an eco-friendly approach need not be mutually exclusive. By continuously refining its designs, the company has achieved maximum energy efficiency while retaining and improving the aesthetic and smart qualities of its homes.
One such innovation is set to elevate glass beyond aesthetic; it’s now possible to connect glass to timber without a buffer, making it an integral component of the structure. Another is intelligent home control, a concept that HUF HAUS realised in 1992.
“Today, our homes are still equipped with highly sophisticated technology that allows the home owner to control things like heating and air conditioning right from their smartphone,” Christian explains. In order to stay ahead of the curve, HUF HAUS relies on the support of its strategic partnerships.
“We have longstanding relationships and friendships with our suppliers. This allows us to guarantee the quality of the materials we buy,” Christian says. “We trust each other and develop new products in tandem. We’re better together.”
To make the planning and construction as seamless and relaxed as possible for its customers, HUF HAUS expanded to include six companies – StilArt, GartenArt, MalerBodenArt, IdealBeton, Redblue Energy, and HUF HAUS Finanzierungsservice, which is available in Germany only. From flooring “that has a good feeling under your feet” to the latest generation of home technology and dreamy landscape architecture, the HUF Group ensures complete customer satisfaction from start to finish.
These relationships and the quality guarantee have made selling HUF HAUS globally a cinch. The Hartenfels-based company has a presence in the UK, Switzerland and Austria, and with its “Team of Merry Men”, its turnkey homes can be delivered worldwide.
“We have no borders,” Christian says. “We have lots of presence outside of Germany in foreign countries. For example, we have our houses in China, America and so on. We deliver our homes without any worry and with full service because we are able to control every process – everything is delivered by one provider, and that’s that.”
The magic of it all
However, in the time of unprecedented challenges such as COVID-19 and even Brexit, it’s not always an easy endeavour. But that doesn’t get Christian down. With the family’s firm foundation, he’s confident they can handle anything that comes their way.
“In times like these, it’s important to remember your roots: where you came from and who you are,” he says. “The world is like a small village, and these challenges can hit anyone. You just have to remain flexible and open to doing things in new ways and finding new solutions.”
At 32 years old, Christian is coming into the role wide-eyed with a lot of optimism and passion. A new father himself, he feels excited to take HUF HAUS forward while continuing to strengthen its foundation for generations to come.
“We’re not just looking for short-term profits. As a family business, we want to ensure our business is sustainable for future generations,” he stresses.
“Now that I’m a dad, I feel the magic of it all and believe it is helping me become a better boss. We’re already starting to think about the next transition into the fifth generation. And with 2022 coming, we will all be celebrating 110 years. It is not common, a family business with our history, but it’s a very wonderful thing.”