For the smallest businesses that have zeroed in on specialized niches, “of course money is necessary” to get started, “but passion is more important” for the success of the firm, said Peter May, a business consultant.
Many of these businesses are kept in the family for generations in Germany, with family members learning the “feeling” for the business from their parents, he said.
Privately owned, specialized businesses offer a kind of stability that cannot be found in the world of multinational public corporations, he said.
“There’s not as much risk of competition in a niche” business, so they’re not as vulnerable to the winds of recession and financial crisis, he said, adding wryly that “more family businesses are destroyed by family quarrels than competition.”
Ironically, the best example of a company that focused successfully on perfecting its products today is an American company, not a German one, Mr. Mays said. It is Apple Inc., where co-founder Steve Jobs devoted his career to developing the best computers and digital products.
“Steve Jobs, he is the role model,” said Mr. Mays. “He made his company into the most valuable in the world.”
Perfection for the ear
Dieter Burmester, chief executive of Burmester Audiosysteme GmbH, which sells top-of-the-line sound systems starting at $4,000 and rising to $460,000, said he started his Berlin company in 1977 because, as an amateur bass guitarist, he could not find what he considered an acceptable amplification system and decided he would have to make one himself.
Today, his workers road-test his systems for days in the factory before they sell them to discriminating music lovers around the world.
“All this costs time and money, but that’s what our customers expect. We spend weeks testing each component of the device,” said Mr. Burmester. “We’re deliberately old-fashioned when it comes to handcrafting. It’s art for the ear.”
Mr. Burmester’s company recently collaborated with German automaker Porsche to design exclusive surround-sound systems for the Porsche 911 and Cayenne — sought-after sports cars that some enthusiasts say come close to heaven on wheels.
The repeated claims of perfection may seem over the top, but they are not just hollow boasts to many customers who appreciate the fine engineering of German products. Even some competitors concede the point.
“They do make the perfect car — the Porsche 911,” said George L. Doetsch Jr., chairman of Professional Automotive Management, which operates Apple Ford Inc. and other Ford dealerships around the world.
Mr. Doetsch, who was once a Porsche dealer, said he owns a Porsche 911 and a Mercedes-Benz, in addition to a Lincoln luxury car.