Stone people: Insiders say of Joachim Grüter, who is stepping down after 20 years as DNV President: “He was a stroke of luck for the industry“

 Photo from the presentation of the German Natural Stone Award 2018: on the right Joachim Grüter (outgoing DNV President), on the left Hermann Graser (new DNV President), in between on the left Heiner Farwick (President of the Federal Chamber of Architects) and on the right award winner Arno Lederer (Lederer Ragnarsdóttir Oei). Photo: DNV

Hermann Graser was elected as his successor at the general meeting of the German Natural Stone Association

He has been “a stroke of luck for the German natural stone industry,“ say those who know him. Because Joachim Grüter, who resigned from his office as president of the German Natural Stone Association (DNV) at the general meeting on November 6, 2020, combined a number of remarkable character traits in his person, which he always knew how to play off at the right moment in his work during 2 decades: he was unifying and binding, persistent and assertive, but at the same time also a person with a high level of social competence, so that a disagreement with him did not degenerate into cantankerousness, but remained at the level of arguments.

This may also be the reason why “it was never boring with him,“ as we were told by someone who had worked with him since 2000, the year when Grüter briefly stepped in for the late predecessor president.

As for the entertaining streak in him alluded to in this quote, we add from our own experience: especially at late hours, Grüter – as before – likes to be in great form.

We would like to relate two episodes from his life for the natural stone industry.

The first is from his time at Zeidler und Wimmel, once the top dog in Berlin and newly founded in Kirchheim, Franconia, after the war: when the Holzmann Group went bankrupt at the turn of the millennium and the locusts were already waiting for Z+W as a then subsidiary of the Group, Grüter managed to save the company and persuade Geiger Stein- und Schotterwerke to take over.

Here, on the one hand, his striving for preservation became apparent: he was concerned not to let the renowned name Z+W go under, and at the same time to save the jobs for the employees.

He fought like a lion, it is said, and where other bosses would have made off with a severance package, Grüter spent many sleepless nights and was even in poor health at the end when the solution was negotiated.

The other episode shows his openness to modernization: Grüter vehemently advocated the new profession of natural stone mechanic and pushed it through against opposition from all directions.

Somehow Grüter had been involved with raw materials all his life. His father had a company for hydrofluoric acid in the Fichtelgebirge mountains not far from Nuremberg, which was used as an important raw material in the chemical industry at the time.

But Grüter was still to become a man of the world, and so he learned with a large trading company in the USA, among other places, how to extract ores internationally and ship them everywhere. Fireclay bricks for stoves were also part of his portfolio of trade goods, and later Nero Assoluto from quarries in Africa was added.

His enthusiasm for natural stone is contagious and it is hard to resist. He also lives it out in his private life, where there are many statues made of different types of stone in the family garden.

In July 2016, he was awarded the Bavarian Order of Merit for his services to the Free State.

“He has mastered the high art of the president,“ say those who have worked with him. He likes to bring it into play, for example when it comes to lobbying: then he ties his suave demeanor, unmistakable persistence and at the same time seriousness together to form a whole bunch of keys with which he makes himself useful as a door opener.

In 2016/17, for example, he and DNV Managing Director Reiner Krug went door-to-door with 12 construction ministries of the German federal states to inform their decision-makers about the ecological strengths of domestic natural stone.

The sustainability study commissioned by DNV was also presented. The continuation of this study is now available. Its subject is the comparison of natural stone tiles as floor covering with ceramics, PVC, laminate, carpet and parquet.

This study shows particularly clearly Grüter’s typical view beyond his own nose: DNV also provided data collection free of charge to associations abroad, so that they might translate it and use it for their own work.

However, Grüter will not leave the industry after the DNV general meeting on November 6; he was unanimously elected honorary president of the association. As new president, on suggestion of Grüter, Herman Graser jr (43) of the Bamberg natural stone plant Hermann Graser GmbH was selected, likewise unanimously. Information on the other nominations

Deutscher Naturwerkstein-Verband e.V. (German)

(14.11.2020, USA: 11.14.2020)