Good fortune is not accidental


When Patrick Martinez moved to Dijon 15 years ago, people told him to go see the famous Owl of Dijon. He went to the Rue de la Chouette on the north side of Notre-Dame de Dijon, a Gothic church from the 13th century. The owl sculpture has been sitting there on a buttress for over 500 years, worn down from all the stroking and restored after vandalism in 2001.

The landmark of Dijon is said to grant wishes if you touch it with your left hand, the hand close to your heart. Locals and tourists make a pilgrimage to Owl Lane and Patrick Martinez also touched the owl and made a wish. He does not reveal his wish, but he confesses: It did not come true. 

Patrick Martinez (49), born in Sainte-Foy-lès-Lyon, a suburb of Lyon, attended the CPE Lyon, one of France’s elite universities, after graduating from high school and spending two years as a chemical technician. He completed two practical semesters in a company that extrudes polyamide. Towards the end of his studies, he specialised in PVC formulations. For nine years, the chemical engineer worked for a PVC profile manufacturer in Occitania. In 2008, he became Technical Manager of GEALAN France, responsible for customer service, testing, complaints and the development of new products. Since 2016, he has been managing the operations of GEALAN’s French subsidiary.  


The founding of GEALAN S.A.R.L. on 1 July 2005 was preceded by a market analysis for positioning in Western Europe. ‘GEALAN France could also have been called GEALAN United Kingdom. However, a complete relaunch would have been necessary in Great Britain. For the French market GEALAN could adapt proven profiles’, explains Patrick Martinez. While other system providers had established themselves near the German-French border, GEALAN adopted a distinct French identity. Dijon is well connected and is only a three-hour drive from Paris. It can be reached in one day by lorry from GEALAN’s production facility in Tanna. 

After a few weeks in a start-up centre, GEALAN France moved into its own offices (250 m2) and a warehouse (3,000 m2) in Chevigny-Saint-Sauveur. But the brand was still unknown and the product did not quite meet the taste of the French: ‘We offered S 3000, a system with an angular design. But the market demanded something more rounded at that time. With S 8000 it became easier and we grew.’ In the summer of 2010, GEALAN moved into a 6,500 m2 warehouse in Gevrey-Chambertin.  

To gain a stronger foothold in France, GEALAN invested in a technology centre – the only one in the group besides the one at the headquarters in Oberkotzau. This is because an Avis Technique (ATec = French technical certification), a certificate issued by the Science and Technology Centre for Construction (CSTB), is obligatory for the sale of window and door profiles in France. With the ATec, a specialist group assesses the suitability for use of innovative construction methods. GEALAN France carries out safety and stability tests in its own technology centre and builds test elements that are submitted to the CSTB for certification. Patrick Martinez: ‘French regulations for window bracing differ from those in other European  countries.’ GEALAN France is also well positioned for prototyping thanks to its in-house technology centre. If a red frame is needed spontaneously for the GEANOVA photo shoot in the vineyard, it can be welded quickly. 

‘85 per cent of the profiles we sell are French profiles’, says Martinez. They are extruded in Germany but feature a distinct French character. This is particularly noticeable in the frame profiles. They have a pronounced stop that covers the building’s interior insulation, which is widespread in France. When buildings are renovated in France, new PVC windows are usually mounted on existing timber frames. For this particular scenario, frame profiles are available in many different construction depths, some of which are considerably higher than in Germany. The design of the S 8000 FR system, which was introduced in 2011, thus corresponds entirely to the national specifications of window construction and installation in France: ‘It is based on S 8000, but we were able to adopt only a few profiles one-to-one that are compatible with the installation requirements in France, for example for front doors and mullions.’  

GEALAN is planning a milestone for 2026: The plan is to present an independent profile system that was designed in France from the ground up and prepared for series production in coordination with the GEALAN designers in Germany. ‘It’s still too early to talk about details. This innovation was initially only intended for France but has already aroused interest in other countries.’ Patrick Martinez let customers and interested parties in on his system strategy – much to the surprise of a window manufacturer who wanted to switch his production to GEALAN profiles and also process the announced system. ‘He laughed a bit and I asked why. He couldn’t believe that we were including him in our considerations so early. He explained that his current supplier couldn’t care less about his opinion.’ 

With an open ear and foresight, GEALAN France analyses which measures help their customer grow. If the customer grows, GEALAN grows. Martinez has made customer satisfaction his maxim and feels validated when a customer with occasional orders has become a regular customer with an annual turnover of 1.2 million euros. Or when a customer writes to him: ‘It feels good to be supported. I chose GEALAN because of the service and I was not wrong.’ If a window manufacturer converts his production to GEALAN profiles, GEALAN supports him on the way to the start of production. The IT experts at GEALAN speak the languages of four window manufacturing software programs. ‘We’re on site to plan and organise the transition with the customer and his machine suppliers. We ensure that tools are installed correctly, and that the equipment is configured properly. The customer benefits from our experience with certifications and our CE marking. We know how to move things along during the changeover.’ 

Customer service is not a one-man show. GEALAN France has also  reinforced its sales team in anticipation of the planned introduction of the new profile system. ‘We’ll invest 4 million euros. Of course, we feel the pressure. We’re going to have to attract new customers and sell more. But I trust our team of four customer advisors, which we will reinforce with advisors for architects and retailers.’ Innovation as growth engine: The new product is expected to bring in 10 to 12 million euros in annual sales and raise the total turnover above the 30 million euro mark. Around 30 people work at GEALAN in Gevrey-Chambertin, and since autumn 2023 the office and warehouse space has doubled again. So, the company is also growing in terms of space. ‘We were able to close the external warehouse and now have space for more items in the range – shutter boxes, sliding windows and new GEALAN-acrylcolor® colours.’ 


Patrick Martinez has lived in Dijon for almost 16 years. The city’s landmark may have denied him his wish, but somehow the owl has brought him luck: ‘I feel comfortable here, in my personal life, with my colleagues at our location, and in the GEALAN Group. I love technology and our profiles are fascinating technology. I’m an emotional person. My heart beats for GEALAN.’  

The owl as a lucky charm for GEALAN? Martinez doesn’t want to go that far: ‘We have difficult years and hard work behind us. And we had to invest a lot, for example in new tools for the extrusion of the S 8000 FR profiles. A French proverb says: Les étoiles sont alignées – the stars are aligned. We are on the right track now – I can feel it. Our growth is based on strong arguments for our customers and on trust between Germany and France. If I had relied on that owl, I probably wouldn’t still be here.’ But just to be safe, he stroked it one more time. It can’t do any harm. 


Marc Schenk


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