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It's not about us – It's about you!

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CKCA by Caroline Castrucci
Caroline Castrucci is CP/Owner of Laurysen Kitchens Ltd. & President of Canadian Kitchen Cabinet Association. For more info email ccastrucci@laurysenkitchens.com
As CKCA journeys through its 50th anniversary year, along with a lot of other kitchen cabinet manufacturing and supplier companies across Canada, you realize there are so many stories to tell that provide the ingredients for success in this business. Over 50 years the industry has seen unprecedented change. Businesses bought, sold, grown from a garage business to a business of more than 200 employees, new start-ups with just a couple of employees and businesses passed down through families.

Statistics paint the picture
According to the Conference Board of Canada’s 2016 Advanced Wood Manufacturing (AWP) Sector Report, the AWP sector employs approximately 88,000 workers today and is predicted to add 7,900 workers by 2020. In addition, the workforce is predominantly male, older than the average Canadian and faced with HR challenges, which include a lack of qualified workers and a need for new workforce skills and difficulty replacing retiring workers.

Thousands of years of knowledge
In kitchen cabinet manufacturing we know there are more than 4,500 companies across Canada and countless other companies involved in the supply of products and services to the industry. In these companies are  thousands of years of knowledge and know how. Imagine what that collective knowledge knows about being successful? How do we set up the next generation to succeed? Can we entice people into our industry because we can tell them there is support, knowledge and a network to help them succeed?
The AWP Sector Report stresses the need to make a “concerted effort if we are to reach our full growth potential in the years ahead.” But also, for everything we have poured into our business, all our knowledge and know-how, it is tragic to think that we may not be passing this along. So on this 50th anniversary of the CKCA, we aren’t making it about us, we’re making it all about you!  

Tell us your stories
We want you to share your stories, your know-how because we are building a tool to share with our industry that will help the next generation who are, in many instances, already taking over the business. In my own company that my father John Laurysen started, my brother Bill and I have already brought our children into the business.
We want them to work hard, learn and thrive in the business our father started. Why? Because we love the business, we believe in its potential, we have benefitted from what our father started and we want our children to enjoy those benefits too. The six businesses that founded CKCA back in 1968 knew that an association would bring the industry together to share knowledge and collectively the industry 
would benefit.
They were right, because so many companies have told us that learning, growing and sharing knowledge has been foundational to their success.
To give you a sampling of just how much knowledge is available in this industry we invited Bill Dewinetz from Pacific Rim Cabinets (Bill started in the business 52 years ago, his first job was running a table saw) and Will Holsappel from Windmill Cabinet Shop (Will’s father-in-law started the business with Andy, his business partner, over 40 years ago) to come and speak at our recent Western Regional Event. Whether you’ve been in business a long time or a short time, there’s always something to learn when you hear the stories.
Bill Dewinetz knows that people come into this industry and seldom leave because the industry is exciting, creative and rewarding. Bill has seen a lot over the years and, like many other business owners, he has enjoyed the benefits, learned from mistakes and lived to tell the tale. Recently Bill had a visitor come to the shop and ask if they could take pictures. Bill’s response was “I would be proud if you saw something here that you liked, it means I am doing something well.” Bill would like to see more companies get certified with the CKCA standard. This is something the CKCA has supported since 1968, today it offers a standard for quality assurance of cabinets. Pacific Rim Cabinets is an industry leader by being a certified kitchen cabinet manufacturer.

Real quality is not decided by you, but by your customers
Bill believes that “longevity is about being a consistent leader, someone who’s in charge of the culture in the organization and of nurturing it along. Build quality, without it there won’t be longevity. How do you decide what that real level 
of quality is? Real quality is not decided by you, but by your customers.”
When a recession hit, Pacific Rim decided to go upscale 
with their products. The transition helped them weather the next recession.
“In business you must be ready to change and evolve to what your market requires. You must surround yourself with a talented workforce that is willing to be creative and do things in a better way. You must treat your employees with respect to allow them to be the best they can be.”
For Bill, this has ensured the success of the company that he now works in with his son James Dewinetz. James continues his father’s legacy and remains engaged in the industry, continues to renew its CKCA certification and keeps the doors open to the industry as it did most recently at the Western Regional Event where they hosted a plant tour. Pacific Rim Cabinets knows that by sharing with the industry, you can only learn and grow in business for the better.
Will Holsappel came into the business 9 years ago, realizing that his father-in-law had an exit strategy! Jon and Will are taking over from George completely in the next few years.
Windmill Cabinet Shop started in 1976 in a small garage by George and his partner Andy in Chatham, Ontario. Always looking for the simplest way to do things, frameless cabinetry appealed to them and allowed them the flexibility to be creative and gave them the competitive edge especially because they were located close to the US border. With so much machinery coming from Europe and more technology arriving soon after, they knew they needed to find the cash to do something different. First they purchased a point-to-point CNC “pod and rail” machine and panel saw, later came the complex edgebander and motorized case clamp. All these things were purchased to get ahead. A computerized point-to-point CNC and new computer controlled sliding table saw was next, followed by software for quoting and design.
In the thick of exciting growth and future-building came news of Andy’s terminal illness. As Will says “in business you’re only as good as your partners and your partners include your employees. Invest in time, money and good people to support you.” George and Andy put money back into the company instead of putting it in their pockets. George’s son, Jon has been in the business since his first day of work and after coming back to Windmill after finishing school at Conestoga, was able to alleviate some of the workload that Andy used to take care of. “Respect in partnership starts here. Don’t stand still in cabinet design, things are changing really fast. Adopt new technologies, have an accountant who knows your business and knows who you are, you have to get the best staff and don’t be afraid of the competition. Do a good job. Trust the people who work for you, don’t be a micro-manager, be a mentor to your employees so they will take responsibility. Be present, so employees will follow. Be an example, practice what you preach, own up to failure, be honest.”
Will has learned a lot in the past nine years. He says “succession is important as George has been my mentor, not a dictator, George has my back. We respect each other with the strengths and weaknesses we have as partners, we put the cards on the table. No matter how big you become or want to become, you must be ready for change. Succession is a process, lead by example, have a passion, respect your partner’s different passions. Stay flexible, change things 
that need to be changed at the end of the day.”
No matter where you are in business today, both Bill and Will’s stories hold value. It is rewarding to pass along the knowledge, to share and help the industry evolve. It’s what the generation before us would want us to do and the next generation needs our help. What you have to say does matter!
Tell us your story.  We want to hear from kitchen cabinet manufacturers and suppliers so we can put more of this type of information together to share with the industry. CKCA has created a survey, please go to this link and help us build a succession tool for the industry.

Take the CKCA 50th Anniversary Survey here.

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