Picking up and moving a business halfway around the globe definitely has its challenges.
But for the Swanepoel family, which runs Hi-Design Custom Cabinetry Ltd., (hidesigncabinets.com) the fact the operation is family owned and run has been a source of strength.
Started in South Africa by Colin Swanepoel’s father-in-law, the firm was relocated to North Delta in 1993. Eight years later, the location on Highway 17 next door to the Delta Town & Country Inn was opened.
The Georgie Award winning enterprise is led by company president Colin who is joined by sons Jason and Warren. They run the shop floor, and their sister, Taryn, serves as the design consulant.
“It all started with me trying to build my own house in South Africa,” Colin says. “The builders who built for us saw the cabinetry we put in and wanted us to do cabinetry for them.”
The business was first run out of a garage space 32 years ago. Today, it supplies customers all across the Lower Mainland.
“It was difficult setting up here because things are done very differently in Canada than they were back in South Africa,” Colin says. “The whole industry is more advanced here, so there was a big learning curve. We have to work a lot smarter here.”
“Or have more kids,” Taryn says laughing, who at first did have some misgivings about joining her family in the business five years ago.
But that has given way to what she discovered are plenty of pluses.
“When I joined the company I was really worried about working within the family business because the relationship can strain, and if anything it’s completely the opposite,” she says. “Just the fact you know each other so well. You know each others strengths and weaknesses. There’s no surprises along the way. You know what to expect from each other and how to encourage and motivate one another.”
One of the other keys is knowing when and how to keep business and family lives separate.
“When we’re at work we’re working, but when we are at home, like at Christmas time or Thanksgiving we are very good at separating work from home life.”
Taryn adds there are no hard and fast rules governing that.
“But work is work, and family is by far the most important thing for all of us working here, regardless if they are family or not,” she says.
“To me, the greatest benefit of having a family operated business is the level of commitment from family members, but also the relatonships that exist between them,” says Colin. “That’s very important. And it works very well.”