Today on Scott’s Cambridge Listening Tour: Alain and Jimmy, owners of a local family-owned business!
What’s it like owning and operating a small business in Cambridge today? Check out my conversation with Alain and Jimmy to find out!
Alain and Jimmy run ‘Royal Pattern Industries’ in Galt, which has been in their family since their Dad formed ‘Pacific Patterns Limited’ back in 1971.
Today, their business constructs ‘moulds’ for fibreglass, plastic, and other materials: from kayaks, to plant pots, to landscaping rocks and animal feed-troughs for farms!
1) What’s the history of your business in Cambridge?
Our Dad and his partner started this business back in 1971, and they were up beside the Galt train station – ‘Pacific Patterns Ltd.’ They were successful, but in the early 1990s during the recession, their bank called their loans in, and unfortunately they had to sell. I (Alain) was a landscaper at the time, and thought I would take up the mantle of the family business.
2) What does your business do today?
Today, we have a staff of 10 people, and we’ve moved far beyond the old belt and hand systems my Dad used. We use CNC (computer numeric control) to craft and cut master moulds, and CAD (computer aided design) to ensure our products are completed quickly and efficiently. We’re small, and so we have to work lean, and be efficient.
We’ve produced products for companies around the world, and around Canada.
3) What are the challenges of running a small business in Cambridge?
We make sure our staff have good wages and we make sure that everyone has benefits. The real difficulty is: what can we do to keep up with the industry when countries like China flood the market with lower-quality, but cheaper, goods? So ensuring efficiency is key: getting the most we can from the least, in order to compete with larger industrial players.
One challenge is seeing the closures of links in our supply chains, and in our customers too. When one of these providers or customers closes up shop and moves to Colorado or China to save money on manufacturing costs, it hits us. As the Asian market improves price and quality, customers start looking there for the cheapest prices.
Another challenge is acquiring new employees. Schools just don’t teach trades anymore, and trades are in demand! Tool and dye, electricians, plumbers; they’re all in need. Someone has to fix the things that we have in our home and workplace, rather than today’s mindset of ‘throwing things out and buying new.’ However, some kids don’t have the patience for learning the job, and some don’t want to get their hands dirty anymore!
Taxes, and working with the city, is always a challenge too. We’ve had issues with parking, with hydro surges damaging machines, and sometimes we hear ‘pass-the-buck’ excuses. But, providing better services for local businesses is something the government at all levels could really do to help small businesses.
A challenge is also mental health, on a larger social scale. When people are unhappy, this spills into the workplace too.
4) How do you compete in a global market?
In a rapidly changing market, we have to respond to issues quickly, and we have to provide a superior product to others. Our customer’s success is our success, and many have products that have been designed here, and have even gone on to win awards at the market level.
In a global economy, we need to build good relationships with clients. We work with customers from start to finish. We have the experience and the staff that can’t be found in other parts of the world. And our quality can’t be beat. That’s what keeps people coming back to us.
5) Are there any misperceptions about small businesses?
Yes! People think all business owners are rich. We’re not. We provide, and we have, fair wages. We have a reasonable living. But we also have a need to sustain our business in challenging times, and to just keep going.
What’s tough for us, is that we’re a niche market. But the old adage is true: support your local businesses, and buy Canadian. If you shop non-local because it’s cheaper, well, beware the damage that can be done.
6) What would you say to Cambridge residents about politics, with an election looming?
If you don’t research your candidates, and if you don’t vote, then don’t complain. We need representatives to fight for us, to represent our sector of the market too. Politicians should support small businesses by helping them to find resources, helping them to reach out to others, expanding their businesses and capacities, and not overburdening them with too many taxes.”