Caribbean Blinds UK Ltd are a UK manufacturer of luxury external shading systems from stylish patio awnings that provide instant shade and shelter, to innovative external blinds that offer unbeatable solar heat and light control and an award winning louvered roof Outdoor Living Pod that provides year round use of the outdoor space whatever the weather. Paul Andrews spoke to second generation Managing Director Stuart Dantzic to find out more.
When was the business founded?
The company was founded as a limited company in 1987 however it was formed back in 1973 as a non limited company.
How did you get involved?
I was always helping out in the Summer months to earn some pocket money with my roles ranging from sweeping the factory floor to doing some filing. As I got a bit older I was helping with assembly along with taking calls and answering queries. Whilst I was at college, I still worked part time in the business so I had some beer money for the end of each week but I really enjoyed being involved too.
Back in 2001 when my parents said they were moving from a rented factory to purchasing a factory in Sudbury as the business was growing I was excited and I wanted to be part of the journey, and the rest, as they say ‘is history’.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
A lawyer. There was something about being all suited and booted and commanding an audience (jury) in a court room that was very appealing. Whilst I didn’t progress this career path, my favourite programmes and films are typically always lawyer related.
What are your first memories of the family business?
Aside from the nice yearly holidays which were a result of the business being a success and my parents hard work, I first remember the company when we were based in Hedingham. I remember sitting in my mums office, which was the second door on the right up the corridor and helping out on the Amstrad computer – I can’t remember what I was doing, probably typing something up for her. I do remember the distinct smell of smoke as these were the days when smoking was not prohibited inside of buildings.
What values are important in your family/family business?
We have to meet or exceed (ideally exceed) clients expectations, every single time and to do this we have solid values based around honesty and integrity. We don’t over promise and under deliver. We provide sound, honest, expert advice to ensure clients make an informed decision and subsequently have the right solution, first time, every time.
What is the best thing about being a family business?
You’re all working towards the same goal and it’s not all about money. Yes the money helps but you are building a brand, after all it’s your family name and reputation that is on the line.
And the worst?
I don’t think you every switch off. Even when I meet up with my brother socially, we talk about work. But this is because family businesses are passionate about what they do and are continually striving to improve.
What is the best thing about your working day?
There are two things, sorry I couldn’t narrow it down to one! First is seeing the site installation photos on the company intranet from our teams of completed installations – it’s great to see the end result of our products and the subsequent positive reviews. The second, and I’m sure many people will agree with me, is success and I’m using this broadly as it can be winning projects, seeing new products we’ve invested in gain traction or simply seeing a happy team when I come into the office and/or the factory – this gives me the most satisfaction.
What is your proudest family business achievement?
This would have to be when I set up what we refer to as the ‘projects division’ which is the direct arm of the business. This was set up due to a reduction in trade sales following the 2008 recession and targeted architects to incorporate our products into their schemes along with discerning homeowners and businesses direct. Within 5 years of setting this up it was generating more turnover than our trade supply and continues to, to this date. Winning the Suffolk Business Awards Young Business Person of the Year last year (2019) was great too as it recognised what the company has done since I took the reins, doubling turnover in such a short space of time.
Is there a next generation waiting in the wings to take over?
No, we’re some way off that yet, having just taken the reins ourselves. I would like to think however that the company will still be in the Dantzic family for many years to come.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing family businesses?
As a family business we offer value, and I think most family businesses do. Many businesses are looking to make as much money as quick as possible and will sell at lower margins to create volume and then move onto something else, so I think the biggest challenge is competitors underselling and undervaluing products and services.
What words do you associate with family businesses?
This could be a long list so I will pick just three:
Knowledge – family benefits from years of experience, passed through generations
Passion – family businesses love what they do and this runs throughout the business
Integrity – family businesses grow by their honest, ethical approach – it’s their family name after all which is their reputation and as the business is always looking to the long term, protecting this and ensuring it is known for the right reasons are paramount.
Words of wisdom – What piece of advice would you pass on to someone thinking about joining the family business?
Make sure (a) you are doing it because you enjoy the business and what it does and not just because your parents want you to join and (b) make sure you get involved in every single element of the business so you know how it truly functions and operates – not only will this enable you to help take the business forward but it will gain the respect of all employees.