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Timberspan Wood Products feature

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Company Name – Timberspan Wood Products

Website – www.timberspan.ca

Email – info@timberspan.ca

Owner – Joe Cvenkel

Phone – 250-961-0146

9 employees

Timberspan offer quality European crafted Douglas Fir timbers and lumber from Northern British Columbia. Our timbers are used by commercial and residential builders throughout the world. We have the experience as a former log and timber home builder to know what quality Douglas Fir products are required and desired. We also provide bridge and decking materials used in the construction, road building and oil & gas industry

How did you start?

I was working at the Wood Technology Program and the College of New Caledonia in Prince George and discovered opportunities in the forestry sector that no one else was covering. After the CNC Wood Technology Program was cancelled I then moved into this sector which was not being provided

Describe the early years of your business

The early years were very lean as we did not even have an office on site. I operated out of a 25 yr old motor home for the first years taking any work we could get. We got our first big break when we landed a couple of major contracts with Formula Contracting (Prince George) to supply bridge timbers for some of their projects

How did you get to where you are today (what did you do before this, what route did you take, how long did it take)

It has taken us over 11 years of lots of blood, sweat and tears. We were constantly working with equipment that was always being repaired and fixed to make it to the end of the week. We also never cut corners on the quality of timbers that we supply. We make sure that the quality is excellent and the customer is to be always impressed. We make sure that we provide the customer with a product and service that is better than they expected. Our quality and commitment to customer service became our greatest asset as our reputation spread through word of mouth in the region

What are you doing that is unique and innovative?

No necessary unique but we understand that we are the only Douglas Fir timber supplier in Northern BC that provides custom work and standard product for any customer. Since we are small and innovative we can make anything for the customer from Douglas Fir.

What makes you different from other competitors?

We are different from Douglas Fir you get from the south as our rings are tighter and stronger. With our colder winters and longer summer growing season, our product tends to be stronger and better quality than timbers from the south. Also most of the Douglas Fir coming out of the south comes from the States as 2nd growth product. We offer first growth that is a better product. We also buy from loggers and contractors who make sure that all the logs we get a high quality. We make sure we use the whole log and any waste goes to places like Pacific Bio for wood pellets

What has been your most unique customer?

We had an innovative house builder in Calgary looking for large timbers for an executive home. The timbers were very big (34 feet long x 16 inches x 16 inches). They were looking for quality and they found me through word of mouth from a log cabin builder in Golden BC. Their biggest concern was quality of the timbers – nothing else. By always presenting quality in the products the deal was done on reputation and the ability to deliver exactly what the customer wanted. Since it was a multi million dollar home that was a show case for other products we have now maintained this customer for additional projects

How important is technology for your business?

We just updated our website and need to always make sure that we are current and get the word out their through a variety of methods. We have contracted a local business consulting company to spread the word via the internet which has been really helpful as now we are getting at least 2-3 inquires per week from all over the world as well as 1-2 a week from western Canada.

Where is your most remote customer and how did you get them?

We have had a variety of unique customers throughout the area. We constantly get order from Alberta, Alaska and the Yukon for our timbers and wood products. We have also shipped product to California, Japan, Indonesia, China, and numerous countries in Europe such as Germany and Slovenia.

Describe the challenges you have had financially?

Of course we were under funded from the beginning and needed to make the necessary adjustments accordingly. Most of our equipment is used and we have rebuilt allot of the rolling stock in order to make sure it worked. We had to become very good at repairing our equipment since we could not afford to have someone come out to our site to fix anything. Even in the middle of winter at -25C we were lying in the snow outside fixing things like our loader or forklift in the early years

How do you market yourself?

We market ourselves through a variety of methods but mainly locally (Western Canada) it comes through word of mouth. We are always emailing a network of people in various industries, contracting people through home shows, our own website and registering on a number of industry related websites

What was your best mistake?

A couple of years ago I had the chance to really expand and increase my employee base from 3 to 12 employees through a series of contracts and jobs. We did not and eventually these jobs fell off and some of the companies went under. I did not jump at this opportunity as I had not a great feeling about it – and I was right. Slow and steady wins the race and I do not want to build a large company which would take me out of the yard

Favourite website for business ideas

Timber Framers Guild www.tfguild.org

Best time wasting website? 

During hunting season I look at a number of hunting websites

Slovenia News (a number of them)

Discovery Channel www.discoverychannel.ca

What is your future?

To educate potential customers of the quality of Northern BC Douglas Fir while slowly expanding the businesses locally and overseas. Keeping this in mind the goal is to grow but not too fast. 

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