Former Radio DJ Spins Stair Business into Success Story
"Calgary company set to expand to Edmonton and Winnipeg"
by Marty Hope, Edmonton Journal - March 28, 2009
"Never worked the tools," says Kevin Halliday. "Nope, never built a stair in my life."
Yet Halliday, the effervescent president of Spindle, Stairs and Railings (SSR), continues to march to his own drummer, doing things his way and making a success of his business.
In another life, he was a radio DJ before moving into selling airtime. He loves to talk, has a way with people and is not the least bit shy about what he has accomplished -- and what he still wants to accomplish.
The 10-year-old Calgary company is getting serious about expansion.
Already in Saskatoon, SSR will also have locations in Edmonton and Winnipeg in the next few months, with a long-term vision to be coast-to-coast within five years.
"Along the way, there will be some mergers and acquisitions, no doubt," says Halliday, who has nothing more than a high school diploma but has plenty of business acumen.
Oh sure, the stair-building business is in his blood. His family operates Spindle Factory in Edmonton, but Halliday never got involved in the day-to-day stuff. Halliday is a salesman, the idea guy. He knew he wasn't going to actually build things -- that wasn't him -- so he "hired the right people to do it."
His business card gives a pretty good indication of his off-the-wall personality. Where most people have a corporate title below their name, Halliday has "just a nice guy."
His e-mail address's domain name is the decidedly business-casual stairwaytokevin.ca. He doesn't even look like a young entrepreneur. No suit for this long-haired, 40-year-old husband and father of two. He's more likely to show up in a Hawaiian-style shirt, jeans and loafers.
But don't let all of this fool you.
The DJ persona shares space with a serious business operator who is going all out to become a dominant player in manufacturing not only spindles, stairs and railings, but also flooring, mouldings, baseboards, casings, doors and some furniture.
And not only manufacturing, but painting, lacquering and installation. Oh yeah, there's also the company lumber mill in eastern Ontario that supplies the raw product.
It's all what he calls "the process."
From the day he made his first sale out of his half-ton truck in the parking lot of a Home Depot store in 1999, the process has been cooking.
Now 10 years later, it's still forefront in Halliday's business mind.
"It's all about the process -- the fewer touch points, the less expensive products will be," he explains during a tour of the plant in southeast Calgary. "We want to be a one-stop shop."
From timber stands in the U.S. and eastern Canada, the lumber -- including walnut, cherry and white maple -- is moved to the Ontario mill, where it is cut into boards.
It is shipped in containers to the Quonset huts in the SSR yard, where it is stored until needed.
Inside, laser readers help workers trim, plane, laminate, turn and sand the lumber efficiently to reduce waste.
In another area of the plant, stairway stringers are being curved around a wall of studs.
Across the way is what Halliday calls the "R and D area."
"Everything is about people," he says. "If you have the right people and the right process, you can do anything -- and if you control the labour, you control the market."
One of his builder customers designs locker-style storage for the mud rooms in his homes.
The SSR team is working on a model to design the same system in a way that will save the builder money.
"What we are doing is standardizing customization. Take out the middle man; save money."
From that day 10 years ago when he cornered a contractor and told him he could supply what he needed at a cheaper price, Halliday has not slowed.
Within a month, SSR will be doing all the supply and installation work for the Home Depot, says Halliday.
SSR recently won the Alberta Marketing Award of Distinction presented by the Alberta Chamber of Commerce at its annual Alberta Business Awards of Distinction event.
The award was for the company's Build-A-Stair application on the www.greatstairs.com website. This tool allows customers to make their selections for their staircase online and get a quote within 24 hours. "This changed the way customers interacted with their builder and with us, saving them hours of time," says Halliday.
The bread and butter for SSR is the house-building industry. Halliday's team has attracted a stable of recognized Alberta-based builders that includes Morrison Homes, Jayman MasterBuilt, Stepper Homes, Trico Homes, Lifestyle Homes, Albi Homes, Landmark Homes, Maillot Homes, and the newest player on the block -- Toronto-based Mattamy Homes.
© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal
Spindle, Stairs & Railings is the largest stair manufacturer that produces and supplies its own wood in addition to custom milling, manufacturing and installing. Spindle, Stairs & Railings owns it's own tree farm and trains installers through its inhouse school.