When it comes to managing a family business, separating work and personal relationships can be tricky. In fact, successful family businesses are a fairly common thing, with more than two-thirds of all the companies in the world being family owned. Not only does this indicate that managing a family business can be done, but that it has a huge impact on the success of the business as well as on the global economy. I sat down with Tina Di Lorenzo of Di Lorenzo tiles to find out what makes this family business tick and continuously evolving 35 years on…
Richard – 35 years ago Di Lorenzo tiles was born, if we were taken back in time, what did the company look like?
Tina – Our parents had the opportunity to take over a very small tile shop which was no longer operating. Dad knew the shop owner, so he gave him 6 months free rent. Dad had briefly worked in the tile industry, so he had some knowledge of tiles, so they basically walked into a small showroom which was already fitted out with tiles, and they ran it. Dad was always great at selling, and mum did the run arounds, picking up and delivering small orders in her car.. whilst juggling 4 young children. They took a risk, worked very hard, and it eventually paid off
Richard- Fast forward 35 years, what has your family achieved and how has the business changed, adapted and grown?
The business has changed immensely. Firstly our parents retired 4 years ago, so the business is owned by myself and 3 sisters, and run by us as well as 3 of our husbands. We have all worked in the business for many years now. We have 5 showrooms across Sydney, and I would like to think we have adapted well to an evolving industry. Mum and Dad laid some great foundations for us, built some great relationships with overseas suppliers, many of which we still import from today. We now employ 65 staff.
Richard – It’s very rare that you find 4 sisters falling in love with tiles, where and how did this passion for tiles develop?
We were forced to work in our parents showroom during school holidays!! Our jobs were to clean the tile displays, and we did not enjoy it at all! We often joke that their intention was to expose us to tiles from a very young age!
On a serious note, our parents worked hard as they wanted us to have an education, which they were never able to have – they wanted us to study and go to University, which is what we all did.
As we got older we were able to contribute more to the growth of their business. It was our decision to join the business. We all finished our studies and gained experience in the ‘real world’ before joining at different times over the past 25 years or so.
Initially I was only going to help out in their growing business, for a period of 3 months – I am still here 25 years later! We saw that the business was growing very rapidly, and we also saw the industry was changing. Tiles were becoming more fashionable, and were moving away from being a mere necessity, in colours, grey, white and beige.
Our parents started importing tiles from Italy, and they would often bring Italian reps home for dinner. They started asking our advice on what to import, and I do recall becoming very excited about the new range of products we were seeing. For me personally, this is where it all began.
We all have an immense passion of tiles, it is in our blood!
Richard – When Di Lorenzo tiles was evolving into the brand we see today, can you share with us a time when things didn’t go the way you wanted, that didn’t turn out how you had hoped.
We have been very fortunate over the years, and have not had many major battles along the way. Our biggest hurdle would have been losing a lot of money when one of our contractors went into liquidation. This was an extremely difficult time for the family as we were not sure how we were going to move forward from this loss. However this has lead us to put in procedures and processes into place to minimise this occurring again.
Richard – Tell me about an accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in Di Lorenzo tiles 35 years.
Our most significant accomplishment in my opinion, would have been building our 4000m2 showroom and warehouse at Bella Vista in the year 2000. This was mammoth. We still recall our father taking us to this empty site, and telling us that this is where our future would be. We looked at him like he was crazy, but we all went along for the ride. This was a turning point for our business, it really did put us on the map. Our father is a great risk taker, and I am not sure we would have taken the risk had it been the 4 of us girls making the decision.
Richard – You obviously love everything about your role at Di Lorenzo tiles, so if you could change roles and company. What type of role would you consider to try something new?
I really can’t see myself doing anything else! My background is marketing, and I feel very privileged that I can do what I love in my own business. In the early days, when I joined the business I did everything but marketing! But I do feel this made me understand the crux of the business, and learn from my parents the very basics of customer service which is key for any business
Richard – You have a super inspiring family that you work extremely close with. What would you say is key to working together?
We all believe in each other, and we have a mutual respect for each other. This is key for us. We are also experts in our own fields, so none of us are doing the same job, which also helps run the business very smoothly. I think diversity is important in business, and we are all very different. And for those decisions where we may be divided, majority rules!
Richard – Could you share your insights on your siblings super powers…
Diana’s superpower is sales and customer service. She is a great mentor for all our sales team and has this innate ability to deal with any situation with calm. We also buy our products from Italy together, so her knowledge of the market is imperative when we are buying
Maria is our Financial Accountant, so she keeps our spending in line!! We are very fortunate to have her knowledge, as we do not have to worry about our finances, it is all in her hands!
Belinda makes it all happen, she gets the products to our stores, and ensures that each store reflects our brand. Belinda is not afraid to build it, tile it or make it!
In the words of Belinda; Tina is super passionate about the business and handles it all so gracefully. Tina is in charge of Marketing and buying our beautiful Italian product. She oversees the sales team across our stores, ensuring all is running smoothly and efficiently. Tina is the connecting piece between all of our roles
Richard – Who is your role model, and why?
My father. He came to this country with nothing but his family. He had no education, and did not speak English. He came with a desire to make a better life for himself. I have the utmost respect for his tenacity. He believed in himself and was driven to make a difference for his family. He would never have dreamed the business would be where it is today, and that makes me very proud.
Richard- How do you keep the Di Lorenzo brand fresh and constantly evolving?
We are 4 women who love to keep changing what we do! We love new products, we love new designs, we are happy to re-invest back into our business, trying to be better at what we do. We would be bored if we did the same thing year after year! We expose ourselves to great people in our industry and amazing suppliers which makes it easy for us to change with the times
Richard– Where do you see the brand in 35 years? Good question!! We do hope the next generation fall in love with tiles just as we did.. stay tuned