Jim Ecclestone and his two partners established Calstone in 1985, focusing on the core competencies of manufacturing mailroom furniture and modular pack bench lines, servicing the institutional marketplace. The company focused on customer relationships right from the start, which allowed it to grow into a major office and mailroom furniture manufacturer in Ontario, with a 55,000 square foot production plant in Scarborough, with 45 employees, and servicing customers effectively and creatively remains the company’s mantra to this day.
While the other partners retired in 2006, Ecclestone decided to carry on the business, and turned Calstone into 100 per cent Canadian family owned and operated business run by his twin daughters, Laura and Jamie, and son Matthew. In general terms, Calstone belongs to the “Original Equipment Manufacturing (OEM)” business description, in business terms, Calstone strives to provide its partners with a quality manufactured product, and service that is second to none.
The service approach aligned the company with the needs of companies such as Pitney Bowes Mailing North America, Dehnco Equipment & Supplies, Inc., and Corcan (Correctional Service Canada), who represent Calstone’s largest clients.
The company provides exceptional service through completely understanding customer’s requirements and offering added value services such as pricing, and flexibility with fast execution turnaround, while creating environmentally friendly products with great quality and appeal, all backed by a Lifetime Guarantee.
The Canadian Business Journal spoke with Jim Ecclestone, President and CEO, and his partner and daughter Jamie, about Calstone and going green, recent business developments, new clients and the manufacturing business.
“We have implemented many green initiatives in the past couple of years. This focus helped us to land new clients, one of which is Pitney Bowes Mailing North America, a multi-billion organization focused on mailing equipment. We manufacture mailing furniture for them exclusively, where they bundle their equipment with our furniture to be sold to the end user. This has been a great accomplishment for us,” says Jamie Ecclestone.
The company keeps its manufacturing processes and products up to date with the environmental demands of today’s business. To uphold this commitment to quality green manufacturing, Calstone received ISO 9001:2000 certification, ISO 14001 (self-assessment), and GREENGUARD certification for low-emitting products (this certification offers end users one point towards their Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System).
According to Ecclestone, their partners are well aware of changes in the mailing industry, and focus on providing clients with additional options to company offerings such as shredding lines and book making machines. “For us it has been a blessing, because we worked with smaller companies in the past on their mail room furniture, and due to the changes in the industry we were able to offer Pitney Bowes mail room furniture they needed to support their sales. So it has been a great partnership for us, where we manufacture their products which they market and sell,” says Jamie Ecclestone.
To this Jim Ecclestone added, “I think the biggest difference today is that the manufacturing sector must do so much more, compared to what it was in the past. To land a multi-billion organization like Pitney Bowes, we have to be more than a manufacturer, we have to be a company that can bring quality product, but must deliver on the green initiatives as well.”
By looking at the needs of the end user, Calstone has also evolved from a company that simply builds equipment, to a company which talks to end users, and creates the most suitable custom manufacturing solutions that will increase efficiency of the product for the client, as the clients’ needs are constantly adapting to the industry. “We had to work with Pitney Bowes on the idea that we are partners, rather than just suppliers. As a partner, we are concerned about the end user, making sure that the end users gets exactly what they want. We are never satisfied until we know that the end users have the right product in their hands.
Service has always been big in the industry, and even more so today. The quality product, the green initiatives, and the service make us the top company to work with.”
To remain competitive, the company continues to create new standard solutions and includes new products in its lineup often. “We have become extremely efficient in creating custom solutions, and today, about 40 per cent of our orders are custom or specialty make products. Our strength is being able to provide our customers a full-solution product line. So our challenges are also our greatest strength in the industry,” says Jim Ecclestone.
The company business approach has been focused on creating a balance of product sales and production, balancing mail furniture, industrial packaging benches, and business furniture. While the company sales dropped during the recent economic downturn, Calstone sales continue to rebound. Besides Pitney Bowes, the company’s industrial packaging benches and work centres have been a great business for Calstone in the rebounding markets, supplying national distribution centres of companies such as Target, J.C. Penney and Sears, and currently working with Home Depot. “With these big retail chains under our belt, we are looking for big sales in this segment,” says Ecclestone.
Through its partnership approach to business, the company continues to focus on providing its partners with quality product but leaving the product marketing with their partners. It was this non-compete approach as well as production flexibility that supported Calstone’s growth in the OEM sector, and the company is ready to seize new markets and new market opportunities. “We are looking to sell our products overseas and also sell our standard products online. In regards to international sales, England would be our first stop, and then the European Union. India also has potential but there are several challenges that we need to address first. Our product lines have been established over the years, so it’s time for us to reach outside North America,” says Jim Ecclestone.