Learnings of 50-years in Small Business - Part 1

Surviving 50-years in small business and manufacturing is no easy feat and the Linzner family have many poignant lessons to share from their decades of experience.

Three generations - father (Jakob), son (Jake) and grandson (Michael) have continued the time-honoured tradition of manufacturing in Australia since the humble beginnings of a family-owned business in 1970 in Fitzroy, Melbourne. (Pictures below)

Now manufacturing about 1 million metres of chain per year and selling a vast array of general hardware, building, farming, garden and hospitality products they share lessons learnt.

Jake (66) and Michael (36) Linzner, the father-son team answer questions on the 50th Anniversary of their company Abacon Products Pty Ltd (also known as CHAIN.COM.AU) now in the 3rd generation.

Jake is also known as “Mr Chain”, as he’s manufactured more chain in Australia since 1980 than any other individual.  

How has business been during the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Michael: Surprisingly, really well! We upgraded and re-launched our e-commerce website just as COVID-19 was taking hold. Our sales have been up on last year over 50% each month since April. We aren’t exactly sure why this is the case; it could be some problems with imports from Asia due to COVID-19 but we have also noticed through enquiries and regular customers that people are more conscious to buy “Australian Made” than they have been in a long time! It’s a constant question we get over the phone or in email enquiries “Are these made in Australia?”. It’s so great when we can reply “YES, made by us right here in our factory!” 

Can you give a brief history of your business?

Jake: In November 1970 (I was 16), my Father Jakob Snr (was 39) and I started a wire product manufacturing business at 405 Fitzroy Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne making wire trays, racks, baskets, display equipment and animal traps. 

In a very short time, we were supplying most of the Fish & Chip shops in Melbourne with deep fryer baskets.

In 1980 in desperate need of more space we moved out to Keilor East and that’s where we purchased our first chain machine, from then on, we steadily moved into automation and away from manually produced products.

By 1990 we had 19 chain machines, some of which were running around the clock yet we were still struggling to keep up with the demand.

In 2010 my son Michael joined the business after completing his tertiary studies and working 5 years in another company to gain outside experience; another perspective is always valuable.

In 2016 we launched the online store CHAIN.COM.AU which was completely new for us and we’re excited to see where that will go. So far, it’s had exponential growth, year on year! 

How has running a business changed in Australia since 1970? 

Jake: Well, back in the 1970s, 80s and even 90’s all your marketing was an advertisement in the yellow pages, maybe the odd leaflet drop. Now it’s all about online MARKETING, MARKETING and more MARKETING and it doesn’t matter how good your products are, how good you think your business model is, if your marketing is bad or non-existent you probably won’t be in business very long.

Back then change was slower, a good selling product would stay that way for many years. Now our business is continually evolving, moving with the times, new products being constantly added and old ones made redundant.  

In the 1970s and 80’s our competitors were other businesses in Melbourne, now they’re all gone only to be replaced by massive companies in China! 

Interview continues on - read part 2.

To celebrate 50 years, get 10% off all Australian made products via chain.com.au. Use code: HAPPY50 at checkout.*

IMAGES: https://bit.ly/2FyPCOF 

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Enquiries: Jake or Michael Linzner
Phone: 03 9331 5544
Email: sales@abaconproducts.com.au
Address: 6 Lemmon Ave, East Keilor, Victoria, Australia 3033
Factory direct sales or shop online at chain.com.au
More information on history: https://chain.com.au/pages/our-history

*Limit one code use per customer. Offer expires Sunday 20 December 2020 at 11:59pm. Online purchases only. Excludes products listed on the website which are not available to purchase online inc. wire heritage fencing and hanging basket chain-sets.

Linzner father and son at the site of the original factory in 1972.
Image: Linzner father and son at the site of the original factory in 1972, located at 405 Fitzroy Street, Melbourne.

The 3 generations of the Linzner family return to the site of the original 1970s factory located at 405 Fitzroy Street, Melbourne.

Image: The 3 generations of the Linzner family return to the site of the original 1970s factory 
located at 405 Fitzroy Street, Melbourne.

Image: Jakob, the grandfather who started the business, pictured here in 1973 making fish & chip baskets at their factory in Fitzroy, Melbourne.