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Learnings of 50-years in Small Business - Part 3

Posted by Fiona Hoppe on

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

What products do you manufacture in Australia? 

Michael: We still manufacture different wire products (although on a much smaller scale these days) such as trays, racks, animal traps and baskets, these are often custom orders when people can’t find exactly what they want. We also manufacture wire rings, hooks, clips, loop ties, nails and we also straighten and cut wire to length. 

And lastly, we manufacture chain - a LOT of chain. I’m not sure on the exact meterage but it’s somewhere in the vicinity of one million metres per year.

So, can we assume you also import products these days too?

Michael: Sure. Like anyone we’ve had to move with the times. We first began importing a small range of chains in the early 90s. In the last 10 years that’s expanded hugely, especially in line with the online store we now also import a large range of marine fittings, balustrading, load restraint equipment as well as all types of wire mesh. That said, our manufactured products still account for approximately 50% of total sales, something many have told us couldn’t be done.

How do you see the future prospects for your business in the next 5 years and beyond? 

Michael: We definitely see huge challenges remaining due to Asian competitors, fluctuating currencies and constantly changing markets. Despite this we are quietly optimistic, we’re focused, we’re determined and have a business plan we’re confident in. Last financial year our turnover increased by 32% which for a family run Australian manufacturing business is definitely something we’re proud of.

Going forward we want to ensure the strength and continuity of our Australian manufacturing base and keep the e-commerce site growing. 2 years ago onlines sales accounted for about 2% of total sales, it’s now around 11% and we don’t see any reason why that won’t continue to increase. 

My grandfather migrated to Australia from Europe in 1961 because he got a letter from a cousin already here saying “Australia is great country, with great people and there is plenty of work” and then he added something to the end of that letter, he said “In Australia, there is literally money lying in the streets”, obviously that was hyperbole but he was referring to the business opportunities here! All that was required was a vision and hard work. Conditions have definitely tightened since then with increasing competition and regulations but I continue to believe that Australia will be a great place for business going forward.

Trade tensions with China have been growing and there’s talk in the government about resetting our economy to be less reliant on China and manufacturing more in Australia. Does this give you optimism and have you felt the effects of the trade tensions? 

Michael: Firstly, we don’t get too excited about things we hear from the government unless they’re actually policy and affecting us positively which isn’t common. All I can say is we’re ready and primed to gear up even more if that does actually happen. We are already starting to feel some effects of the trade tensions, in the last couple months we have been contacted by a couple large companies who are currently getting their products made in China but are now making enquiries about bringing the manufacturing home and so we hope we can be a part of that. Whether this enthusiasm for “Australian Made” continues to build or dies off again remains to be seen, it obviously depends a lot on external factors.

Jake, you’re now 66! Any talk of retirement?

Jake: Well, my father worked through to 78 (he’ll be 90 this January) so I’m not sure I’ll go another 12 years but all I can say is “At the moment it’s full steam ahead! I think I’ll know when the time is right.” 

Interview concludes
Read part 1 and 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.
Image: The 3 generations of the Linzner family return to the site of the original 1970s factory 
located at 405 Fitzroy Street, Melbourne.

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