FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Peter Gatzsch
March 26, 2013
I sat down recently with Peter Gatzsch to learn about his path – from Swiss beginnings in a small town outside Zurich, 6th generation cabinetmaker, technical school education there in cabinetmaking (of course), what brought him to Canada and what led to the creation of his firm Lignum Interiors.I was delighted by his clarity – simplicity, and openness – from a man who describes himself as an introvert . . .
… I had originally planned to spend a couple of years here. There were many places in the world I wanted to explore (Norway, New Zealand, South America ….) I came here in 1977, to work for ATCO Components. In 1984 I started Lignum Interiors with some colleagues who were also leaving ATCO divisions being wound down. In those early days we ran 15-20 people. Today we are 25-30 people. Only about 5% of our work is in cabinetmaking. We are a general contractor –with most of our projects being Construction Management assignments where we work very closely with the client and the designer. A team approach produces the best product.
What qualities, looking back, have distinguished your preferred suppliers?
. . . I look for pride, craftsmanship, determination to do a good job no matter what. I like to try new people out. It takes decades to get all the suppliers you need. It is not always about price. Some people disappoint, but I like to give them another chance when they do.
What qualities do your clients look for in you, in your firm, that distinguishes you or sets you apart from your competitors?
. . . if you cant meet expectations you can’t have a quality reputation. There is the ‘client standard’ and the ‘Peter standard’. I try to achieve both, and to lead by example.
Major influencing factors in your life?
. . . I like to help people out. I’ve helped people who are down and out. Most of the time people who are on the street fail, but I don’t give up. We can all make a difference if we try. My wife Liz and I are involved in a project in Nepal. She makes a couple of trips a year to provide help and we provide some money to help. Over there, when people go to jail, their families – spouses and children have no support of social safety net. They need food, housing, services – and we help with that. We got involved through a friend who was helping with that.
Work/life balance – what is at the core of it for you?
. . . gym 4 times a week, mountain climbing and hiking – all my life. Fly fishing, canoeing. I like to spend time at my cabin north of Golden. It is very remote. Climbing is like business – not climbing against the mountain, but against yourself – it is a mental game, you have to be in incredibly good shape and you have to work very hard.
Tell me more about your philosophy of life
. . . I like to be happy. I’m a libertarian – I believe everybody has their own life in their own hands. And enjoying the beauty of nature. It is everywhere and it costs zero to enjoy.
Are your children following you in the business?
. . . Jane is living in Squamish. Bruce is in the business, started as a cabinetmaker/carpenter and working his way up in management of the company.
What are you reading?
. . . always something on the go written by Malcolm Gladwell. I am enjoying Blink as I did Tipping Point and Outliers. And the Economist Magazine – best business and news magazine there is, I’ve read it for many years.
. . . Mini (the Works model), easy to park, with 200+ horses under the hood
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