Feature on Woodmaster Tools
Thursday, May 19, 2016
Nova Scotia Business Inc. along with its partners and sponsors will present The Nova Scotia Export Achievement Awards, an annual celebration and recognition of excellence in exporting across Nova Scotia, on May 26, 2016. Woodmaster Tools of Canada is one of ten companies that will be celebrated at the 2016 provincial EAA awards ceremony in Halifax.
Nova Scotia Business Inc. spoke with Craig Blois, the manager of Woodmaster Tools of Canada. They make woodworking knives for any brand of machine, in different sizes and different types of steel, and export them to more than 20 countries. About 60% of sales go to the US, with 5% to other countries. The company is also the Canadian distributor for US-based Woodmaster Tools.
Q: Can you share your company’s history in Nova Scotia?
A: My parents started a small sawmill in 1974, and later they added a building supply store. In 1988, they moved into the machinery business when they became the exclusive dealer in Canada for Woodmaster Tools. We’re a separate company but can use the Woodmaster name as their Canadian distributor.
Our business evolved again when our customers were ordering woodworking knives and sometimes waited weeks for delivery from the US. So we started making knives with a profile grinder, and today we have three high-tech machines for making knives. The knives have become the main focus of our business; we sell very little machinery now.
Q: What does being recognized by your local business community mean to your business and your employees?
A: This recognition gives us even more pride in what we do. It also gives us exposure and lets people see what our business is. A lot of people ask us, “What do you actually do?” Nova Scotia Business Inc.’s short video about us will make it easier to show people what we do.
Q: What factors have contributed to your success?
A: Four factors are key: great employees who are capable, an educated work force, innovation, and marketing. We used to debate whether to hire graphic designers or machinists. Now we get both in the same person, because the people coming out of the Nova Scotia Community College machinists program are versed in CAD –computer aided design and drafting. We innovate by introducing a few new products every year, marketing them, and seeing how they work out. Even if we drop a product from our catalogue, we can make it for a customer who wants it. We try to stay ahead of the curve, to see what’s going on in the industry and to deliver what people are going to want.
Q: What do you consider will be key to your success going forward?
A: Innovation, definitely. The Internet and technology are changing rapidly compared to what they were even five years ago. The real key is innovation in our products, combined with not being afraid to try different kinds of marketing, then measuring them to see what works.
Q: What was your biggest learning or a-ha moment?
A: A lot of small things have added to our success – we learn every day. But the biggest a-ha moment was when we looked at how long our customers’ knife orders were taking and decided to start making them ourselves. It’s a niche market, but it’s actually more lucrative than what we were doing.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you would give to new exporters, or companies considering exporting from Nova Scotia?
A: First, network and talk to people who currently export to the same countries. When we started exporting, I did as much research as I could, but there was still a certain amount of trial and error. Something as simple as not knowing which FedEx box to tick can cost you money. Exporting to one country may be totally different from exporting to another, so find somebody who has experience exporting to that country.
Second, attend trade shows. Nova Scotia Business Inc. helped send us to the International Woodworkers’ Fair in Atlanta two years ago. It’s a good place to see what’s going on in the industry as well as to sell your product.
Q: And finally, what’s the best thing about being a Nova Scotia exporter?
A: We get to make a decent living here in Nova Scotia without having to move away – I’d like my children to be able to stay in the Maritimes. But we also like that we’re bringing new money into the Nova Scotia economy.
Woodmaster Tools of Canada is in Clifton, Colchester County. In 2015, the company was awarded the Truro and Colchester Chamber of Commerce Export Achievement Award.
Interested in export? Nova Scotia Business Inc. is dedicated to supporting the growth of business in Nova Scotia and our team of Regional Business Development Advisors is available to assess your needs and provide practical advice on taking your next steps toward growth in global markets.
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