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Tony Gareri, CEO of Roma Moulding, based in Vaughan, Ont. (Handout)
Tony Gareri, CEO of Roma Moulding, based in Vaughan, Ont. (Handout)

Q&A

Family business CEO ‘restarts’ the company to improve culture Add to ...

Q: On your LinkedIn profile you call Roma Moulding the finest picture-frame company in the world. How did you come to that determination?

A: We’re a really different company. When we look at our core products, all of them are made by artisans in Italy, where other manufacturers will try to mimic that through a machine in China. We’ve taken the heritage of fine craftsmanship two, three, four generations and we’re bringing it to people today.

And what we’re so happy about is that people appreciate it and they keep coming back for it, it’s that quality base. On top of that, we’ve invested heavily in the culture at our company as well as the infrastructure and the experience.

We’re all about how that customer experience is feeling. So it’s not just product based, it’s all the components that make up the business: product, service, experience and culture.

Q: In 2014 you were named business of the year by the Vaughan Chamber of Commerce. That’s in the 30th year of the company’s existence. Why do people want to work with you? What makes your business special to current and prospective employees?

A: It’s the vision of our company. We want to take apart this mindset around punching in and punching out, those turn-of-the-century industrial revolution days. It brings me back to my youth when we used to watch Fred Flintstone and he would punch in when he was working for Mr. Slate and then punch out and he would be Mr. Husband.

We really want to blur those lines. We’re pushing those boundaries. We’re in a traditional market: a mom-and-pop picture-frame business. We’re challenging what conventional business practices are telling us to do and doing things like removing punch clocks, no more buzzers, no more in and out times. It’s project based, it’s based on trust.

People want to work for a company like ours because they know once they’re on the team they’re trusted, and they’re allowed to do the finest work of their lives. Even if that means they’re uncomfortable and we understand they’re being stretched and they might fail. It’s the essence of that freedom that makes them want to join us.

I have remarkable stories of people coming to us (for a job) saying they would gladly take a pay cut because they’re miserable, and they’re not trusted, and they don’t feel free.

Q: We’re in a digital age. How do you keep a picture-frame business relevant in the year 2014, and how are you going to keep it relevant long term?

A: That’s something on my mind. Picture frames: it’s not the sexiest product. But I see it as sexy. We partner with some of the most amazing photographers around the world, namely Peter Lik, probably the most renowned photographer there is.

He’s partnered with us to bring, primarily to Las Vegas but also around the United States, the most exquisite photography framed in the most beautiful pieces. He believes he might wait eight or 10 hours for the right shot, but it’s taken Roma a lifetime to put that frame together and marry the two.

We’re also keeping it relevant by moving into e-commerce, where it’s less about framing and more about photography. We look at framing kind of like when you’re putting together your ensemble, or a woman’s dress, we’re the stiletto shoes. She can’t leave without them. And that’s what we do to that ensemble. We complete it.

The online space will allow the general public, consumers, to upload whatever photo, digitize it and do whatever they want, frame it, and have it sent to them. We haven’t launched that yet, but that’s how we’re bringing it: using technology within our industry and making that user experience easy because right now we’re B2B (business-to-business).

Q: Who are your key customers and how do you sell to them? Has that changed over time?

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