Family members have always been given the opportunity to work at Chown Hardware. But they must start in the warehouse to learn the skills they’ll need to work their way up through the company.
It’s this knowledge and experience of that sets it apart and allowed Chown Hardware to stand strong as a family-owed and operated business for 138 years.
Chown provides residential plumbing, hardware and lighting, as well as commercial door hardware, security systems and locksmithing at two locations, in Portland and Bellevue, Washington.
Family members don’t resent having to start at the bottom, said Kyle Chown, commercial division manager for the company.
“I was expected to work hard, work quickly and efficiently, act professionally when interacting with co-workers and customers, and help others where needed,” he said. “Nothing in the warehouse is given. Everything is earned.”
When he first came to work for the company in 2009, he didn’t intend to stay.
“But as time went on, I fell in love with the business,” Kyle said.
The values of trust, integrity and support form the foundation of Chown’s exceptional commitment to employees, customers and the community. They guide the company’s vision.
“These are more than words,” Kyle said. “They are the core values that we carry with us every day.”
One reason for business longevity is the successful planning and management of the company by current and former generations. Chown stands above many small companies in the amount of employees with more than 20 years with the business. Currently, there are 17 people who have been with Chown longer than 20 years.
“This amount of knowledge and experience of our local industry has been paramount in training the next generation of leaders at Chown Hardware,” Kyle said.
He credits the mentorship from long-time employees with the success and succession of the fifth generation.
“We have a very open environment that encourages everyone to share and explore new ideas and methods for improving business,” Kyle said.
Company leaders also have a clear understanding of what the business does better and different from its competitors.
“Chown Hardware doesn’t try and be something it is not,” Kyle said.
Business development decisions are voted on at family board meetings. Chown also effectively uses its board structure to develop cohesive succession plans.
Family members aren’t pressured to continue the legacy, Kyle said. Two generations currently work for the business in various departments.
Brothers Fred Chown, president and David Chown, vice president and chief financial officer, represent the fourth generation. The fifth generation includes brothers and cousins who have various management positions.
Daniel Chown manages the field technicians and installers and works with the sales department. Joel Chown works in residential sales. Nathan Chown is the marketing manager. Frank Chown is responsible for the contract warehouse.
“Chown has had incredible vision over the years,” Kyle said, “seeing ahead of the trends, allowing us to change and adapt without compromising our core values and ethics.”