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Spectrum By Larry’s Through The Years: An Introspection On Generational Businesses

A company’s longevity is an issue for many businesses to consider, especially once scalability in the coming years will prove to be more challenging in today’s competitive market. For some companies, changes in management can be traced to familial roots, which have their own set of benefits and challenges.


Larry’s Curtain & Upholstery Supply started importing international fabrics like US Thai silk in 1985. But it was only after the Makati branch was built, headed by second-generation owner Herbert Ong, that it became an exclusive retailer of several internationally known brands for drapery and upholstery fabrics. Since then, the company has split into three different businesses that have expanded each of their respective portfolios.


From that split, the Makati branch of Larry’s Curtain & Upholstery Supply would become Spectrum by Larry’s in 2014. Through the firm’s rich history, many lessons in business and brand management have been passed down from one generation to the next.


We spoke to Patrick Ong, Vice President of Spectrum by Larry’s, to know what it’s like to see different generations handle the business and how the company stands as a strong brand worthy of its legacy to this day.



D+C: Why did you choose to take over this position? Did you want to pursue a different job?

P: I came to take this position because I have always wanted my parents to retire earlier. Just kidding! As the only son of three siblings, the responsibility to take over the company lies on my shoulders. I never really considered other options career-wise, because I knew that I wanted to end up here. There is no other place I would rather be.


D+C: What is it like working in the company as a third-generation business owner?

P: I cannot fully comprehend how it feels at the moment because I am constantly learning new things every day. I can say that I contribute to the overall daily operations of the business, as well as deciding what to implement and what items to import in the near future. I am still far away from being able to do what the second generation has accomplished, but I am getting there.


D+C: Why was it necessary to rebrand Larry’s Curtains into Spectrum by Larry’s?

P: I believe that it was a good choice to dissolve the Larry’s Curtain business and rebrand its Makati Branch into an independent company because it gave the second-generation owners the freedom and liberty to manage their respective stores how they deem fit.



For example, they would not really need each other’s approval to make executive decisions, what items to import, who to hire, etc. But being associated with the Larry’s Curtain brand is also beneficial because the clients already know our brand and reputation, and they already know where to find us.


The rebranding gave the second and third-generation owners a greater opportunity to stay true to the company’s goal of innovating their product lines. As their company’s namesake, the spectrum of products clients can choose from has evolved over the years. However, this recent move to rebrand would come with its own set of challenges.


D+C: How did this move affect the brand?

P: The rebranding to Spectrum by Larry’s did not really affect internal operations, as it was still based in Makati where a lot of international suppliers were familiar with our store location. Even with a different name, Larry’s Makati branch was, and still is, known to have the best fabrics in terms of quality and price.


Externally, there was and there is still some difficulty explaining to clients that our items are not available in ‘other branches’ anymore, and harder to explain that the Makati store is now our only branch. It was also challenging to remind new and old clients that we are not affiliated with any other businesses due to a separation in management and that they will not find their items with us as well.



D+C: What are the challenges the company still faces to this day?

P: The biggest challenge today is how to find good and dependable suppliers who share our vision to supply trendy and innovative products at a reasonable price. The reason why we are so particular about quality is that we want to give our customers the best fabrics while finding a balance between fabrics with good specifications and fabrics with competitive prices.


Fabrics and fashion have evolved over the years and a lot of people still superficially focus on colors, not knowing that there is more to the fabrics and their specifications. 




Another challenge is how to disseminate product information to let people be more aware of innovations such as acoustic and recycled fabrics, a trend many countries worldwide have already established as a standard. These fabrics are premium products that we ensure must at least satisfy international fire standards as the bare minimum among their other qualities.


Besides the vibrant selection of colorful fabrics from Camengo (which sometimes contains coordinates with their Casa Deco wallpapers) and Alhambra, the premium quality of Spectrum by Larry’s products is a step above the rest in terms of realistic use.


Spectrum by Larry’s stellar line of fabrics doesn’t just boast its aesthetic quality, but also its pragmatic properties. For example, their FibreGuard line contains fabrics that offer stain-resistant and easy-to-clean products while the FR-ONE line is Inherently Fire Retardant, becoming a great selection for hospitals and hotels.


Their selection of FibreGuard Outdoors, UV Pro, and Tempotest are versatile enough to be used for indoor and outdoor use. While their Delius brand of fabrics has inherent fire-retardant properties made with world-renowned Trevira CS yarn while also providing a dimout/blackout effect for interior spaces.


D+C. What do you think makes generational business owners successful?

P: I think that what makes generational business owners successful is that most, if not all, of the things needed to make the business run has already been provided to you. What is important is to learn how these tools work, and innovate in such a way that your business continues to stand out from the rest. This is different from having to build your business, supplier, customer base, and operations from scratch.


At the end of the day, understanding the market, believing in what you are selling, working hard to get what you want, and being fair to everyone in the business— be it our suppliers, customers, and even competitors, are all important in making a business like ours successful. 


We always believe in what goes around, comes around.


D+C: How does Spectrum by Larry’s carry over the Larry’s Curtain & Upholstery legacy?

P: I believe that the creation of Spectrum by Larry’s in itself is a milestone because it is a product of my grandfather’s legacy. Back in the 1960s, he opened a small store in Recto, Manila and only dealt with local fabric manufacturers. 


The expansion to Makati back in 1994 was my dad’s doing, when it reached the point where multiple international brands allowed us to exclusively distribute their products in the Philippine market.


As part of the third generation, my challenge is to hold onto the legacy that the ones before me gave so that I can continue to innovate and offer clients more brands that are of quality. Eventually, we hope we can provide more services to our clients to complete their buying experience.


D+C: What’s a lesson over the years that you feel other professionals taking over firms from previous owners can learn from you?


P: Every day is a learning experience and it is important that you put your heart and mind into your work. Mistakes do happen but the important thing is you learn from your mistakes. Build a team of dedicated staff who are willing to put in the time and effort to enhance their knowledge and become better salespersons and team players. Do not hesitate to implement changes and get out of your comfort zones.


The weight of a legacy isn’t just about carrying over a name, it’s also about keeping a promise to the past and bringing it to the future. Spectrum by Larry’s is a testament that its owners are keeping their mission statement true over the past six decades while learning to evolve and innovate to current times.


 

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Gerald Manuel

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