– Story by Tess Van Straaten Photography by Don Denton
After more than 15 years running a busy and successful company, Nanaimo entrepreneur Dominic Staniscia says the biggest mistake he made was not launching his business sooner.
“A friend of mine and I had been talking about it for years,” says Dominic, owner of City Tile Nanaimo. “I should have done it sooner.”
Dominic was selling turkeys and chickens for Lilydale — a job he’d been doing for 10 years — when he finally decided he’d had enough.
“We were out fishing one day and we were 25 miles offshore and I said, ‘Vince, let’s do this, I’m ready to do this,’” Dominic recalls.
That was August of 2003. By the end of November, Dominic and his partner, Vince D’Andrea, opened City Tile Nanaimo. For Dominic, the drive to be his own boss and make the company a success fuelled his passion.
“For nine years, I worked seven days a week, and then my kids got involved and I was able to take a day off,” jokes Dominic, who is 60 this year and still works six days a week. “I just love it — I love the business.”
All of that hard work and passion has certainly paid off. City Tile Nanaimo celebrated its 15th anniversary last November and business is booming. The first location was 2,200 square feet. After seven years of growth — including during the recession — they expanded 400 per cent to a 9,100-square-foot facility before buying land to build their current 13,000-square-foot location on Boban Drive.
“We’ve grown it to the point where now the kids can run it,” says Dominic. “In order to do that, you have to train the kids properly, so I’m working lots to show them what true work ethic is. If I didn’t work as I hard as I do, I don’t think they’d get it.”
Dominic and his wife, Rose, have three daughters and they all work in the business, along with two son-in-laws. It’s a family affair and Dominic says it’s also important to treat staff like family.
“The best advice I’ve ever received is that you can’t do it on your own,” he says. “You need good staff and you have to treat your people properly and respect them. You need to treat them like family, and if you do, everything should work out.”
Dominic admits that when he started the company there was a lot to learn. And over the years, he says, the biggest lesson has been about buying product.
“You don’t make money selling — you make money buying,” Dominic explains. “You have to buy right or you’re not going to make a profit. You have to focus on getting it at the right price and then selling it at the right price. If you don’t, you’ll be stuck with product and you’ll lose money.”
Dominic travels all over the world to source the best tiles. He regularly travels to Italy, Turkey, Spain, Brazil and China. It’s something he loves to do, but also says it’s key to the businesses’ success.
“You really need to do this because the manufactures are there with all the newest trends in design and if you’re not there, you lose out,” he says. “We receive these containers on a weekly basis and it’s nice to see the world in a different way.”
One of the ongoing challenges is to keep inventory fresh in a face-paced industry with constantly changing design trends. A few years ago, they ran out of space to hold new products and had to decide what to do with older stock.
“Rotating stale product with new product involves risk, decisiveness and, at times, sacrifices,” says Dominic. “We came up with a solution that gave us both room and cash flow. We purchased two tents to hold the outdated product and priced it at such a significant discount, the products sold very well and that gave us much-needed cash flow to purchase new inventory.”
Looking to the future, Dominic still wants to grow the business but says his goal is also to “semi-retire” and let his children run it.
“I plan on slowing down a little bit because you have to have balance,” he says. “My wife and I have been married 38 years come September and we want to travel more.”
As for quitting his day job and deciding to launch the business? Better late than never.
“I was 45 years old when I started the company, so it’s never too late to start a business or do things you’ve always wanted to do,” Dominic says. “You’ve got to love what you do. If you don’t go to work happy and raring to go, you’re not going to succeed. You have to be passionate about what you’re doing.”