Profile: Cutler Group

Johnathan Glick says he's fortunate to have a great team of 154 people behind him at Cutler.
Johnathan Glick says he’s fortunate to have a great team of 154 people behind him at Cutler.

Jonathan Glick is on a constant high. “This is the best period of my career. It’s the most fun I’ve had,” he says from behind a desk covered in neatly arranged paperwork he still has to attend to. “I’m sad to leave at the end of the day, but I’m happy to get home to my kids and my wife. And I’m sad to leave them every morning, but I’m happy to be here.”

For him, these are exciting times that began in 2007. That is when Cutler Forest Products rebranded as the Cutler Group, and diversified. Glick is at the helm of three divisions: Cutler Fabricating and Distribution, Cutler Kitchen and Bath and Cutler Modern Living. The first focuses on the old, core business — the manufacture and wholesale distribution of wood and laminate panel products. The kitchen and bath division provides cabinetry sold throughout North America through Lowe’s, Home Depot and Home Hardware. The modern living arm caters to interior design with European high-end space organization solutions sold through independent retailers.

Steering in a new direction

Jonathan Glick, on the warehouse floor. The Cutler Group now thinks of itself as a full-service distributor providing unique, value-added services, he says.
Jonathan Glick, on the warehouse floor. The Cutler Group now thinks of itself as a full-service distributor providing unique, value-added services, he says.

“We took a 40-year-old ship and said, ‘We’re going to steer it in a totally different direction,’” Glick says. There were a lot of nay-sayers, but we did it successfully. What’s so much fun is watching people be rejuvenated and re-motivated, including myself. We’re like kids again,” he says.

Those were the days when he didn’t think twice about being the first guy in the office. “For a couple of years when we started rebranding and things got really hectic, moving at a rapid pace, I was the guy who’d come in really early and stay late,” says the now president, c.e.o. and partner of the Cutler Group.
But with two young children — one seven and the other almost three — and his wife being a dedicated full-time mom, Glick realized he needed to spend more time at home.

Finding the balance

These days, he makes sure he spends morning time with his children, which means he now doesn’t get into the office until about nine-thirty. And he tries to be home by seven-thirty or eight most nights, to have some quality time with his children before they bed down. “And once a week, on Thursdays, I go home early and spend some time with my daughter, taking her to extracurricular activities,” Glick says.

Finding the balance isn’t easy. At home he has a young family that demands his time — even when he’s travelling for work. “As long as I make a concerted effort to bring home a toy, I’m okay,” he chuckles. At work, Glick is running a company growing so much that it is bursting at the seams in Mississauga, Ont. It has expanded from 180,000 to 250,000 square feet, operating out of four facilities that includes the 90,000-square-foot-warehouse plus office space at Cutler’s main building in the Dixie Road and Highway 401 area of Mississauga.

Making moves

Later this year, the company is consolidating operations into one facility just north of their current location. So, just six months after making a residential move from the Lawrence and Avenue Road area to the High Park district in Toronto, Glick is now looking at a business move he wants to make only once in his career. “Moving four facilities into one is going to be an undertaking like no other,” he says.

But Glick also lives by the adage that change is a good thing. That’s how he ended up in Canada, and, eventually, working in the wood industry. Born and raised in Capetown, South Africa, Glick, the youngest of three children, started out running his own textile-buying and clothing import/export business. At one time, he says, he aspired to be a fashion designer, but realized that required drawing skills. “I can’t sketch a straight line,” he laughs. “I’ve always had a good eye for design, whether it’s interior design or clothing design, but I could never translate that into something.”

For a while Glick lived in Los Angeles, but returned to South Africa. His sister married a Canadian, and emigrated. That motivated his parents to move from South Africa to Canada, to be near their grand-children. Glick was the hold-out. “I eventually said, ‘Change is good, let’s go.’” He shut down Clayder Textile in Capetown, and emigrated in 1999.

A Cutler staffer feeds a panel through the bandsaw.
A Cutler staffer feeds a panel through the bandsaw.

Changing industries

Glick landed at Calvin Klein, spending almost two years there as director of corporate accounts. But the retail clothing industry was in turmoil. Glick emigrated to Canada the same year the Eaton’s empire crumbled. “Eaton’s went bankrupt and it reverberated throughout the whole clothing industry. I wasn’t enjoying it anymore and I got out of it then. I didn’t know what my next move was going to be,” Glick recalls.

Temporarily helping a friend run a retail clothing store catapulted him into a whole new career in the wood sector. The friend happened to be friends with the founder of Cutler Forest Products. That led to a sales job offer. Says Glick, “I remember the conversation I had with my mother. I told her, ‘I’ve been offered this job and I know nothing about the industry and the salary’s not very good.’ And she said, ‘Change is good. Why don’t you just try something new?’”

So in July 2002, Glick joined Cutler Forest Products as director of sales and marketing. Six years later, he was president, c.e.o. and partner of the rebranded, Cutler Group.

Still achieving

The last three years have been the best in the company’s 40-year history. Sales records have been smashed, the company is growing, the Cutler brand is building and the company has over 50,000 followers on Facebook. All these things spell success. But to Glick, success and achievement are elusive. “My wife asks me all the time if I’m proud of what I’ve achieved. And I say, ‘No, not yet.’ I don’t think I’ve achieved much yet. I’m sure that day will come, but I don’t know what I’m actually trying to achieve.”

No matter the size of your company, affirms Glick, staying competitive and successful absolutely requires one thing. “You have to ask yourself daily, ‘What am I going to do today that separates me – that makes me unique and why people should want to buy my product?’” This is the philosophy he has applied to the Cutler Group. “We’re design first, then quality, then price,” he says.

Applying fashion marketing to the wood industry

With his fashion-industry savviness about brand and the help of a partner marketing agency, Glick says he’s doing something unique in the wood industry: brand marketing. “I don’t want people to buy ‘a vanity’ or ‘a kitchen cabinet.’ I want them to buy Cutler cabinets,” he says.

Glick believes that as Cutler grows, open-concept workspaces drive open communication.
Glick believes that as Cutler grows, open-concept workspaces drive open communication.

This means Glick is learning to become more active on social media. “As our brand starts to grow, our marketing company is insisting I become more active on Twitter because people want to follow me,” Glick says. “I am, but I’m not very good at it. I’m getting better. I recognize there’s a value in it. I go in spurts. I’ll do three tweets in a day, and then I’ll go a week without tweeting.”

His challenge is finding time to tweet when he’s inundated with paperwork at the office, and needs to make sure he spends quality family time at home. Tweeting, answering emails and voicemails, and catching a soccer game on television, get worked in whenever there’s a snippet of time available. “When you’re with the kids, your time is their time. You do things at their convenience, not yours,” says Glick.

Glick takes it all in stride. There’s nowhere else he’d rather be; no other business he’d rather be in. “Not even on a day when it’s minus 32 Celsius would I want to be on a beach right now,” he says.


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