ahead of time on equality and agility
When Olive Hurford told the bank manager she’d be looking after the accounts of her husband’s new building company, the story goes, the bank manager could not hide his perplexity. A woman? Managing money?
It was 1932, in Lismore, and that modern spirit has stood The Hurford Group in good stead. 86 years later, the company is one of the Northern Rivers’ longest-running businesses. Responding to changes in trade, economy and style, Hurfords is now primarily a timber producer.
“We’re constantly looking for opportunities to expand business or to improve on things. We spend a lot of money on R&D and we’re always on the lookout for new products,” says Lexie Hurford, who, at 79, still advises her family’s business.
Her husband Rob, 81, one of the founders’ sons and Lexie’s husband, is a Director and many of their relatives work in the business, including their son Andrew who is also Chair of Timber for NSW, and their son-in-law Bob Engwirda, who is Managing Director.
For a company that deals with hardwood, built-to-last quality, and has four generations of stewardship, the business is remarkably agile and responsive. The GFC, Lexie says, gave the business a moment to reflect and be creative, adding that playing a part in industry bodies gives the company a “bigger picture”.
One of their many products is flooring and walls for museums, galleries and spaces that make an impact.
“Our number one priority is producing the best looking product,” she says, explaining that Hurfords makes specialised runs of products according to clients’ needs.
Today, the group has sawmill, forestry and wholesale offshoots and is located in every capital city across Australia, as well as in New Zealand, Europe and the United States. Its customers buy NSW hardwood from all over the world.
“We’re fortunate that we have pretty unique forests,” says Lexie of the region’s 20 or so kinds of commercial timber. “We have a product that people would be proud to feature in a building.”
But it’s not the region’s forests alone that make Hurfords. Being close to nature and the coast, and connected to the local community, Lexie says, is what has held family and business together.