Sunray Woodcraft Construction

Sector: Construction
Market: Singapore
Founded: 1987

Rising from the ashes: Sunray Woodcraft Construction

Few family businesses have faced the scale of the crisis that engulfed Sunray Woodcraft Construction in 1999, when its production premises were destroyed by fire. The business had been founded in 1987 and by 1999 Sunray was a thriving company, with good growth prospects and a successful business model. But all that was put under threat after the fire, and for a while it was doubtful whether the firm would survive. But as Connie Wu, one of the founders, says, “our staff understood the situation we were in and despite the uncertainty, none of them left the company and no one lost their jobs.  Many of them were our friends and family who had played a big part in growing the company over the years, so we felt a strong sense of responsibility to retain them. We moved into a new building a year later and slowly begun the process of picking up the pieces.”

Since then Sunray has become a real success story, but the close bond between employees and owners has endured. As Connie’s son Charles says, “A large part of our success is due to hard work and treating others with respect. These are the values that my parents have brought me up with and the second generation is working towards practicing them in the workplace.” Connie was particularly keen that her children should learn the business from the ground up, and not just “enter the company as a high-level executive with a comfortable office job. I would encourage my children to know what was happening on the ground by seeing for themselves what the family business was all about, the type of projects we handled, the people we worked with, and how problems were managed on the ground.”

Developing the next generation

There are now eight members of the next generation working at Sunray, in a wide range of different disciplines, and each is encouraged to play to their own strengths. Sunray is now beginning the process of succession management, with a transition expected in the next five years. As Charles says, “The first generation will have to learn how to let go and the second generation will have to cope with taking over the responsibilities. I think the challenge we face will be in drawing the boundaries - who will be leading this transition and so on. We plan to bring in professionals to help us do this while not losing the family core values.”

Sunray is also professionalising its own business, as it starts the journey towards an IPO, and looks to expand internationally: “We want to go global, first with a focus on our own region, as well as diversifying our portfolio and increasing our market share in our domestic market. But in midst of all these changes we are careful to ensure that our family culture is not lost.” Sunray has recently taken on a big new building, housing a factory, warehousing, and HQ offices. This would be a milestone for any family firm, but all the more so for Sunray, as it’s the first time they’ve moved since the year after the fire. As Charles says, “Many of our employees were sad to part with a place that held so many fond memories, and it was truly moving to hear some of them talk about their strong emotional bonds with the business, and their desire to see us do even better in this new building. I think it will be a great springboard for the next phase of our growth.”

Charles Tan

Contact us

Ng Siew Quan

Ng Siew Quan

Asia Pacific Leader, Entrepreneurial and Private Business, PwC Singapore

Tel: +65 9726 9880