By Dineo Phoshoko

As CEO, Darren Pearlman has many responsibilities at the third-generation family business, Pearlman Veneers. His job entails various activities including managing international relations with import suppliers, overseeing production, financial management and group business development among others. Timber iQ spoke to him to find out more about his career in the veneer industry.

Why did you decide to do what you do, and how did you get into the industry?
Veneer is in my blood. Pearlman Veneers is a third-generation family business. I grew up spending time in the factory and obtained a love for veneer products as well as the industry from a young age.

Has this always been something you’ve wanted to do?
Yes. After graduating as a CA(SA), I gained external experience outside of the family business and then returned to the business to continue the Pearlman legacy.

How long have you been in the timber industry?
All my life, but officially at Pearlman Veneers since 2000.

What challenges did you face in the industry and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge in the industry would be the sourcing of raw materials such as logs. At one stage we were the biggest slicers in the world of African species (obtaining our logs from west and central Africa). Unfortunately, over the years, the African countries banned the export of African logs, which has resulted in Pearlman Veneers having to close our slicing factory down.

What memorable encounter did you come across in the industry and why does it stand out for you?
I have grown up in the industry, from a very young age, as a boy – riding my BMX through the various factories belonging to our group. It is very encouraging for me to see that many of the people who were involved in the business when I was a child are still working for Pearlman Veneers. It makes me proud to be associated with these individuals as their loyalty illustrates that Pearlman Veneers are good and fair employers. My most memorable encounter is witnessing the passion and loyalty that our staff have towards the industry.

What are some of the misconceptions about the industry?
A misconception that I am often confronted by is that veneer is not an environmentally-friendly product. I believe that this is a false claim as you are able to get far greater surface cover per log with veneer that with the alternative solid wood.

When you are not busy with work, what do you do in your spare time?
Quality time with my family and keeping fit.

What would you say is the most difficult thing about being in the timber industry?
The timber industry, especially veneer, is being threatened by synthetic alternatives to decorative surface covers. Melamine and PVC foils are cost-effective alternatives that are consuming market share.

One of the other difficulties is assuring and maintaining our exceptional quality of veneer in the market. Pearlman Veneers has always prided itself on quality and will never allow for that to be compromised.

What do you hope to achieve in the industry in future?
Pearlman Veneers will certainly continue to promote love and support for the natural veneer market. We will however also focus on launching new and exciting synthetic materials such as our newly introduced Fine Décor PET Lacklaminate Boards which are available in stunning high gloss and super matt finishes.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to become part of the timber industry?
The woodworking industry is founded on experience, knowledge and relationships. Do not be afraid to start at the bottom and prove yourself. Knowledge is key within the industry. Be a sponge and absorb as much information as possible. Find a mentor and build relationships with people who have experience within the industry.