By Dance Aoki
Since 2010, Yuya Lin has been helping his customers at Lin’s Hardware find innovative solutions to their renovation problems.
Throughout the 1990s, Lin was a construction worker for local and international companies. He was also a farmer before he opened his own construction company. He realized there weren’t many options for people who needed to save money on home improvements without sacrificing quality. Lin decided to provide high-quality products to help his customers save money on utilities and maintenance.
Lin travels throughout China, his homeland, searching for the best materials for his customers’ needs and working with manufacturers to make the products he then exports to his Guam store. Lin wants to be confident in the products he sells, and he will use physical demonstrations to illustrate the strength of each item. Customers can imagine the way the glass might withstand flying objects in the winds of a powerful storm if they see how it reacts to a hammer.
Virginia Liu, a member of his staff, helps him translate from Chinese.
Why did you start your business?
Lin: I see a lot of Guam people go three or four years, then they need to renovate. I decided to close my business in construction, and I [acquired] a factory in China. Doors, cabinets — I [make them] in China and I bring [them] in. I look for good companies, and then I sell to Guam. I make it quality. With water faucets, kitchen faucets [and] bathroom faucets, I give people five-year warranties. I want people [to] save money. With LED lights, I also give a five-year warranty. That way, big savings.
What is the most unique aspect of Lin’s Hardware store compared to other hardware stores?
Lin: We have low prices compared to everybody but also high quality […] and warranties. I want to keep on giving people good quality.
Liu: [Lin] has experience building houses and experience with engineers. He can have an engineer’s concept, but he doesn’t have the license. As a handyman, he has hands-on experience. Sometimes engineers don’t consider the cost factor, but he cares about the cost factor as well, to make it better. From a cost perspective, [Lin’s Hardware has] the most reasonable price because he owns his workshop in China. Our windows, we designed [them differently]. Inside is higher than the outside, and it’s sloped so water can drain out. Also, the screen is inside the house so it can last longer.
How has the business changed over the years?
Lin: The name [has been] a problem. [Customers] don’t know […] I’m selling construction materials. But now people know; they come in once and they know.
Liu: The first few years, [Lin’s Hardware was] off the road. They had a problem. They weren’t very accessible, they had problems for parking and people could not see it, so it was very slow. After they moved [to Harmon], the cost maybe increased because it was a bigger area. […] So he was one person that had to take on so many roles: procurement, sales, manager, designing, so he had to make sure everything worked well.
Lin: I wanted to save money to give people cheaper [prices]. If my costs [are] more, [the] cost of materials will be [higher]. If I have [the air conditioning on] here, it’ll be maybe $7,000. How do I get $7,000 [from customers to cover that cost]? If people want glass, I have to make it $10 more. But with no AC on, I can give people a discount.
Liu: It’s beneficial for our lower operation costs.
What are the greatest challenges to running this business, and how do you overcome those obstacles?
Liu: He said the language has been a challenge.
Lin: If I have more and better language [skills], I can do more for people.
Liu: He feels like he has a lot of ideas, and he wants to make sure at his workshop, the manufacturer can capture all of his ideas — not only to manufacture what he wants, [but] also [to] make it affordable as well.
What gives you the greatest satisfaction in your work?
Liu: He said the most satisfaction comes from a satisfied customer and he wants the customer to know that he is concerned about them [and will] also make sure that everything that’s spent is worth it.
Lin: If people [are] happy, I’m happy. I don’t want only money, no.
How do you think the business will change over the next five years?
Lin: In five years, I think I can do more good. I [will continue to] give quality [and] people [will] save money.
What are some of your goals for the business?
Liu: He wants to improve in terms of quality, price and design. He wants to improve in every aspect to make it better. Also, he wants the customers to continue to be satisfied, and if the customer is not satisfied, if they can give us another chance so that we can make sure that we can satisfy every customer.
What have you learned as a business owner since you opened?
Lin: I can’t speak English well, but the local people [have] helped me a lot. I now want to give back.
Liu: He [has] improved based on what customers [have] told him.