Building a Unique Identity
Aug. 01, 2011

When Ampri Construction Ltd. in Richmond builds a townhouse, it’s a true family affair.

Not counting Ampri itself, seven companies involved at some point in the construction or sale of an Ampri home are owned by relatives of Ampri founder and CEO Paramjit Sandhu or his wife, Gurdip. Their son, 26-year-old Amit Sandhu, helps run the Sandhu empire.

“If I can help them, it’s in my nature,” Ampri president and CEO Paramjit Sandhu said, when explaining why he has helped so many family members start their own businesses, using Ampri as a launching pad.

“He actually takes in people and they’ll live with him,” said Amrik Leihl, who got his start in the electrical contracting business thanks to his brother-in-law. “Not too many people do that. He’ll let them stay with them till they get some money saved up, then they can buy a house or whatever.”

Born and raised in Punjab, India, Sandhu was an only child who grew up in a large household, where his many aunts and uncles made up an extended family. His cousins were more like brothers, and after he immigrated to Canada in 1980 with a degree in electrical engineering, he helped some of them immigrate to Canada and set up their own businesses.

Sandhu worked as an electrician for a couple of years before starting his own company, Sandhu Electrical Ltd., in 1983. He later got into home construction, and Ampri now builds 60 to 90 townhouses per year, generating gross revenue of $30 to $40 million annually.

He has also diversified the business with the purchase of two residential highrises in Toronto, two shopping malls in Surrey and U&K Farms, a 35-acre blueberry farm in Richmond.

In the process of building his own small-business empire, Sandhu was also helping his own and his wife’s relatives build their own enterprises by providing them work with Ampri.

Leihl started working for Sandhu Electrical and later formed his own company, Amco Electrical. About a quarter of the company’s business is with Ampri.

Paramjit Sandhu’s cousin, Jatinder Sandhu, started out selling Ampri homes and went on to become a successful realtor with Sutton Group – Seafair Realty. He still sells Ampri townhouses.

Paramjit’s cousin, Ajaib Mann, started Qualitech Systems, which installs home security systems.

“They still install all of our alarm systems for all our townhome properties,” Amit Sandhu said.

In 1994, Paramjit co-founded Roundwrap Industries, which makes PVC and laminate doors, with his first cousin, Niki Sandhu. “Till this day, every kitchen or every vanity you see in any one of our projects is all manufactured by my uncle,” Amit said.

Site preparation, construction site security, landscaping – all are done by companies owned by a relative.

Not surprisingly, Paramjit Sandhu also encouraged his own two sons to get involved in the family business, and Amit took up the challenge while still in high school.

In 2006, after graduating with a BA in commerce from Simon Fraser University, he went straight to work for his father, and is now vice-president of development.

If there are any drawbacks to being involved in a family-owned business, Amit said it is how to create your own identity. “How do you become your own person? How do you use the company as a tool to build something for yourself?” he said.

As a teen, Amit had a strong interest in art when he was in high school. Since developers in Richmond are required to either contribute to a public art fund or undertake their own art project, Amit spearheaded two public art projects on Ampri’s behalf.

He is also spearheading Ampri’s move into commercial office building construction. To date, the company has specialized in residential development. The company’s newest project includes two new hotels and 120,000 square feet of class A office space in the Bridgeport area of Richmond.

A big believer in community involvement, Amit has boosted Ampri’s profile in Richmond and Vancouver by sponsoring a variety of charities, sitting on boards and committees and mentoring MBA students at SFU.

Although he doesn’t have children of his own, Amit Sandhu said he likes the idea that – like his father – he may one day be able to pass the family business onto his own children.

“I love the idea of being part of this legacy my father started, and I hope that I can have my children be a part of this as well.”

Ampri is currently working on a succession plan that will see Amit assume the title of CEO.

 

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