[prev] …since then, we have been able to supply any shape, any colour, any size, so when we design your kitchen, we make sure we put features in there that other people can’t match. That’s one of the biggest things that helped us through that difficult period – our flexibility. Plus, we have two margins now: a retail margin and a manufacturing margin. And that, really, is the journey to where we are today.
YOUR WIFE ALISON, SON SHANE AND HIS WIFE CLAIRE ALL WORK IN THE BUSINESS…
I’m very fortunate. I met Alison when I was on the markets. She ran the café, supplying burgers and bacon sandwiches! We got married when we were 18 and 19, and Alison’s been with me for the whole journey. Now, we’re taking a step back as my son Shane turns 30… He also started work here when he was 12. He now does a very good job of running the sales and marketing channels. I just sign the cheques!
DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN HIM?
Yes, but the good thing is he’s got his mother’s traits as well, which is a good combination. That combination’s worked well for us. And he’s got married this year and has a daughter, Lily. I’m happy to step back. And he’s very level-headed about it. We get on very well – just like business partners, really.
WAS IT A NATURAL THING, FOR HIM TO FOLLOW IN YOUR FOOTSTEPS, OR WAS THERE A POSSIBILITY THAT HE MIGHT DO SOMETHING ELSE?
There was always that option. I always left that door open. He went into further education and literally after six weeks he said: ‘I can’t stand this because it’s not full-time…’ He’d been used to coming in here in his holidays and liked the bit of money he earned – and his independence, I suppose. So he came here, and settled in very quickly because he brought computer skills. And the staff received him very well, because if their computer broke down he could fix it! That’s how he integrated into the business, taking various roles. But when he was 20, when he was 25 and just recently as he was turning 30 I’ve asked him: ‘Do you want to stay?’ He’s taken a shareholding in the business now, which keeps his interest level high. He’s got an addition to the family now. But he is the driving force now. He’s got all the is the driving force now. He’s got all the energy, I’ve got all the experience. And he brings the average age of the Managing Director and Sales and Marketing Director to about 40… We had a tenant here – a tile and bathroom centre, which unfortunately went out of business last October. But now here we are, 12 months later, with our own bathroom showroom just opened. This is largely the drive from Shane. We now also have three people selling to the trade. We’re even testing a franchise at the moment in Barnsley, getting to know the people. It’s been quite a journey. The one big thing that happened last year that I didn’t expect was that the Bank of England came knocking on my door. We are a limited company of 20 years standing, and the Bank of England obviously publish loads of figures, and we, now, are part of that panel – we provide statistics that feed into the Bank of England to get the range of data that they require – performance, growth, staff numbers, turnover… It’s nice to be recognised in that way.
WHEN TIMES ARE TOUGH IT’S A NATURAL INSTINCT TO DRAW IN YOUR HORNS AND MAKE COST CUTS, BUT YOUR EXAMPLE SEEMS TO SUGGEST THAT THIS IS REALLY THE TIME A BUSINESSPERSON NEEDS TO BE AT THEIR MOST DYNAMIC…
You can either lay down and die, or you can fight it and put energy into it. You’re only going to get out what you put in. And you can only cut so much before there’s nothing left. That’s why so many businesses have failed, because they’ve just cut below the line. Some people say: ‘I can’t afford to advertise.’ But you can’t afford not to advertise. They say: ‘I can’t afford to train, because then my staff might leave…’ Well, you have to afford to train, because they might stay! The part that no one saw was the anguish in those moments alone, when you’re thinking: ‘My God, this is tough…’ In business I think sometimes people just expect it to happen without realising that they are the captain of that ship. If that ship goes down, you are responsible.
DO YOU RELY ON GUT INSTINCT TO GET YOU THROUGH?
The reality is, you seek advice, but you go with your gut. I lost count of the number of people who said ‘You’re mad to go into manufacturing’, or who told me that building this new head office was a risk. You always have a fear – and a hope. Someone once said to me: ‘Hope’s not a strategy’ – but that doesn’t mean to say you don’t hope for the best. But everything is a calculated risk. If you take the 100 people who work for us, and take into account their families, there are probably 250-300 people who are fed and earning their living through my decisions, so as it grows you take longer over your decisions and give them more consideration, as opposed to those early days when you can afford to be a bit more cavalier. I used to like a bet a few years ago, but I don’t bother betting now because every day is a bit of a gamble!
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE STARTING OUT IN BUSINESS NOW?
Commit to it as though your life depends on it. And never, ever lose focus of what you’re trying to achieve.
PREMIER KITCHENS AND BEDROOMS, PHORPRES CLOSE, CYGNET PARK, HAMPTON, PETERBOROUGH PE7 8FZ 01733 340471 WWW.PREMIER-KITCHENS.CO.UK