A good friend of mine called Kieran owns a kitchen and bedroom furniture joinery business which he set up in south Kerry in the early 2000s. Things went very well with steady year-on-year growth which necessitated taking on a few employees.
The business was always carefully run financially as it was never going to be a “lifestyle company”. Then the recession hit and like with most small enterprises at that time, it all started to go backwards as business confidence fell.
If you recall 2008 and 2009, for a while many company owner/managers started battening down the hatches, stopped spending cash even if there was much in the account, and tried everything to hang on to existing customers. Going forward at the time was out of the question – except for my friend Kieran.
Kieran never had any specific business training before setting up his company but has always had something better – common sense and vision. He’s always known where he needed the business to go, and he’s worked logically step-by-step to ensure it got there
Even more important, Kieran is also a prolific networker in his market who asks a lot of questions of the right people. By “prolific”, I don’t mean he goes to organised network gatherings.
He talks a lot with his suppliers about what’s going on their space, about trends and about what competitors are doing. He talks a lot with his customers and everyday folk who might be future customers about their needs, he talks with other businesses in the same general area, and he also talks with competitors whenever he can.
So how did Kieran go forward when everybody else was holding back? He knew that was the time to rise above the rest and set up a new, albeit modest showroom with the latest in design, materials, and technology – funded partly by his suppliers.
He took the risk and spent earnings from the business because he knew the showroom was what was needed now more than ever. Sure it wasn’t going to solve all his revenue problems but it was enough to drive more customers to him over competitors for the medium term.
Even when a local chain store in Killarney started selling kitchen units, it didn’t faze him. I remember our conversation about it. Because he knew what his market wanted, his view was that he didn’t think they had got the right products or service support to appeal locally. Less than a year later, the store closed down.
He picked up easily on the next major trend of DIY carpentry for home extensions so he set up a shop in his workshop. It sells everything that local tradesmen and home owners might need for small project home extensions. This is getting so successful, he’s got to increase his stock shelving space.
All this is driven by a quiet determination to succeed, a passion for satisfying the needs of the customer, and above all – reducing the risks by knowing how his market ticks first-hand.
It’s the ability to learn not just what the market’s doing now, but also what the future trends will be. Learning that as early as possible enables you to prepare well for your next opportunity.
Stuart Allcock – Owner of Applied Business Support