" I am not looking for more dealers. We are buried with direct retail customers coming to me. Having gone down the wholesale route for 38 years I can say with absolute clarity I'm not interested in additional retailers when I can sell direct and have a relationship with the customers directly.
I do not stock my dealers with inventory- they pay for their floor models. Last year I lost money when two retailers closed. They were limited to prepaid terms (because of their history of not meeting N30 credit terms) and managed to pay for a few loads with bad checks. Retailers have been nothing but razor thin cash flow punctuated with non-payment so at this point in my life I'm not pursuing that avenue. I am only staying with the few that have proven themselves to be stellar both in paying their obligations and rewarding to work with. I prefer to stay with the Dealers who pay their bills and do not constantly try to dicker me down on every little detail. This business of making such high quality furniture is a touchy business to make work, and the reason we are still here through thick and thin is by not borrowing money, demanding that every action we take creates a useful and proper outcome, and making conservative business decisions.
We are very Lean and only build to order. We do not have finished inventory outside of a few showroom items. I discovered the sensible concept of Lean decades ago before it became a buzzword in North America; that inventory is a killer, both in payroll and materials cost as well as the floor space to store it. When exclusively a manufacturer (of my own designs and products) one of our crucial attributes was keeping to a strict a six week lead time. However now that our product mix is huge and we are recognized as the unique craftsman we have always been, a strict lead time is often viewed suspiciously. As if we really aren't craftsman but instead pulling from a container, which couldn't be farther from reality. We simply have such a well organized operation from those decades that we know how to do it. I speak daily with people who are dubious that we are as "real" as those defunct retailers and wonder if our quality is as good as what was in the stores. Amusing, because the furniture they sold was my design, made by my shop, and the retailers were sometimes asking me to dumb down the product so as to result in a lower price to them.
Many people think our customers have tons of money and don't care about price. I am always amazed and impressed at the houses we put furniture into. Sure, some are palaces, but most often they are quite ordinary looking where warmth and taste is more important than size or opulence. They are people with values of quality and craftsmanship, and almost always pay close attention to the prices whether they need to or not. They are a pretty great bunch, endlessly interesting.
What does the future hold? Difficult to say. I'm 63 with no inclination to stop running this operation I love. Nonetheless at some point someone will need to appear on the scene to continue the legacy. My peers all have the same problem with finding new blood. There need be someone with the desire to become a working component of all this, who will focus on the years required to learn the craft, focus on the work and sacrifice to keep things humming, and focus on our relationship with customers and their diverse desires to participate in this creative endeavor. What is needed is excitement at what can be created, the discipline to learn what is needed, and letting go of the perceived unfairness of expending more time and energy than other people get away with in their lives. In short participation, excited creativity and relationship which asks for more than mere attendance.
That's all for today. I need to go attend to the shop now, Greg"