Each Friday, Furniture News puts five questions to a selected industry professional to explore their background and approach to business. Today, it's the turn of Ebrahim Patel, MD of the Vogue Beds Group – which incorporates Vogue Beds, the Hampton Bed Company, Repose Beds and the Swift Mattress Company – and also a business parter of Limelight Beds...

How did you get into the trade?

I started the business in October 1990 – it seems like a lifetime ago! My best friend had a bed factory and he encouraged me to start my own business. So, one summer he taught me how to make beds and lent me some machines he had – and the rest is history.

Limelight Beds was started in 1999 with my business partner Aiyub Sidat. We realised at Vogue that we were making more and more mattresses, and we needed an outlet to sell frames and bedsteads. Limelight has gone from strength to strength since its inception, and will be exhibiting at the NEC this month.

What has been the most important turning point in your career so far, and why? 

My brother and I parted company in 2004 – we had both set up Vogue Beds together in 1990. It made me realise not to take anything for granted. I was on my own for the first time in 2005, and it was hard taking on all that responsibility when before it was shared – but it made me stronger and made me realise that business goes on, no matter what. 

What can retailers do to improve their marketing strategy? 

Every salesperson thinks that they’re the best – including me! Maybe while the market is quiet, it could be a good opportunity to get some qualifications regarding how to sell in retail.

There must be loads of courses out there in retailing – not just selling beds, but other sides of retail. Surely the technique is the same, whether selling clothes or furniture? I’m very fortunate that I get to see how different retailers sell, and it’s amazing how varied and interesting it is.

What are you doing to become more competitive at the moment?

I think competitiveness starts from your own business. We have been working with EMDA – the East Midlands Development Agency – for the past 18 months to become lean and competitive. It’s been a slow, hard and sometimes painful process, and has made us realise what complacency does to a business. We have come out the other end leaner and hungrier than ever before.

Does that mean I’m selling beds cheaper? There’s no point selling beds cheaper– the moment you do that, someone else is always even cheaper!

What brings a smile to your face working in this industry, or do you have an amusing tale to share? 

Too many amusing tales, especially when I served on the executive committee of the NBF from January 2007 to July 2009, and we had some great nights at the NBF forums which are held twice a year – but I’m pretty sure I signed a non-disclosure form! Seriously though, working with Peter Keen and Anthony Joyce was wonderful, and Jessica Alexander works very hard for the NBF. Great people!

This is an extract from an article published previously in Furniture News magazine. For more stories like this, you can subscribe to receive a regular physical copy of the magazine, or to have a free digital issue delivered to your inbox each month.