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 Graham Butterfield, sales director of Silentnight Brands.
How did you enter the trade?
A mere 31 years ago I entered the trade from retail in search of a bigger salary and my very own company car (I fancied driving a Ford Cortina – red, of course – rather than the car I had at the time, which involved me spending each weekend cajoling it into life for another week). I worked within the Allders Group when the Silentnight rep left to go to Sleepeezee – a move which worked out pretty well for me.
What was your career high point?
Being told by my (then) MD that I had made it to the position of sales director at Silentnight. He was less emotional about it than me – he was practising his putting in his office at the time! It was a role I’d dreamed about securing and it felt so amazing to reach my goal.
What is the most important issue affecting your business right now?
The changing shape of consumer buying patterns, and being proactive in our approach to all the new routes to market that have exploded onto the scene over the last few years. It is so important to embrace new purchase channels such as e-commerce, whilst not ignoring your traditional methods. We need to constantly have our customers at the top of our minds and make sure that we’re catering for them always.
What date on the business calendar do you most look forward to?
Any day that involves something challenging and new. The Telford National Bed Federation show would be a prime example. We’ve got some exciting announcements and NPD [new product developments] to announce, and I can’t wait – watch this space!
Do you have a memorable industry anecdote?
Speaking of the characters and friends that I have made over the past 31 years, I want to leave on a note in reference to a character that was known everywhere and by everyone in the industry – Joe Martin.
When Joe (formerly of AIS) was due to retire, finally, I was part of a clandestine team who organised his retirement ‘do’. Everything was planned and great excitement had built up throughout the days and weeks. All those that mattered in the industry were gathered in a Solihull hotel.
Morgan McCarthy [now MD and sales director at Millbrook Beds] had one job to do, just one – get Joe and his wife Pam to the hotel on time. With 30 minutes to zero hour, Morgan got cold feet and wondered whether Joe’s heart would stand the shock – after all, he had had a dodgy ticker before …
Angela Jones (Joe’s PA and a formidable force at her most mellow of times) looked at Morgan, gave him ‘the stare’ that all who have encountered her would know only too well, took a breath, and simply said: “Get him here Morgan, or you’re de-listed from AIS as of now.”
The rest is history – the pictures are proof – and that evening was perfect testimony to all that is good about the furniture and bed industry, and why it’s the only industry I would ever want to be a part of.
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.