20 July 2024, 15:52
By Furniture News Oct 06, 2016

Simon Spinks, Harrison Spinks

Simon Spinks is the MD of Harrison Spinks.Established in 1840, Harrison Spinks is a leading UK luxury pocket-sprung bed manufacturer, offering the Harrison, Somnus and Spink & Edgar brands, as well as Harrison Spinks Components. The company derives natural fibre fillings from its own 300-acre farm in Yorkshire.

How did you enter the trade?
After working in the factory during school and college holidays from age 11, the career choices in 1989 were estate agent or join the family business. The pay was the same but I was promised a £10/week rise after six months if I joined the bed business (I never got the £10 a week rise!). Working in a family business … you do it for love.

Who was your inspiration?
[Silentnight Beds founder] Tom Clarke made quite an impression. I like the ‘keep it simple’ approach he had. To test a castor on a base he would drag the base down the stairs near to his office – if the castors survived, the castors were fit for purpose. Genius.

What was your career high point?
Winning two Queens Awards for Enterprise in Innovation and Sustainable Development is a high point. It’s nice to get recognition for the things we do well and it is also a privilege to meet the most famous person in the world. I think Her Majesty was quite impressed with meeting Yorkshire’s premier bed-maker!

… and low point?
Unlike today, the business was not always on a perfectly sound footing. In the early Nineties we had two factories and really needed to sell one – regular visits to the bank did not help. A tough period for the business for sure, but it made us focus and improve to become better at what we do.

… and the turning point?
One turning point for us was through innovation. The invention of the Revolution Spring System and the subsequent licensing of the technology certainly boosted our business. There were many things that moved us forward subsequently. Certainly, growing our own filling materials for the mattresses is well received by customers and consumers.

Describe a typical working day
In a family business you never stop working because you never stop thinking about the business, so the working day is not definable. These days we have our business across six sites: there is the spring machine and R&D factory; spring and wire factory; the mattress factory; the divan and upholstery factory; the fillings factory; and the farm.

Needless to say, visiting all these can fill a day. We now have the best team in the industry, and I am slowly learning to let them get on with things. I still can’t help getting involved with mattresses though!

If you had to start over, you’d probably pursue which career?
Estate agent!

What date on the business calendar do you most look forward to?
For me it is usually the first day of lambing on the farm, April 1st. Bringing hundreds of new lambs into the world is a truly magical experience.

What is the most important issue affecting your business right now?
It feels to me that we are surrounded by opportunity – I want to make sure we make the most of that opportunity, because it is not always there.

What company do you most look up to?
I have always admired Dyson. I think that their innovation journey is very inspirational, coupled with the unique way they market their brand. Let’s face it, he changed the market through innovation, and proved it’s about value, not price. His machines sell for three or more times everyone else’s.

What would you most like to change about yourself?
I really need to think less about springs and spring machines … it gets a little boring for my friends in the local pub!

What do you enjoy most about working in the trade?
The people. We are very fortunate to work within an industry where competitors and customers alike are considered an extended family. This is a unique trait, and long may it continue.

Leave us with an industry anecdote please!
Not really an anecdote, but wise words:

Talent hits the target no-one else can hit. Genius hits a target no-one else can see!

The best number for a committee is three – two of which are absent!

Always have a plan – always be prepared to change your plan.

The way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.

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