The MD of Searle and Taylor reflects on a 30-year career in the kitchen industry, offers his tips for a successful year and reveals why he’s looking forward to going to Liverpool for the kbbreview Retail & Design Awards 2021

‘30 years on and I’m still optimistic’ A

couple of years ago, I was reading, with interest, an article written by the editor about a bathroom retailer who had begun his career ‘at the tender age of 18’. This resonated with me, as I was the same ‘tender age’ with a handful of tools and just £250 in the bank when I started my own business, one that cele brates its 30th anniversary this year.

I left school at age 15 with a set of GCSE grades that spelt out the word ‘FUDGE’. However, I had a passion for making things and at weekends,

This year, my

advice to you all is simple: stay lean, remain keen and do less, just more accurately

and even when I should have been at school, I was already working with a skilled cabinetmaker (RIP Cyril). By the time I was 18, I naively thought I knew everything about being a businessman. As you can see from the article in the Alton Herald from 1991 (pictured), I was also very optimistic about it. Throughout my career I have been a cabinetmaker, a

French polisher, a wood turner, an installer, a manufacturer, an agent, a business adviser, a designer and a salesman and sometimes all of these at once. I love what I do, and I am relieved that I never decided to jack it all in, especially when things got really diffi cult. The one thing I know now is that sometimes it is good to fail in order to learn how to succeed, because it makes you a better person in business over the long term. The one thing I know now is that to keep on top, you must always keep an eye on the bottom line. I remember one particular year when I worked harder than ever, seven days a week, employing 20-plus staff, manufacturing handmade bespoke kitchens to the trade. I listened to no advice, because I knew it all already, or so I thought. I was processing four or fi ve jobs every

Looking forward to Liverpool

Happy New Year! So, apart from waiting for my Covid vaccination and dealing with the imminent red tape of Brexit, I must admit I am feeling very positive for 2021. The order book is looking good, with some superb projects that were sold at the end of last year that I am looking forward to being


installed. The best part is going to be being able to get some of my new kitchens professionally photo- graphed for my website as this was diffi cult to organise during 2020. I am also really looking forward to the months ahead, especially May, when I hope to be making a trip to Liverpool to see some faces old and

new at the kbbreview Retail and Design Awards – a much-needed event for all of us in the industry. I will be up there for a couple of days to catch up properly with my KBB pals to discuss what is, and what isn’t, working for us all. See you all on Thursday, May 20 (hopefully), if not before...


· January 2021

week sent in from our network of 25 premium kitchen retailers, many of which were at the top of their game and some are still going strong today. Most of the designs that came in were superb. These were clever concepts with amazing thought and consideration to the proposed aesthetic, providing intelligent solutions for their clients and many with complex curved cabinetry. I was so busy turning around our fantastic furniture and so full of the fact that money was coming in that I didn’t keep an eye on what was going out. I am

delighted to report that in the 1990s my small business turned over £1.2 million in a single year. But, because I didn’t have the experience that I have now, I also managed make a loss of £30,000. I would have been better off sat on the sofa watching Jeremy Kyle. I had such a huge feeling of failure, being told that I had lost so much money. I believed that this was a fi nancial disaster, but I had learnt a valuable lesson, and it was a mistake that I would never repeat. I also decided to start listening to advice, because just being good with wood wasn’t enough.

In our industry, I have met a number of really successful entrepreneurs who, like me, started very young and with very little, but they all have one thing in common – they understand business, how to do it, how to employ people who can do the things you can’t do and most of all how to accept advice and act upon it. This year, my advice to you all is simple: stay lean,

remain keen and do less, just more accurately. Always be optimistic – I am 30 years down the line and my business is successful, but I am still learning every day and the difference is that these days, I am very willing to do so.


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