Anyone who has spent time in a garden understands just how hard it is to furnish a garden. Garden furniture must be both beautiful and able to resist the sun, rain, snow, dust, hail and all sorts of things that indoor furniture simply does not have to deal with. We built our garden furniture company on the conviction that there was and continues to be a huge market for high-quality and stylish furniture that can withstand outdoor elements. Conviction alone is not enough to build a successful company, and throughout our journey, we have faced obstacles and setbacks. This is the story of how we scaled our company and achieved success.
A Decision-Making Framework
The secret to success begins with a mindset: passion starts the engines, but the engines run on good decision-making and objective thinking. Our first step was to determine if our eyes, and anecdotal evidence had led us to the correct conclusion. Typically, entrepreneurs fall prey to the base rate fallacy, and ignore what typically happens and focus on the unlikely. The least discussed part of entrepreneurial life is decision-making. We are often told to trust our gut, but everyone does that, and most startups fail. What we discovered is that, by having a clear decision-making framework, we made fewer mistakes, and when we made mistakes, they were acceptable because we trusted that our process would lead us to make good decisions more often than not. Using a decision-tree has been crucial to our success. Our first task is to discover what the general tendency, or base rate is, and then figure out how our actions can make a result more or less likely.
In 2021 UK households spent an average of £670 on upgrading their outdoor space.
Discovering Our Market Opportunity
We needed to understand what the market was really like, to figure out what the base rate was. Our initial market research helped us identify the needs and preferences of outdoor enthusiasts. We saw that there really was a great demand for durable furniture that could be easily customized to fit various outdoor spaces and styles. We were curious about the industry base rates; we asked questions like, “What does the typical garden furniture business earn in profits as a percentage of invested capital?”, “What is the failure rate of garden furniture businesses?”, “What is the average rate of growth over a 5-year period?”. Consulting sources like Credit Suisse’s “The Base Rate Book”, helped a lot in answering some of these questions. We asked questions about the kinds of products that had the highest margins, the highest rates of growth, and which we could make with a high degree of control of the supply chain.
This led us to focus our product line on modular furniture that could be reconfigured to suit different outdoor settings and occasions. Having discovered the general market conditions, we then took the “inside view”, and mapped a path to success. This “inside view” was about tilting the odds in our favour.
Building the Company
Establishing a successful garden furniture company requires strong relationships with suppliers and manufacturers to help bring our vision to life. We knew that we needed to source high-quality materials and components in order to create products that were both stylish and durable, and we also knew that we needed to negotiate favourable terms in order to keep our costs down.
To achieve this, we invested a significant amount of time and effort into building relationships with our suppliers. We worked closely with them to understand their needs and constraints, and we also shared our vision for our business with them. As a result, we were able to negotiate favourable terms and establish long-term partnerships that helped us secure the materials and components we needed to produce high-quality products.
Additionally, we invested in state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment to ensure that our products were of the highest quality.
Garden furniture is now booming with search terms such as ‘garden furniture‘ receiving a considerable rise in Google searches (up 293% in 2021)
Expanding Our Product Line
As our business continued to grow, we recognized that we needed to expand our product line in order to stay ahead of the competition and meet the evolving needs of our customers. To do this, we conducted additional market research to identify gaps in the market and potential new product opportunities.
Based on this research, we decided to launch a new line of outdoor accessories, including cushions, umbrellas, and lighting. We also expanded our product line to include outdoor cooking equipment, such as grills and outdoor kitchens. To execute this expansion, we invested heavily in product development and marketing, and we also worked closely with our suppliers to ensure that we could meet the demand for our new products.
As we grew, increasing production without sacrificing quality or consistency was a major challenge. We invested in new manufacturing equipment and processes to help us produce our products more efficiently. Additionally, we established rigorous quality control procedures to ensure that our products meet our high standards. We worked closely with our suppliers to negotiate favourable terms and ensure that we could meet the demand for our products. While this was a challenge, it was a good problem to have. As venture capitalist Marc Andreessen famously said, product-market fit is, “the only thing that matters” for startups. Seeing that people actually wanted our products, gave us a thrill.
One specific decision stands out: we decided to implement a new software system that allowed us to track our manufacturing process from start to finish. This helped us identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies in our production process, and allowed us to make data-driven decisions to improve efficiency and reduce waste. It always amazes us how much measuring our work can improve our processes.
As a relatively small company, we knew that we needed to differentiate ourselves from larger competitors by offering personalized service and support to our customers. To do this, we invested heavily in training our customer service team, and we also developed a range of online tools and resources to help customers find the perfect products for their needs.
One specific decision we made was to launch a live chat feature on our website. This allowed customers to connect with our customer service team in real-time and get personalized recommendations for products based on their specific needs and preferences. This feature proved to be very popular with our customers, and helped us build a reputation for excellent customer service.
Despite the challenges we faced, our efforts to anticipate future growth and scale our product line paid off with a 160% increase in revenue. Our modular furniture line became profitable, and increasing our new product lines to over 450 SKUs helped us expand our reach and attract new customers. We received positive feedback from our customers, who praised our products for their quality and design. In accounting terms, the most satisfying thing was seeing that the enthusiasm with which we entered the business, and the enthusiasm with which customers bought out products, translated into profits, cash flow, and growing returns on invested capital. Ultimately, a business’ future value is about its cash flows. Any business that cannot earn and grow its cash flows, is in trouble.
Building a successful garden furniture company requires careful planning, a clear decision-making framework, strategic decision-making, and a willingness to adapt to changing market conditions. Our journey from identifying a market opportunity to scaling our product line and achieving success was not without challenges and setbacks. However, by focusing on customer needs, building strong relationships with suppliers, expanding our product line, and prioritizing quality and customer service, we were able to grow our business and establish a strong brand presence in the industry. While there are no guarantees of success in business, careful planning, perseverance, and a commitment to quality and customer service can go a long way in achieving growth and profitability.