Creative industry: in conversation with Guild Anderson’s Nick Anderson

Founder of bespoke kitchen maker on why job satisfaction comes from more than money

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Ask Nick Anderson of Guild Anderson Furniture Makers, the bespoke kitchen company he founded in 2003 with his wife and marketing director Hannah, for his company growth plans and his answer is frank. ‘I’m not 100% business-like about this, because the company is a big part of our life,’ he says. ‘It’s very important to me that I enjoy my job.’

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In February, prior to Covid-19, Anderson had projected 2020 sales to be around £1.9million, with about two-thirds of that already sold, and a longer-term plan not to grow the company much beyond annual turnover of £2.5million.

‘This is a level at which I can enjoy my job, without my role becoming entirely managerial,’ he says. ‘I am involved in initial design meetings with every client and set the design direction for every single project.’

Who are we? Nick Anderson, designer and director, and Hannah Anderson, marketing director 

Where are we? 22 Grosvenor Drive, Tisbury, Wiltshire, SP3 6GS. Tel: 01747 820 449. www.guildanderson.co.uk

What we do Bespoke kitchen and furniture designer, maker and retailer

Business history Nick Guild Anderson has a degree in naval architecture and spent 7 years working in IT, while Hannah studied photography and had a career as a picture editor prior to setting up their firm in 2003. ‘I’ve always loved making things,’ says Nick Anderson. ‘I remember coming back from a trip, flying over London before landing at Heathrow, and thinking, “look at all those houses – everyone has a kitchen, so surely I can sell a few,”‘ he recalls.

Sales stats ‘This year, we’re going to turnover about £1.9million and I’ve already sold two-thirds of that,’ says Nick

Staffing levels 19, including Nick and Hannah

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It’s something he’s passionate about, both because it’s what gives him creative stimulation and because he knows it’s what it makes his business stand out. ‘At the moment, we offer a bespoke service with sales led by the owner-founder,’ he says.

‘If we get much bigger, sales will be done by others, and that’s a big difference between our size of business and a bigger one, and the experience that the client has. The downside is that it limits the size of the business and its value because it’s too dependent on me, but it means that clients get a great experience and I get more job satisfaction.’

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In the new Design Studio, the office is upstairs, with room for eight plus a meeting space. The table island in the image is used for laying out plans and samples for discussion with clients

After all, this is a man who gave up a successful career in IT to pursue a more creative, furniture-making life. Coffee with Mark and Cynthia Wilson whilst delivering smoked trout for his fish-farming parents-in-law one evening led to a 9-month spell at Mark Wilkinson Furniture learning the craft.

‘Mark and Cynthia were so generous and I learnt a lot,’ says Anderson, 46, of his nine months at their firm 18 years’ ago. ‘When I started, I had no idea that such amazing things were possible with wood – the experience was very inspiring.’

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An Everhot 120i cooker in Marine Blue, below a bespoke chimney feature, Novy extractor and antique mirror splashback. The Everhot is used daily for preparing lunch

From a shed at the bottom of the garden, the business has grown steadily. ‘That’s the way we’ve wanted to do it,’ explains Anderson. ‘It is often said that people who start businesses are risk takers, but I think the opposite is true – I am extremely risk averse and we’ve always proceeded very carefully and tried to avoid borrowing money wherever possible.’

Now the firm operates from a 7,500sq ft workshop in Wiltshire and a new office and design studio close by in the village of Tisbury. ‘We reached about £1million in turnover without a showroom, but sometimes I felt like a salesman operating out of the back of a car,’ he says.

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Bucknowle cabinetry features a hidden doorway through to the office and storage area

‘Having the design studio has really helped conversion, because people get to a level of trust more quickly, and our average order value has gone up significantly from around £45,000 to £60,000-£70,000.’

Handle samples are stored in an oak drawer so that clients can get a feel for them before ordering
Handle samples are stored in an oak drawer so that clients can get a feel for them before ordering

The company currently produces some 35-40 kitchens per year, a number that Anderson expects to remain constant. ‘As the average order moves to £70,000-£80,000, that’s how we’re going to grow,’ he says.

What is your greatest challenge?

Managing our schedule – every single project will depend on building work, which probably won’t be completed on time. And we’ve got to deliver a seamless service to the client

What is your greatest opportunity?

We’ve come to the end of a great period of investment with new machinery, new office, new design studio – so we are in a good position to make use of it all 

Strange but true

Our first apprentice and our first employee both still work for us, 17 years on

What effect do you think Covid-19 will have on your business?

We have had to adapt quickly to the new situation and make some tough decisions.  At present our workshop remains open with a reduced workforce to slow the pace and our customers are standing by us, so we are able to continue making furniture, but most installations are on hold.

I don’t think this is a situation that will end within weeks or even months, we will have to adapt to this new ‘normal’ and adjust our working practices to suit.

 Today, all kitchens are bespoke made in the company’s own workshop on the Fonthill Estate in Wiltshire. Guild Anderson also makes built-in furniture for other rooms in the house, with kitchens making up about 90% of sales.

Appliances by Miele, Fisher & Paykel, Everhot, Novy, Sub-Zero and Wolf. Sinks and taps by Kohler, Villeroy & Boch, The 1810 Company, Hornbeam Ivy, Barber Wilsons & Co, Quooker.

Kitchen prices start from about £40,000; average £70,000; most expensive to date £240,000.

 

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Words by Amelia Thorpe. Photos by Paul Craig.