Steve is the CEO of Sussex Beds, a fast-growing independent bed retail chain that now boasts 15 stores across the South East (Caterham, Surrey was the latest opening). Steve’s audacious expansion plan envisages 25 stores by 2025 – and 80 by 2030 …
How might a child describe what you do?
Steve works in an office and is the boss of the bed shop with the dinosaur outside.*
What’s the biggest long-term challenge you face?
As a rapidly growing and expanding business, maintaining our close culture, great internal communication lines and speed of adaptability.
If you had 10 x your working budget, what would you spend it on?
Firstly, with a 10 x working budget we would significantly increase training and personal development budgets and seek to upskill teams across the business. Alongside this we would speed up the rate of growth and rapidly expand the reach of our store portfolio, together with a significant investment in our website and omnichannel connectivity. Finally, with volumes increasing, we would acquisition and obtain a manufacturing operation to fulfil our longer-term end-to-end supply chain objectives.
What would be the title of your autobiography?
‘Helping the World to Sleep, Tissue Carnations’.
What does ‘work/life balance’ mean to you?
Time out, time away from the physical work place, is crucial. Reset, recharge, reinvigorate … everyone’s needs are different, however it is essential for your mental wellbeing that you make time. Building or running a business is a long road which will not be straight or flat, and you’ll need refuel the tank to ensure you get to your destination.
Who’s been your most influential professional mentor?
In 2014 we started working with a business coach, Lucy Cameron. We didn’t know what to expect. However, after years of struggling to keep our business afloat, what did we have to lose?
For the business, and for me personally, this by far has been the most influential professional mentor, providing structure, planning, strategy and, most importantly, belief.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Believe in yourself, work on your emotional intelligence and get yourself a business coach today!
What’s been your best day in business to date?
Reopening the doors to our stores after months of lockdown. Laying to rest the months of uncertainty, welcoming back our teams and being proud of my family for pulling together, supporting each other through the most challenging of business events.
What’s the biggest myth about our industry?
That a hard or orthopaedic mattress is good for bad backs.
What should everyone in our industry either stop or start doing?
I think our industry’s most disappointing habit is creating great new products which are then copied, butchered and devalued until they no longer meet the needs they were originally designed for. Wouldn’t it be great if we stopped this?
Where do you see the industry going in the next 5-10 years?
The lines between manufacturer and retailer will blur. The importance of traditional trade brands will diminish, and the winners will be those who connect and resonate directly with the consumer. And those consumers will expect seamless connectivity between the physical store and the digital world.
* Visit Sussex Beds’ Bexhill store for a glimpse of ‘Dino’!
This interview featured in May's Furniture News.