23 April 2024, 00:15
By Furniture News Sept 01, 2016

Peter Keen, Hypnos

Peter Keen is the chairman of Hypnos, a leading manufacturer of luxury pocket spring mattresses and divans for the retail and hotel markets, both in this country and abroad, backed by a service portfolio that includes the disposal and recycling of old beds. Hypnos is a family-run business which has been making bespoke, made-to-measure beds in the UK for over 100 years, combining traditional skills with constant innovation, and using only the finest natural and sustainable materials.

How did you enter the trade?
My father passed away when I was about 32, leaving me a chair and bed business that primarily targeted the contract market, despite the fact that the Hypnos brand had enjoyed a strong reputation in the retail sector since 1904. I soon realised that there was more money to be made in producing mattresses and beds, so I decided to completely focus on beds instead.

Hypnos manufactured one of the most luxurious and premium beds, which, if I remember correctly, was £4-5000 about 45 years ago. It certainly got the retailers’ attention, and off we went down the road of making luxury, quality beds for the retail sector, whilst still developing our specialist hotel business.

Who/what was your inspiration?
My inspiration for entering this market was to grow the business and expand its offering and portfolio of beds. The bed industry in the UK is particularly well organised and I’m proud to be part of it. Equally, our Royal Warrant status and work with the palaces inspired me to focus on creating the very best quality beds, which are not only supremely comfortable, but extremely stylish too.

I also particularly love the fact that Hypnos is a family-run business. I’m the fourth generation to have run it, and during my time I’ve learnt a lot about the way a family works together to ensure a business is successful – from my observations, it seems to follow a particularly interesting pattern!

The first generation starts it and gets it up and running before the second one steps in to develop it and make it successful. The third generation then spends and invests the money made in order to continue to grow the business, and the fourth generation takes a fresh approach to the business. This means the fifth generation – which will be managed by two of my children, James Keen and Sarah Keen – will inject new life into the business, before my first grandson, Williem Keen, will spend and invest in it again!

What was your career high point?
The high point was definitely winning the John Lewis account. We fought off stiff competition and it was a real boost to secure such a prestigious contract. We’ve been supplying beds to John Lewis for nearly 40 years … so we must be doing something right!

… and low point?
The low point was probably when the Stock Market crashed whilst we were finalising our plans to move our workshops in Princes Risborough to a new site.

… and the turning point?
The turning point in my career was learning to always employ better people than yourself to do the job! We have an amazing team here at Hypnos, and it’s run as a friendly, family business.

Describe a typical working day
Although I’m 70, I still go in five days a week and work with the MD, who does a great job. I still love to get involved with customers, exhibitions and the day-to-day details, though. Not to mention charity work too! I sometimes have a few sneaky days off playing golf too.

If you had to start over, you’d probably pursue which career?
I would probably be trained as a chartered surveyor, as they seem to make an awful lot of money!

What date on the business calendar do you most look forward to?
The date on the business calendar that I most look forward to is the company Christmas party, which is always good fun!

What is the most important issue affecting your business right now?
The most important issue affecting our business right now is that we have been extremely busy over the past year and it looks like things are set to continue this way in 2015.

We have also just won, for the second time, the NBF Bed Manufacturer of the Year award, which is fantastic news, but I’m now busy analysing my competitors and looking at what they’re up to – a chairman always needs to keep his eye on the ball.

What company do you most look up to?
As a competitor it would have to be Vispring, as they do have an amazing brand and great brand awareness with consumers. If it was a supplier it would have to be John Cotton and Maes, who have supplied us with fillings and ticking respectively for many years and been very helpful and true business partners.

What would you most like to change about yourself?
Well, I wouldn’t mind losing 3st, which I put on when I stopped smoking, but I am beginning to think at this age in life why should I bother to do that?
I also regret not learning to fly a helicopter so I’d like to do something about that and maybe take to the sky soon!

What do you enjoy most about working in the trade?
The people in the industry. Over recent years there have been many characters selling up and leaving the trade, and there are not many family businesses left, but it is still friendly and I love our customers and staff.

Leave us with an industry anecdote or words of wisdom, please
The older you get, the better you used to be!

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