Case Study – Rugs of Petworth
Alex Rees, founder and owner of Rugs of Petworth on implementing the Blueprint for long term sustainable business performance
Loughlin Hickey from Blueprint relates the story from the perspective of the ‘coach’.
History of the business
I opened Rugs of Petworth in 2008 and for the first few years did what I needed to survive, although with hindsight the result in that period was loss of focus on the original passion for handmade rugs. If I took a snapshot of the business around 2011/12 you would see a completely confused message about what we offered and stood for. Products loosely to do with the floor were on offer, yes there were handmade rugs in the mix still but also by then fitted carpet ranges and a full fitting service, designer rugs, sisal rugs. I had chased commercial opportunities to grow sales and in a sense it succeeded as the turnover grew.
Ultimately though, the numbers supported the delusion that the business was going in the right direction, when actually the message of what Rugs of Petworth stood for was become more confused, inside and out.
Issues and challenges
When I look back at the profitability of some of these fringe products and services, it was actually very marginal. Moreover it was a huge drain on my resources and time and diluted the focus on what I was originally passionate about – beautiful handmade rugs. I was still a one-man business with only part time help, and I would be out measuring for fitted carpets thinking this was the only way I could keep my passion for handmade rugs alive in business. The main challenge for me from there was: how do I get back to the core of what I’m passionate about but keep the lights on in the process?
Working with the Blueprint – A transformational journey
So as far as the Blueprint, I see there are two key elements: purpose and, loosely, people (which is the framework). The most transformational part of it for me so far has been purpose. After over a year of soul searching and uncovering the true purpose behind Rugs of Petworth, our statement was formed:
Helping people to confidently choose beautiful handmade rugs in a trusted, friendly, professional environment. Enhancing rooms, delighting people and upholding integrity and craftsmanship.
It was well worth spending plenty of time on this, as the more you can refine the statement, with each individual word really justifying its inclusion, the more coherent the sense of direction becomes.
Once I bought into the idea of Blueprint and the purpose, my instinct was to rush into implementation, but it makes sense to take it slowly, don’t punish yourself for “non conformity” – most things need to happen over time. In our case, replacing a whole portion of our revenue with sales of our core products had to be managed carefully. You can’t deliver the purpose if you go bust along the way!
With Blueprint as a guide, our purpose now completely resonates with everything we are trying to do and our audience now find it easier to understand what the offer is, as do we. One particular element, upholding integrity in craftsmanship and being part of the wider community has been a shift of mindset too. Whereas we might have previously been afraid of talking about this, being only a very small company in the context of the rug weaving industry, we are now confident that both ourselves and our customers are playing a part in perpetuating this ancient artisan craft through our actions.
Next for us is to tell the story of our sourcing better on our website and in the showroom, so people can feel more connected to the origins of the rugs they buy and move beyond seeing a rug purely as a furnishing item.
The Coach’s Story
I never realised that buying a rug would start a business journey ! When I met Alex it was clear that he was passionate and knowledgeable and he created an atmosphere of trust – from exploring what room a rug was meant for to suggesting colours and styles, and backing his judgement by letting us take rugs over to Ireland to try them out without obligation to buy. So when I ventured nervously into buying handmade rugs I had come to the right place.
Alex had a business problem; how could he grow the business? and in particular how could he recruit the right people to have the same passion and knowledge and impact on customers that he did? It felt that without him at the shop sales would simply drop off, and he couldn’t be everywhere. We shared a fascination for business and we got talking about the role that purpose could play in addressing his business problem – using the passion that inspired him to go into business in the first place.
What did a good purpose look like? Where did he get one? Could it really make a difference?
Alex agreed to write down his purpose and I agreed to comment. He also shared it with some friends who knew him and were business savvy. I gave him some hints on what a purpose statement should be. Think about the people you see as your target market – real people. Write down your point of view about the business you are in – what are you passionate about. That should include why you think that people are not served as well as they could be – is there an unmet or poorly met need? Set down why you think you can meet that need better . Finally, can you show that you respect people – human dignity, and others benefit from what you do as well as your business benefitting (a common good) . And ideally, how society at large (beyond the immediate customer) also benefits.
If a purpose is to be a trigger for people to want to associate themselves with you and your business, it needs to be inspiring – an outcome worth going for, authentic -relevant to the business and the way business is actually done and practical – it enables you to make decision when there are choices to be made.
- focussed on outcomes for people
- what happens as a result of the company’s activity
- what the company does “with” or “alongside” people, not “to” or “for” people.
Click here to read more about Purpose
Alex set about making it a reality in the way he ran his business. He re-thought his interview and on-boarding process, his written procedures (he is very organised!) , his showroom layout, his website and how he could contribute to keeping the craftsmanship skills alive in a way that helped the families that made the rugs. All with a view to making his purpose statement a reality – inspiring, authentic and practical.”
To make the purpose real for his customers Alex thought about the “10 fears” that people might have about making the purchase they wanted: for example, will it really work in the room I want it for? how long will the rug last? what if it gets damaged? how do I know it is genuine? am I paying too much? is this exploiting child labour and bad working conditions? Alex then thought about different ways to allow potential customers to get reassurance without needing to “ask Alex”.
The answer he chose was a combination of website design, showroom layout, external validation of his sourcing, telling the story through storyboards as people walked around the showroom and encouraging his people to learn, develop, make decisions and “own the story”.