THERE’S always something new to learn in business.
After 20 years involvement with family firm Lindsays Furniture Mill, managing director Ashley Lindsay is still keen to pick up tips and techniques to make the business work better.
The internet is providing a rich source of information and inspiration for the ambitious 38-year-old, who is already well on the way to realising his ambitions for the Milnsbridge-based business.
Ashley follows a weekly online podcast, Manager Tools, which focuses on management and leadership skills. The podcast dispenses with management theory in favour of specific actions business leaders can take to improve their management performance.
Says Ashley: “I have learned so many things from it. I feel I can learn every day. For instance, this morning I was listening to a podcast about interview techniques. It’s easy to distinguish the best job applicant from the worst, but how do you distinguish between the best, the second-best and the third-best?”
And he adds: “With the information and lessons I’ve picked up, I could probably walk into McDonald’s and give them some useful advice!”
Customer service and staffing matters are key areas for Ashley as he further develops the business which was founded by his parents 30 years ago and for many years was know as Lindsays Allsorts.
“My parents were both interested in antiques,” he explains. “My dad was a machine engineer, but he’d had enough of red-hot filings flying around and decided to do something else. He started selling antiques from the garage, then started doing house clearances.”
A shop was opened in Crosland Moor and a second added in Byram Street, close to Huddersfield open market. Later, Lindsays acquired the top floor of an impressive mill building at Britannia Road, Milnsbridge.
From selling stock accumulated from house clearances, Lindsays began buying catalogue returns and end-of-line furniture, which were stored at Stanley Mill to supply the shops. In time, customers began calling at the mill itself.
Says Ashley: “We had a workshop for repairs and we had a large stock of beds, suites and other furniture in a mill building with bare walls, floors and white-painted iron pillars. Six or seven years ago our ‘unique selling point’ was that we had 300 suites that were cheaper than anywhere else.”
More recently, the mill has been transformed as part of a long-term investment in stock, fixtures, fittings and additional attractions designed to turn Lindsays Furniture Mill into a destination store.
Two floors of the spacious mill provide display space for a huge variety of sofas, living and bedroom furniture, ranging from traditional to more contemporary styles including well-known brands.
The ground floor has been given a major make-over with the addition of a coffee shop as well as attractive room sets featuring quality sofas, chairs and dining furniture. The first floor is set for similar treatment, while Ashley has plans to introduce giftware and add an outdoor garden centre to the rear of the building.
While some may draw comparisons with Batley’s Red Brick Mill, Ashley says he is aiming for something different. “We are here for the people of Huddersfield,” he says. “And we are an ‘antidote’ to those furniture ‘sheds’ where the staff try to sell you something at all costs. We are a family business and we want to look after our customers.”
As part of efforts to meet customer demand, orders go out accompanied with a feedback form, asking clients to rate the service they receive and asking if there’s anything that can be improved.
There are also feedback sessions for the firm’s 10-strong staff. Says Ashley: “It’s quite an American thing, really. But it’s not about giving someone a telling off for something they’ve done wrong – it’s about making sure they do it the right way in the future.
“If we get the structure in place and the processes right and everyone follows the processes the less time I have to spend on the day-to-day issues and the more I can look at the bigger picture.”