Embarking on a journey in the business world is akin to setting sail on a vast and unpredictable ocean with no navigation aids. As we celebrate four decades in business, it’s a good time to reflect on that journey, which began in a single garage and has grown to a purpose-built state-of-the-art premises. But whilst the venue may have changed, the core principles have not. Owner and Managing Director Neil Stevenson talks about this and the things he’s learned along the way.
Every success story has its roots in humble beginnings. The NEJ Stevenson journey started with a vision, a thousand pounds and Neil’s parent’s single garage used as a makeshift workshop. The first few years were marked by hard work and a steep learning curve. It certainly wasn’t easy, but we focused on quality, design excellence, and customer service and slowly our reputation started to grow. These three things are still the founding principles that we work on today. I’m proud that the team know that I’ll never refuse a request if it will enhance the quality and integrity of a project and that our focus on excellence and in all areas of the business resulted in us being granted a Royal Warrant as Cabinet Makers to Her Majesty the Queen.
Adaptability and Resilience
The business landscape is constantly evolving, and adaptability is the key to survival. Over the past 40 years, we have witnessed seismic shifts in technology, market dynamics, the economy and consumer behaviour. We have had clients go under owing us lots of money, and we’ve had customers cancel orders deep into the process. We have seen economic downturns, economic upturns, and interior design trends changes. Through it all, we remained resilient. Like anything worth fighting for, we have been willing to risk everything but never to compromise on quality or service.
Being profitable is a fundamental requirement of any business but for us profitability is a result not the raison d’etre. If I had wanted to be rich I wouldn’t have become a cabinetmaker and my principles and ethics are more important to me than the bottom line. When a large contractor went bust on us, I had a choice to close the business and pass the pain on to my other customers, suppliers and staff. Instead, we remortgaged the house paid everyone their due and kept going. It’s not good business apparently but it was the right thing to do and that principle guides everything we do as a company. Many of my customers and suppliers know this story and it enhances our reputation as a safe pair of hands in a sector that has far too many failures.
Building Strong Relationships
Business success is always and always will be about people. Building and maintaining strong relationships with clients, employees, and partners has been integral to our longevity. Trust, transparency, and a commitment to delivering value and quality have been the cornerstones of these relationships, fostering a sense of loyalty that has withstood the test of time. Some of our staff have been with us since the beginning. Many started as Apprentices and are now part of the senior team. Many of our customers return year after year, our suppliers are key, and we value their contribution. Relationships are what get you through the tough times but also make the successful times more rewarding. We are all doing this together. I may be at the helm but without the team, NEJ Stevenson would not be the business it is today.
The journey of 40 years has been a learning experience filled with both triumphs and setbacks. From strategic decisions that propelled us forward to moments of introspection that led to wholesale change, every experience has been a valuable lesson. These lessons have not only honed our business acumen but have also contributed to the collective wisdom of our organisation.
In the business world, 40 years is more than a milestone; it is a legacy. We express our gratitude to everyone who has been a part of this incredible journey – first and foremost our employees, clients, partners, and supporters. Happy Birthday to us.
Here’s to the next 40 years of innovation, collaboration, and success!