Perspective with Andy Kendall-Jones

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We are an inquisitive lot at Mix and are fortunate enough to work in an interesting sector – so lots of great people to quiz. This month we start our “perspective” series with a man who has been very busy over the last couple of years and by the sounds of it is going to be even busier in the next.

Andy Kendall-Jones is the CEO of Southerns. Widely known as one of the biggest furniture dealers (furniture providers) Southerns has now been transformed into something quite different and has everyone talking.  In 2015 Ralph Capper (Manchester) was acquired along with Southerns (Bolton), putting back together the company that separated in the 1990s.  Then late 2016 we saw two more acquisitions that really got the market on high alert with the acquisition of Broadstock (Macclesfield manufacturer) and SpaceInvader (Manchester, design practice)

In the last 12 months, we have had a couple of “did you hear that” moments.  Herman Miller taking over Naughtone, Dovetail ending its run. Beyond Southerns our sources tell us more is likely in 2017; in the meantime let’s hear from Andy Kendall-Jones

What was the catalyst that started the wave of acquisition in 2015? I could see that there was a real opportunity to offer customers more than a single, stand-alone service – I wanted to create something revolutionary, something that had never been done before.  So I’d worked for a while on my ideas, but everything really kicked into gear after a football match.  I’m a massive Leeds United fan and so is my mate, Steve Parkin and we would often have a chat about business after the game.  After one particular match I was talking with him about my expansion plans and how I could see the future for the company mapping out, and he said to me: “Do you want me to get involved?” From that moment on, with his investment and invaluable business advice, we’ve set ourselves on a path of genuine strategic growth.

Where did you use yourselves in the dealer hierarchy? I’d say we don’t see ourselves as dealers. Our offering is unique.

What’s next? We currently number 220 staff and a projected £45m turnover and in the next 18 months we will triple that – very possibly sooner, in fact.

Does that mean more acquisitions? You’ll have to wait and see; obviously our business strategy is confidential. However I will say this.  Expect to see something very soon and be aware that whatever we do, everything complements our current position through the design and fit out chain.  And whilst we have been active on the acquisition trail, don’t underestimate how much of the growth will be organic.

What do you want Southerns to be known for? Being best in class. We’re a trailblazing business made up of world-class companies, each with its own unique offering, all of which makes the Southerns Group something that has never been seen before.  It’s important to stress here that there is a carefully considered strategy underpinning everything we do. We know exactly where we want to get to, how we’ll get there, and who with. And being best in class is key to it all.

How do you deal with the question of specifying only your own products/services? We have very good relationships with key suppliers and don’t expect that to change.

What about some of the bigger furniture suppliers, should they be worried? Far from it. We have good relationships with companies like Senator and Orangebox and we don’t expect that to change.

What are your ambitions from a geographic perspective? We are a national company with offices in Yorkshire, north-west England and London; our clients are located both across the UK and internationally.  We’re excited to be creating what might be termed a Group showcase in Leeds, which will be located in the very heart of the city and will comprise a number of the brands within the Group.

What do you say to someone who has just joined Space Invader expecting to be joining a design practice in Manchester? It still is a design practice in Manchester. It remains completely independent, with the freedom to specify from, and work with, any supplier. The difference is it is now backed by the Southerns Group.

What is the key message to the market? Every element of everything we do is driven by the determination to be best in class: the brands under the Southerns Group umbrella are, the people involved in each brand are, the clients we work with are. We’ve created something very special here and we’ve got big plans for the future.

What is your personal end game? I love what I do, and I’ve no intention of stopping.