Today a powerhouse of industry. At the time, a moving trailer that sat behind a seafood processing plant. Such is the journey of Four Hands, the Austin, Texas-based furniture maker that supplies everyone from top designers to retailers of top notch, and generates more than half a billion dollars in annual revenue. To say this trip was long and strange would be an understatement.
When Matthew Briggs arriving on the scene in the late 1990s, the business was a distinctly marginal operation. “We were [a] weird little importer on the fringe of the industry around companies like Century or Bernhardt – the real companies doing real business,” Briggs told the host. Denis Scully on the last episode of The Home Business Podcast. “We couldn’t afford a real showroom in High Point [so] we were off campus. There has been a shift in the industry, where old school businesses have disappeared and lifestyle furnishing companies like Four Hands have become mainstream.
What motivated the change? To a large extent, the design. In the wake of the 2008 recession, Briggs (he ran the company then; now he’s CEO) realized that wholesalers were going to be squeezed from both sides and oversaw a sea change in the strategy of the company. They would hire designers and make the furniture themselves, putting them in a stronger position in the market. At the time, Four Hands only designed 10% of its inventory. Today it is 90%. “Instead of being middlemen, we are the creative force behind the product we sell,” says Briggs.
For Four Hands, the last decade has above all been one of meteoric success. But in this episode of the show, Briggs shares a sobering look at the headwinds ahead, from out-of-control shipping costs to runaway inflation, which he says will prove fatal for small businesses. of the sector. It also offers a candid assessment of the sweeping changes that have taken place over the past five years around price transparency and exclusivity.
“Whether it’s a designer or a retailer or anyone in this industry, I hear fewer and fewer conversations about how people want to be protected,” Briggs says. “People have realized that to be relevant in the long term in this industry where the internet exists, you have to find another way to add value and make people want to do business with you, other than the lack of transparency or [the] ability to control a geographic area. These conversations were much more common five years ago. They don’t come anymore. Everyone understood that they had to find their own way to add value.
Homepage photo: Courtesy of Four Hands