Small Business editor of the NZ Herald

Small Business: Andy MacDonald Black, Dog Furniture

Andy MacDonald, owner of Black Dog Furniture. Photo / Supplied
Andy MacDonald, owner of Black Dog Furniture. Photo / Supplied

What are your business' growth aspirations this year?

We have a target to double our revenue. The dream is big, but we're small enough that we can move quickly and we've set manageable goals.

What are some of the practical ways you're hoping to generate that growth?

We have opened a 500sq m showroom in Bruntwood, just outside Cambridge, where we can display our full range. We're looking at opening a pop-up shop in Auckland mid-way through the year. Auckland is like the holy grail for us, because it' an hour-and-a-half away and it gives us access to more than a million people. A lot of customers in Auckland access us through our website and Facebook. We also hire a lot of product into that market, but it's uncharted territory. At one stage we were achieving double the revenue we are now [but] there wasn't the right profit margin in what we were doing. I've learned more about how to effectively run the business.

Can you tell me a bit more about what you've learned?

A lot of the times your profit is made not in what you say yes to but what you say no to. I wanted to please everyone so I'd say yes to projects that were outside our area of expertise or what our plant or machinery could do, so we'd struggle. We've since found out what our core product is and where our biggest margins are, and we try to stick to that. Initially we were making everything from wooden spoons and walking sticks right up to bedroom suites and kitchen units. We're trying to stick to our knitting, as opposed to always flying off and trying other things.

So focus is a key lesson?

Yes. I'm more the creative type, but I've managed to surround myself with good, focused people - like my business coach Bob Weir, friends, family, my partner Sandy as well as the great team at Black Dog who guide me and bring me back into line.

How is social media influencing your growth plans?

Social media, particularly Facebook, has become important to our business. When we didn't have a dedicated retail presence, Facebook gave us growth, particularly in other areas of the country. A while ago we [posted] a picture of a big outdoor furniture setting we'd made,and I then got a message from a guy who was fishing in the Southern Ocean who wanted us to make something similar. It's given us a reach we never had before. We now have more than 33,000 Facebook 'likers' and we engage them on all kinds of things. We asked our community about a new logo and nine out of 10 preferred the new version so that was the decision made. We use it to come up with new ideas. Our Facebook community has been a big success story for us.

blackdogfurniture.co.nz

- Herald on Sunday

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