Wednesday, 20th June 2018
Bunbury Boards are once again available to retailers throughout Ireland and overseas.
In the year or so since shops were last supplied with Bunbury Boards at the end of 2016, Managing Director William Bunbury has been able to refocus and reshape the business into a smooth-running and successful enterprise. He has also been busy with another development, which is now up and running at his home, Lisnavagh House – a successful venue for weddings, events and retreats.
Bunbury Boards became a household name not long after they were first produced in 2008 and they were sold by retailers in Ireland, the UK and all over the world. A number of new products were developed and tried over the years including wooden kitchen accessories, bowls and wood oil. The boards were always the most popular sales product.
Apart from the excellent appearance, branding and design of the boards, the main selling point is each board’s traceability right back to the tree from which the board was made. Every board has a log reference which leads to a downloadable Tree Report detailing the exact location of the tree, a photograph of the tree, why & when the tree came down, what has been done to replace the tree and any other interesting information about the location of the tree and it’s species.
Bunbury Boards were a considerable marketing success, but the business struggled financially. William Bunbury explains, “I had to engage staff that could help me to get the business going at the beginning because I had too many irons in too many fires on the estate here at Lisnavagh and also because of my lack of experience with marketing, sales, human resources and production management. As a result, the business became quite top-heavy quite quickly. We hoped that, as sales grew, we would sell enough Bunbury Boards to cover all of these salaries, insurance, marketing costs and other overheads to leave us with a small profit.” But that never happened. The business’s finances did improve year on year but by 2016 it was decided that it was still an unsustainable model and Bunbury reluctantly withdrew from sales to retailers.
This also allowed William Bunbury to refocus his time on the weddings, retreats & events business at Lisnavagh House which he runs with his wife Emily, as well as the rest of the estate. “There was a lot going on at the time and I really needed to spend more time helping to restructure the administration and other business at Lisnavagh, which was becoming quite successful, largely as a result of the investment of time & money that we have made there in the last few years. It was time to stop taking the profits from one business in order to fund a struggling one.”
“My head said stop, my heart said go.” So the business did not stop completely. With a skeleton staff, Bunbury Boards continued to made and sold through www.bunbury.ie and directly to customers. Sales of timber to woodworkers & furniture makers and commissions for shelving, kitchen worktops, table tops, etc. continued as usual. Staff numbers were reduced through one redundancy, natural wastage and re-employment elsewhere at Lisnavagh. All marketing ceased (apart from some social media). Insurance costs were reduced. William Bunbury assumed full control of the business, allowing him to streamline a number of systems and processes. The business became profitable during 2017 as result of these measures. “I have a pretty clean desk now!” says William. “There’s no need for this to be anything other than a simple business with simple processes”
So, what now and why now?
The once-struggling business has been transformed into a smaller profitable one… with potential for organic growth into a bigger business. “We still have all of our excellent tools and equipment in the same workshop”, says William. Two experienced estate staff continue to work with William to make Bunbury Boards when needed, as much as needed.
“I recently received an order from a shop in Galway that hadn’t realised that we had stopped sales to retailers since their previous order in 2016. I realised that filling the order would actually be very easy now and reasonably profitable. We filled the order and sent it out. I now know that there is nothing to stop us selling to shops again, as long as the admin is kept clean and there’s not too much paperwork involved from retailers.”
William’s admin and order processing systems are now so simple that he now handles all of the sales, production book-keeping and administration. “Improvements in technology since we first started making Bunbury Boards in 2008 have been significant and have helped a lot. Our accounts, our files, order processing and banking are all online now. So I can do everything from anywhere, quickly & easily.”
While he is happy to sell boards into the shops again, he does not plan to spend a lot on marketing or getting sales in. “I don’t want to put the cart before the horse again “says William. “The Bunbury name is already quite well known and trusted. We have tens of thousands of existing happy customers. Word of mouth is free. I’m happy to keep posting on our social media pages, but I can’t see us going to any trade fairs, for example, for the time-being anyway. If there is a significant increase in sales and those sales can justify the cost of getting help with managing them, then I will get help. But in the meantime, I can now easily cope with the production, sales and admin myself.”