Sunday, 9 August 2015

New Premises, New Range and Some Nice Recognition

2015 has been massively exciting so far. 

In January we completed the purchase of an old shed factory (oh the irony) in Thurston, near Bury St Edmunds. Immediately adjacent to the A14, with all the logistical benefits too, the site now gives us 15,000 sq feet of production space alongside 2.5 acres of secure yard. 

A thorough £50k renovation, commissioning and full factory move were all completed within just five weeks. On time, within budget. 

We noticed the benefits immediately and the additional space has allowed us to increase our garden office manufacturing capacity yet again. 

We've extended the team too, and we've some more great and dedicated joiners, carpenters and fitters - and they've all become just as fanatical about our garden office buildings too. 

It seems that the two years it took to develop the new Ultra garden office has paid dividends. People love the details, customers love the price point and we're delighted with the solidity and longevity of this beautiful new building. Long in gestation - but evidently worth the effort !!

Finally, a bunch of us took an evening off, in July, to enjoy the fact we'd been nominated - and then shortlisted for the EADTs "One to Watch" Business Award. We were then thrilled to find that we'd actually won the Award too. After so many months and years of hard work it was great to get some recognition.   You can find out the reasons why here: 


Sunday, 18 January 2015

2014 Garden Office Review

So it's a good time to put a few words down to review my world of garden offices in 2014

Jan-March 2014: Extending our CAD/CAM manufacture

We continued at full capacity throughout our, normally quiet, first quarter and spent the early part of this year completing the installation and commissioning our new CNC. This is the only machine in the UK (and probably worldwide) that has been designed and configured for the exclusive production of garden office buildings. Manufactured by SCM in Italy for our particular requirements this machine dramatically improves our productivity and produces our components to tolerances of tenths of a millimetre. Find out more at

April-June 2014: Constantly improving our Customer Service

We extended our Customer service team to keep pace with demand, and extended our factory offices with a new internal sales office. Sadly there's no space at Ashbocking for us locate one of our garden office buildings! Our improved customer service ensures that our catalogues are despatched in a timely manner (customers should receive theirs within 36 hours), and our site surveys are normally conducted within 1 week of the customers request.

July-September 2014 Increasing Garden Office Manufacturing

Peak season for us saw us take on a two more joiners/fitters into the team and even more vehicles onto our fleet. Our capacity was extended to 3 per week with our awesome CNC now running at full tilt. We created a fantastic momentum in both production and installation, with the new extended team really pulling out all the stops at times. We've never once compromised on quality.

October - December 2014. Maintaining growth and customer satisfaction

A great end to our year with the final numbers looking like we've completed another year of record growth, whilst maintaining our 100 % customer satisfaction record too. Our garden office ranges are proving more popular than ever.

Plans for 2015 and beyond

I'm now comfortable that we're ready to commit to our next stage of growth with the purchase (in January 2015) of our own dedicated factory. This new site will give us three times the manufacturing space and a location that brings within just 60 minutes of North London and the A1 for nationwide deliveries. More news soon!!

Garden Office Competition

And what of our competition? The other major players in our sector all seem to report a buoyant year.

Reeves Canine undertook a very impressive rebrand from Green Retreats to "The" Garden Office, a very canny move and well timed to coincide with a Sarah Beeny TV show to help with their SEO. 

Homestead continue apace, Henley still crop up every now and then, and it's great that Richard at Garden Structures is having a bumper year. Roomworks, Booths and the lovely, but quirky, Rotunda are all doing well. Similarly, I hear that many of the middle ranking SIPS based installers have been having a good year too.

There's been a few casualties in our sector this year, but overall there's more positive news than negative. Each year there are always one or two explosive new entrants into the sector, (those with a hand drill and an Adwords budget) but it's been several years since a new player in the market has ever gained any long term momentum. I welcome new entrants into our market, but each year I hear of customers disappointment with the actualities of dealing with a new company, often those companies who have just built a couple of buildings before.

In an added bonus for 2014, Dunster House have spent a whole year WITHOUT threatening legal action against this blog. Result.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Recognition in the EADT Future50.

I've just returned from the launch event for this years EADT Future50. I'd previously been told that we had been nominated, but I was surprised (and just a little bit delighted) that we were actually included the list of the regions fast growing companies. 

Hearing about some of the hoops that many of the other companies in the list had to jump through, I'm even more honoured that we've been included, despite us keeping a relatively low profile with our peer group locally. 

I hoping that we've been nominated because, despite some fairly dramatic growth over the last few years, we've kept our feet on the ground and that we've remained focused on our 100% customer satisfaction kite mark.

However our nomination was created, we're certainly in great company, with national names such Giffords Hall, Munchy Seeds and the giant Sanctuary Personnel all included in the short list as well.

The event included a general slap on the back from all the speakers to all the nominees - so it was good to take a few moments out of the working day to reflect on the last few years. Introspection is not really my thing, but I'm hoping this warm glow of recognition will last for a few days yet!

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Chatting about an office in the garden

It's been another busy week for me and the smart garden office team. 

We're consistently maintaining our production schedule at two buildings each week in the factory now, and this will be the case through to Christmas. Our multitasking, multiresponsibility system is working nicely (it's where everybody does everything).

On Tuesday, Jon and Arris installed a nice little Smart Solo in Norfolk as writing den for a successful author.  On Thursday, then Harv and Arris installed another Solo garden office as a home office for newly qualified teacher who needs a quiet space for her marking. Both customers are already settling into their new offices in the garden. 

Meanwhile, I've been surveying across the UK and offering advice on garden offices and studios. On Monday I visited a family in Cambridgeshire who desperately need to recover their dining room. It's disappeared under their day to day office space!! As their business continues to expand it became quite apparent they needed a completely separate space so they can continue to offer a professional service to their clients. We'll have them settled into their new office by mid-December 

On Wednesday morning I was in the Midlands chatting with a lady who's looking for a separate space for her two teenage daughters for homework and "hanging around space" for them and their friends. With a large garden, but a small house, the Smart Quarto is the ideal solution as a Teen Retreat. With matching Book Nooks there won't be any squabbling between the girls either! 

By Wednesday afternoon I was near Bristol and discussing a garden library for a professional historical researcher, who needs a large office and a multitude of our made to measure bookcases. Like many couples who are downsizing from a large family house, our customers are fully aware of the need to have a separate space and that books take up a lot of space! Their Smart Quarto will be in their garden in December and we've arranged it to be within just a few days of them moving into their new home.

By the end of the week I was closer to home in North London and then an evening visit in Bedford. A very enjoyable discussion with a composer and his partner who seek a comfortable and quiet space for his creativity. I recommended The Suffolk Barn, weatherboarded, finish in this case as the additional thickness of the four layers in the walls will help baffle any exterior sounds. We'll also be specifying a bespoke set of interior furniture to suit his very specific way of working between keyboard, speakers and PC. 

In Bedford, I met an interesting marketer who will be starting his new marketing business in 2014 and will be leaving the corporate world behind him. The Smart Micro garden office will offer him the perfect workspace for his start up business. The Micro, of course, is not only a very cost effective way of creating an office at home but it also offers the opportunity to be sold-on into the second hand market when his business grows beyond being a one-man band and he needs to expand. 

I love, love, love suggesting and creating garden offices and studios for my clients.

Thanks for reading. And don't forget if you'd like to discuss an office your garden then do get in touch. or 0800 242 5559

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Farewell To InsideOut Buildings

Here's another departure from the garden office sector, with Lynn Fortheringham and her husband at Inside Out Buildings withdrawing from the market. It's a well thought-out and dignified withdrawal, though, by this well respected couple, who have decided that Gordon's architectural practice should take precedence over their construction business.

It's yet another example of how hard fought this market is. 

Inside Out have been trading for over 10 years, they had a great product, a professional set up and a high profile online presence. But STILL they concluded that is was difficult to generate a decent livelihood from the sector. This is a salutary lesson for all those wide boys currently entering the garden office market thinking it's a gold mine.

I'm genuinely sorry to see the end of the Inside Out range of buildings, but rather pleased that Lynn is reworking her site as an online advice resource. Knowing Lynn it will be meticulously written and very well promoted. And yes, I do hope that Smart Garden Offices will be featuring!

With Inside Out withdrawing, the top end of the market now seems to be dominated by the Garden Escape, who I trust will continue to create their buildings. 

With the dramatic improvement in the housing market, I anticipate that there will be several other existing suppliers who will try to move further into the £30-£40k sector too. I'm guessing that Garden Spaces and Crown Pavillions will strengthen their position as well. (Just guessing, this is a blog, after all)