Shaper: Richard Joseph encore

Show aired on 23rd July 2016

Transcript

Elliot Moss
That was The Meters with Just Kiss My Baby. Good morning and thank you for joining me, this is Jazz Shapers with a twist because it is time for an Encore; that’s when I bring back a fantastic guest I have interviewed in the last few years and find out what’s been going on for them and their business since then and that Encore Business Shaper today is Richard Joseph – the co-founder of Joseph and Joseph the rather fantastic company that makes amazing things for your house and in my case, for my kitchen but there is lots more beyond that as well. You will be hearing all about how his business has expanded. In addition to hearing from him of course you will also be hearing some fantastic music from the shapers of jazz, blues and soul here on Jazz Shapers and then of course there is the music and we have got some brilliant music from the shapers of jazz, blues and soul including Jason Moran, Sam Cooke and this, it’s one of my favourites from many years ago, it’s the House of Bamboo and his name is Earl Grant.

That was The House of Bamboo from Earl Grant, I hope you were jiving a little bit to that one, it was one I used to play a long, long time ago. More importantly though my Business Shaper today and he is and Encore, he’s a guest from the past and he is back here today, my guest is Richard Joseph and he is the co-founder as I said of Joseph and Joseph and they make fantastic things for your home and they make beautiful things not just for your home but probably for many millions of other people around the world too. Richard, thank you and welcome back.

Richard Joseph
Yes, it’s good to be back.

Elliot Moss
It’s been I worked out about two and a half years.

Richard Joseph
That’s right.

Elliot Moss
And it feels about three seconds.

Richard Joseph
Yeah that’s right it does.

Elliot Moss
You don’t look a day older but you’ve had kids in the interim?

Richard Joseph
Correct.

Elliot Moss
Congratulations.

Richard Joseph
Thank you.

Elliot Moss
And most importantly the business continues to grow?

Richard Joseph
Yep, we’ve still been you know, expanding which is great, very exciting, lots of new products into lots of new categories so we’ve… although we still retail firmly in the kitchen we’ve moved in to waste, so waste separation bins for the kitchen that sort of thing so all with our sort of take on functional problem solving products. Really useful daily, you know, products you can use every day so we’ve done that and then we have moved Internationally as well. Grown our International business and moved into lots of new markets, opened offices in new markets so it has all been quite exciting over the last couple of years.

Elliot Moss
Now you… at the heart of this business is the fact that you and your brother are designers and that you want there is a design aesthetic and there is a design functionality.

Richard Joseph
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
Do you think that you have still remained true to those roots? Is everything still driven by that really strong design ethos?

Richard Joseph
Oh yeah completely. I mean, I think so it’s all about trying to create problem solving, functional products that people can use every day and find sort of a real pleasure to use so the sort of things we do is we do a lot of testing and look for a lot of insight into problems in the home, problems in the kitchen and then we try and solve them through really clever functional design and then we apply a sort of strong aesthetic to that as well and we think that’s important because to make it a pleasure to own and use, aesthetic plays a big part in that but ideally the ideal product for us is something that someone can use day in, day out, it’s not a gimmick, it’s not a gadget that is left in a drawer and never used, you know, they can find it really useful. It’s made really well, it’s made out of great materials, manufactured in the right way so it is a really strong product that has a really sort of useful life and that’s our sort of number one goal.

Elliot Moss
Now you are thirteen years into this business and it was just over, what ten or eleven when we last spoke. Finding those ideas and finding where next to attack, where’s the process just very briefly? Where do you start with the answering the question ‘what’s the problem’?

Richard Joseph
Yes I mean I think we go into home and we look for ideas, you know, we look for areas that are frustrating, you know look for frustrations that people have. We have a test kitchen in the office so we bring lots of products in. We cook stuff, you know we make stuff, we mash potato, we grate cheese – we do all that sort of stuff to try and find the frustrations so that we can solve them through you know, brilliant design. I always say when people ask me that ‘you must be a good cook’. I am not a good cook I am a product designer which means I can mash potato better than anybody else because I have done a lot of it but if you ask me to put the potato into something that’s when I start to fall over but so we very much approach it from a product design point of view.

Elliot Moss
Don’t ask Richard to cook for you and you will be alright but do ask him to design problem solving implements for your house. Lots more coming up from my Encore Business Shaper here today on Jazz Shapers. Time for some more music though right now and this is Bill Withers with Lovely Day.

Bill Withers with the iconic Lovely Day. Richard Joseph is my Business Shaper, he’s back for more here on the Jazz Shapers Encore special and we are talking about whether you have retained, you know, the truth of your mission which is all about product design and it sounds like you are. These ideas that you come up with, so you test them. The only way you can really test them though is if you then start selling them. At what point as you’ve looked now and I know your business has grown, how do you know if you have got a winner on your hands and if you haven’t, how quickly do you withdraw?

Richard Joseph
So I think, I mean we obviously we talk to consumers a lot, we test product before we properly launch and so we generally have a good idea whether an idea is right or not, whether someone finds it useful, whether it really delivers what the promise is that we are making when we come to design a product. But we also are firm believers in that we, you know you don’t get a real true read until it is in stores and you are seeing whether the consumers are buying the product or not and we’ve, you know, we’ve got a lot of successful product out there because we have been able to grow. We have also had lots of products that haven’t worked and sometimes its knowing when to either put it altogether or pull it back and re-design if you haven’t got something quite right you know, and so we do, there’s a process of evaluation after launch to see whether the product needs to be brought back in-house, re-designed, put back out there or taken out altogether if it is not working.

Elliot Moss
So there is a process but I imagine it is pretty intuitive still?

Richard Joseph
Yeah I think, you know, we… the great thing about on-line and the great of on-line is you get these instant reviews so you can see very quickly whether people like what you are doing or not and what they like about it and what they don’t like about it. It is a very, very powerful tool and we take the reviews very seriously. So we are looking on our own website, we look at all of our retailers’ websites and we get this instant feedback. It can also be incredibly disappointing you know when you think you have hit on a great idea and then it just doesn’t connect with what the consumer wants but it is a brilliant way of finding out quite quickly.

Elliot Moss
I can give you consumer feedback, I love the brush that you can dangle it on the end and then you put the water in – what’s that thing called?

Richard Joseph
We call it wash and drain.

Elliot Moss
The wash and drain. You can turn the drain as well, you can tell this isn’t a paid for commercial space, I am actually a fan it is just ridiculous. The business as I said has grown. I think you are over forty, north of forty million pounds now?

Richard Joseph
Yes. Yes.

Elliot Moss
You have got way more people. You are on a hundred and ten people, I think we had seventy but there was a warehouse included as well so it has almost actually doubled the number of people.

Richard Joseph
Yep.

Elliot Moss
Have there been wobbles as you’ve got bigger? Because that is quite a significant growth, that’s tremendous.

Richard Joseph
Yeah so you go from being a start-up where, you know, you have all the start-up pains of trying to get the business off the ground, the cash flow issues, trying to get listings with the retailers and getting lots of knock backs and you need thick skin in the start-up phase and you need persistent hard work. You then go through where we are at the moment which is a scale-up phase which is how do you take the business which is now sort of you know, got momentum, got legs – how do you really scale it up into a medium sized business and so and with that comes lots and lots of challenges. A lot of people challenges, having the right people in the right place, right structures in place to allow you to grow further. Having a skill set in the business that allows you to grow. So we have gone through that sort of development phase and that is very problematic particularly when you have grown quite quickly. You don’t really have a huge amount of time to try and work out the different stages so you are sort of thrust upon the sort of scale-up. Right okay how do we deal with the scale-up and you know, so I would say that scaling up has probably caused us the most problems.

Elliot Moss
We are going to pick up on that and find out how you resolved them in a moment but we’ve got some travel news in a couple of minutes and before that some words of wisdom from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya.

You are listening to Jazz Shapers with me Elliott Moss here on Jazz FM and in fact today is a special because we are doing an Encore version, edition where we bring in someone who has been a fantastic guest in the past, someone who has done really well. Most of my guests have done really well and continue to do so but these people in particular have shone through in one way or another and that person has shone through is Richard Joseph. He is the co-founder of Joseph and Joseph and they make beautiful things for the home and not just beautiful but things that work. We were talking earlier Richard about scale-up and the business has grown significantly and you have ventured into new countries which I want to come to as well and you were saying this has been problematic, I suppose it’s a good problem to have, you are growing. How much has external advice played a part in this? Do you have a senior business mentor? Who do you go to for the, you know, the calm advice that says ‘just a second, I’ve seen this before, I’ve done it’ or is it all coming from you and Anthony, your brother?

Richard Joseph
No I do have a… I started off with a mentor twelve years ago just after I set the business up with Anthony. I am a huge and firm believer in getting external advice and learning from other people who have been there and done it. So we are ever too proud to ask people and we had this mentor, Roger Crudgington who started off as mentor and he is now a chairman so he has been with me twelve years and he has been great and very instrumental you know, in helping us grow the business, giving us good direction, keeping us on the straight and narrow because you are young, enthusiastic entrepreneurs you can go off in all different directions, you can you know, go after opportunities you shouldn’t you know, not know what to say yes to and what to say no to and he gives that sort of guidance which is brilliant.

Elliot Moss
And he just knows or he has developed them? I mean how does he, because I imagine you may not always want to listen to the advice?

Richard Joseph
Yeah, I mean I think you know, the longer we work together the more in tune we are and the more he understands the business but I think you will always, I mean I am in the business day in, day out. I know the business inside out so I will take the advice and then you know, challenge it if I disagree with it but it is great to have someone to challenge it with and you know, someone on the end of the phone as you go through, you know, the ups and downs of running a business. So I have always found that immensely powerful and it has been a big part of our growth and then as we are scaling the business up we get other people in to get advice in specialty areas that we need so whether that be supply chain or whether that we research and development or whatever we need in we will bring people in to help us so we are very much open and open to talking to other people and getting ideas.

Elliot Moss
And how have you retained that start-up enthusiasm because you are still young?

Richard Joseph
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
And counter-balance that with the necessity of growth and where does culture fit in with that? Is there a Joseph Joseph kind of person?

Richard Joseph
I think, I am not sure there is a Joseph Joseph person. There is definitely a Joseph Joseph culture and I think the way we approach this, we try to employ great people in key positions. We have got a very, very good team together and we have taken a long time to try and find the right people, not only the right fit from a culture point of view but the right fit as far as the roles that we are trying to fill that can drive the business forward. So we take our time over finding the right people. I am a big believer in once you have got the right people, set up very clear roles and basically tell the people this is what we would like you to do for the business and then set them free to go and do it and you then… so that entrepreneurial flare we look for in people so that you can then get, you know, we have a… the guy who runs our warehouse has an entrepreneurial approach, the guy that runs our accounts has an entrepreneurial approach within the guidelines of, you know, what he is supposed to do but we try and look for entrepreneurial people and that definitely keeps the sort of the initial entrepreneurial approach that just Anthony and myself had when there was just two of us sitting across a desk from each other in the first office when we launched the business, keeps that going through, you know, flowing through the sort of the DNA of the business.

Elliot Moss
And that’s how you do it. Stay with me for more from my Business Shaper today, that’s Richard Joseph. Time for some more music, this is Jason Moran with Honeysuckle Rose.

Honeysuckle Rose from Jason Moran. Richard, what I liked about you when I met you last time you just kind of make it sound normal and you don’t, you know, you don’t look mega stressed. You and your brother, obviously we talked about family last time and I recall you said ‘look it’s critical because we have kind of got each other’s backs’. As you get bigger, covering each other’s backs is trickier. How have you managed to do that? How do you manage to protect yourselves in the way that you would want to?

Richard Joseph
I mean I think we… how do we protect ourselves? I think we are both still very involved in the business so you know, and very, very passionate about the business so… and we believe in showing that passion to the team and sharing that passion with the team. I think we have very clear roles for the two of us in the business and we have veto over our own expertise as twin brothers that’s important because you know, you spend your life growing up together and having arguments and tussles and all the rest of it and I think when it comes to the business environment you know, Anthony heads up the creative side and I head up the commercial side and we have veto over each other’s areas but we are heavily involved in each other’s areas of the business as well and I think we respect each other’s talents in the business and I think that that sort of then comes to when Anthony, is very passionate about something he believes in, I will back him because I, you know, trust him to do that, you know, trust him in what he has got to say. I think that that has probably developed over time within the business. We have been working together more and more and trust has developed and I think that helps us sort of back each other.

Elliot Moss
In terms of also the products, I mean because the products are so good people are copying them and people either rip them off or they counterfeit them and I believe you are experiencing that in a number of jurisdictions…

Richard Joseph
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
…a number of countries, China being one big example. How have you, how are you going about resolving that beyond the legal stuff? I mean is there a mind-set that goes ‘we can manage this’?

Richard Joseph
Yeah I think you have to. I think you have to sort of say you know, it is part of developing a business you know and particularly if you have a successful product, they are going to get ripped off at some point by someone. So you have to have a very much a positive approach to it. We have a zero tolerance approach to the copiers and we go after the guys that rip us off, we go after that because they are our ideas, they are our intellectual property and we will defend them you know, as hard as possible but also I am a big believer that the copiers don’t at the end of the day, they don’t deliver anything to the consumer. What they do is they profit and they profit from making a rip-off and actually all they are interested in doing is getting a profit out of that product. They are not really interested in the consumer’s experience. When we develop a product we are interested in how the consumer react to that product, you know, whether they find it useful etcetera. The copiers are just there to profit from it and what ends up happening is the product, whether it be let’s say a kitchen spatula, doesn’t move on in design or innovation or you know, usefulness so the consumer doesn’t benefit from another company coming in and developing something better. They just make these copies. So we have a very sort of negative view on it and we go after them as hard as possible.

Elliot Moss
He looks scary at the last part when he said ‘we go after them’. Final chat coming up with Richard plus we will be playing a track from Sam Cooke. That’s coming up after the latest traffic and travel.

The inimitable sound of Sam Cooke with Summertime. Just for a few more minutes Richard Joseph’s Encore moment comes to a close. We will have to get you back in in a few years. Your business has grown as I’ve said earlier and it’s grown Internationally and I know that big part of your business is International. Your experience of opening up an office in Germany and an office in Japan. We talked about the scale-up issue. What have been the specific issues about that because suddenly aren’t you losing control?

Richard Joseph
I think you know, it all comes down to… we’ve opened as you say, these two offices and you get great people to work in those offices and that’s… I think that’s very exciting. I think you know, we are a big believer in employing let’s say Japanese Nationals to run that office so they know how the business should be run and to know that that, you know, at the moment we have a business because we have business you know, through the America’s, North America, Europe and Asia you know, so it is going twenty four hours a day so you know, that whole thing is very cool, very exciting and then having great people running those businesses who care about the brand, who care about the products is really just you know, a really nice experience and so yeah that for us is… seeing that develop is really fun, really fun and sort of a, you feel also like a little bit like you are starting your businesses. So as an entrepreneur you build this business and of course it becomes a bit more, there’s process and there is a bit more bureaucracy and it becomes a different beast. When you start these small businesses you are starting again and there is something lovely about that so it’s yeah, a great experience.

Elliot Moss
And do you jump on planes a lot? Are you over there?

Richard Joseph
Yeah I jump on planes an awful lot. I go out to the US and North America and to Asia but I like it. I sort of… I love to travel, I love meeting people face-to-face. I love the different cultures and then seeing how our little business fits into those cultures and how we can work with these people. Seeing people in Japan excited about our products just as much as they are in the UK is a great experience and I think we are very, very lucky to have developed this and have great people working for us and being able to experience the whole thing.

Elliot Moss
I imagine also you don’t make the same mistakes, I recall you telling me that you took a masher…

Richard Joseph
That’s right.

Elliot Moss
… a potato thing and you took a grater for the cheese and you found in Japan neither are grown very well.

Richard Joseph
Yeah. One of the very first sort of lessons I learnt. My first marketing plan when I went round Europe trying to find customers was if they spoke English I’d deal with them because I couldn’t speak any languages and that was sort of like my you know, naive approach. When we went to Japan I took this potato masher and I famously sort of fixed up a meeting with a big department store, big set of buyers and they all sat there very Japanese, very polite and they listened to my big pitch, presentation you know, furiously making notes and I thought ‘this is just wonderful I am going to come away with a huge order’ and they told me at the end they didn’t mash potato. They don’t eat potatoe so I ended up going home with nothing so you know, a great lesson learnt.

Elliot Moss
Tell me how big do you think this is going to become? You look to the future now, I imagine that size isn’t your objective but it is going to be a function of as you said, of the buzz of creating a new market, if you like, a new business. Is the sky the limit or do you have a kind of set objective where you want your goal where you want to be?

Richard Joseph
No I mean I think I’d like to say the skies the limit. I mean, you know, we’ve got… I love the idea we have got a very, very good business in the UK and we are very fortunate for that. We’d love to replicate that in all the overseas markets that we are in. You know in places like China where we have a lot of counterfeit product coming out of was also the market where we saw our fastest growth last year so there is lots of exciting opportunities and the International piece for us is where the excitement is and the opportunity is and we are just excited to sort of go ahead and develop it.

Elliot Moss
Well look it’s been brilliant having you back again. Continue to do well and again you look happy.

Richard Joseph
Yes.

Elliot Moss
This must be the secret you are doing something you love and I guess people will be envious of that in a nice way. Just before I let you go Richard, what’s your song choice and why have you chosen it?

Richard Joseph
Right I am going to go for, so last time I was on it was Louis Prima, I Wanna Be Like You and so another Louis Prima song because it reminds me of my grandfather who was a big fan and knew all the words to all the songs, this one is Buona Sera and it’s a sort of very happy, uplifting great summer tune.

Elliot Moss
Thank you so much Richard.

That was Louis Prima with Buona Sera, the song choice of my Business Shaper and Encore Shaper, Richard Joseph; the co-founder of Joseph Joseph. They have grown because they have kept the integrity of problem solving right at the heart of their business and whilst there have been scale-up challenges and there have been quite a few because they have grown into different countries, what I loved about what Richard said was the fact that he still enjoyed the buzz of going into a new country. It felt like a start-up again and I think that’s exactly at the heart and I think that’s what drives Richard and his brother in a way that they are growing their business. Fantastic stuff. Do join me again, same time, same place that’s next Saturday, 9.00am for another edition of Jazz Shapers. Meanwhile stay with us because coming up next its Nigel Williams.

Joseph Joseph was launched by talented twin brothers Richard and Antony Joseph in 2003. Since then, they have seen their company develop from a small business into a truly global operation; a brand that has become synonymous with contemporary kitchen style. Joseph Joseph is a unique combination of the twins’ strengths and experience in design and business, Antony studied design at Central St Martins whilst Richard studied business at Cambridge. With an inimitable ability to match form and function with a playful sense of style and colour, as a company they have created some of the most sought-after kitchenware in the world.

Specialising in kitchen and tableware products, their trademark (and award winning) glass worktop savers are where it all began. The Joseph family has had a glass production business stretching back three generations and this is where as young boys the twins spent their summers learning all about the family business. Back in 2003, their father asked them to design a series of contemporary chopping boards and from here the idea of Joseph Joseph was born. Its offering has grown rapidly since 2003 and now includes everything from clever utensils, problem-solving gadgets and a generally innovative collection that will take you from kitchen to table in effortless style. Joseph Joseph prides itself on leading the field with its innovative designs and hope to keep applying their ethos of innovation and functional form in the contemporary kitchen for years to come.

Joseph Joseph is stocked in numerous well-known UK retailers and has its own ecommerce website –www.josephjoseph.com

Listen live at 9am Saturday.

Follow Richard on Twitter @josephjoseph.

“It’s all about trying to create problem-solving, functional products that people can use every day”

“We have a test kitchen in the office so we bring lots of products in. We cook stuff, we make stuff, we mash potato, we grate cheese…”

“The great thing about online is you get these instant reviews so you can see very quickly whether people like what you are doing.”

“I am not a good cook. I am a product designer – which means I can mash potato better than anyone else. If you ask me to put the potato into something, that’s when I start to fall over.”

“I would say that scaling up has probably caused us the most problems.”

“I am not sure there is a ‘Joseph Joseph’ person. There is definitely a ‘Joseph Joseph’ culture.”

“…the guy who runs our warehouse has an entrepreneurial approach; the guy who runs our accounts has an entrepreneurial approach…”

“I love to travel, I love meeting people face-to-face. I love the different cultures and then seeing how our little business fits into those cultures.”