Not entirely a family affair
Back at the end of 2004/beginning of 2005, I was offered a marketing/management position at my folk`s company. The idea was, of course, of continuing with the influence my family had in it , and possibly take it further into the future.
My dad had bought an old, bankrupt furniture factory back in 1999, got a serious 2 million euros loan from the bank, refurbished and renewed it, and was selling solid wood cabinets and tables for around 5-6 million euros/year. The business went smoothly for a while, because the main client was a very stable one : the huge Schieder Gruppe, from near Padeborn, Germany, was buying everything and kept production running in a comfortable manner.
The less pleasant parts of this collaboration were that the unique customer, the german company, had 49% of the shares, while my family was managing the general situation with the rest of 51%.The germans also liked to put serious pressure on the prices, so in less than 10 years we got from collaborating as equals, to selling furniture for less than 10% in margins.
The agressive life of…
Little we knew, the Schieder Gruppe was having problems since the early 2000, and then plunged into bankrupcy and jail time for the managers, back in 2007.That explained the agressive attitude back in 2005-2006, when they were actually ripping us off – no chance to re-pay those bank loans. We saw our future in grim colours.
But in early 2005, I was freshly enbarqued in an adventurous trip in management and marketing, things I didn`t actually study in Architecture College, but was eager to learn with hands on the situation. I chose to work with the people by collaborating with them step-by-step : after all, 700 employees new better than anyone how that facility was managed.
Being solid, rock-strong…
To gain some confidence from them, I renovated the entire 18,000 sqm of the factory, created a cafeteria inside ( they were not then forced to go outside in their lunch break ).I also designed a new entrance to what seemed at that time an industrial unappealing construction :
There was of course a lot to be discussed if we should have invested in things that were not visible or that important in such a venture/collaboration. After all we were working in some sort of a loan-type system : the germans were designing, we were producing only.My ideea was to first try and get more clients and try to devellop a multitude of options : the unique collaboration with Schieder was insufficient to cover the entire production capacity.
Visual identity & marketing material
I also designed some more marketing material, like a company logo, flyers and promotional material that was used to get more clients from Romania :
Winning new client`s interrest
The whole ideea was to create as much marketing material to reach new clients in Belgium, Holland, France, UK, Croatia, wich we did. We soon had a variety of collaborations with a variety of companies from the whole Europe.
Our main problem was the fact that we had to manage a company in a very small city.Even if the city, Sighetul Marmatiei, had a long history in the furniture business ( the company was state-funded back in 1965 ), corruption, theft, indiscipline and other issues were problems we could not solve completely.
Trying to get people to move in there and manage the factory was insuccessfull. The prospect was an isolated life in a small border city where everyone knew each-other, be it Customs, Police, the Mair`s office or the ever-present small wood-workshops.Workshops that needed expensive equipments or prime materials that they could easily obtain from our employees. By stealing.
Corporate meanings and feel
I took all efforts into consideration in creating somesort of a corporate-feel, in order to obtain a corporate-conscience in the 700 worker`s minds.We refurbished all offices, we renovated, we re-created, and we brought new clients to the negotiation table.
The thing that led to the closing of the factory, back in 2007, was mainly related to the bankrupcy of the Schieder Gruppe. The 18,000 sqm of industrial spaces were sold to IKEA, and we managed to pay back our bank loans.
We moved from Sighetul Marmatiei to our home-town, Baia Mare, with lots of the machinnery and equipments used there, and we are planning to re-open a smaller, more controllable workshop, in the near future.