Richard Hartley started his career as a craftsman joiner. 35 years later, he is the proud owner and director of an award-winning fitted furniture business which operates throughout Yorkshire. Based in the picturesque market town of Skipton, Richard and his talented team have successfully grown Hartleys Rooms into one of the most reputable businesses in the Craven area.
To kick off our series of interviews with inspirational business leaders and entrepreneurs, we spoke to Richard to find out more about Hartleys Rooms and the man behind its success.
The Hartleys story began in 1985. What inspired you to start your own business?
I was at a crossroads. The industry had been changing for quite a few years with joinery becoming more specialised in the areas of windows, fitted bedrooms, and kitchens. On one memorable occasion, I opened the local newspaper; the Wharfe Valley Times, and was faced with a multitude of adverts for kitchen and window companies. No-one was specialising in purely bespoke bedrooms, so that’s what I decided to do. I bought a few machines which would make my furniture designs bespoke, and I set about developing my product and range. The rest, as they say, is history!
What was your mission for Hartleys at the outset and how does it differ from the business today?
My whole attitude to life is about integrity. In business this ethos manifested itself into quality, service and value; a quality product which is value for money with a service to match. The only difference today is the scale of the business.
Getting a business off the ground can be challenging. Was there ever a time you wanted to give up? If so, how did you overcome this?
To me, business isn’t a matter of life or death. There are times when you have to dig in, consider your options and act accordingly, but I’ve never been afraid to fail as giving up has never been a consideration for me. I’ve worked my socks off to succeed, but not to the detriment of my health or family. The business has made money in the good times to take us through the tough times. We ride the troughs and manage the peaks.
If you could travel back to day one of Hartleys, is there anything you would do differently?
Actually, no! It’s been a roller coaster. Hard work – blood, sweat and tears, but also fun. I have no regrets; the whys and wherefores of decisions made were right at the time.
Many businesses, especially independents, had to adapt their business models during the peak of the pandemic. Did you have to make any changes?
For us the pandemic has been (and is) just another challenge like many before it. We ride the storm by adjusting short term planning while remaining focused on the long term. We’re specialists in what we do and we pride ourselves on maintaining our core values. During lockdown our showroom and factory were closed, but we kept our name out there, and we were raring to go again as soon as it was safe to do so.
The number of people working from home has risen dramatically so there must now be an increase in the demand for office furniture? What would you say are the three most important things to consider when designing a home office?
Peoples’ interest in repurposing their living space increased significantly over lockdown. Everyone has needed more space to do more things at home, so we’ve been designing bespoke furniture for all areas of the home. When we design a bedroom, the key is to decide the positioning of the bed and wardrobes. The rest of the furniture, such as dressing tables and bedsides, fill in the gaps. From a home office perspective, it’s much the same in terms of key features. Where should the work station be positioned? (and for how many?) Then we look at how the space will function; such as IT and storage requirements. Thirdly, depending on the type of usage, we advise on whether the customer would benefit from a dual-purpose room, such as a guest bedroom / home study. Function and form are the key markers.
If you had just one day to spend exploring Yorkshire, where would you go and what would you do?
We’re blessed with the sheer quantity of culture and landscapes in this part of the world and this is a tricky question! However I’d choose to head up to the limestone fells at the very start of the day, with my family, dog and no mobile. We’d take a picnic, enjoy the peace and tranquility, and then admire the sunset if we were lucky enough to judge the weather right!