Rothschild & Bickers strategy & processes

Between 2012 and 2018 I worked fairly intensively with Rothschild & Bickers across a few realms of their growing glassblowing business.

We did this by: digitising admin systems, creating websites, and structuring the workflows of orders. I was able to make myself nicely redundant and they continue to evolve and thrive.

“How would Ben do it?”, is a phrase Mark said to me recently that they’ve been known to use. A nice, professional compliment for sure.

At the start:

Vicki and I knew each other socially and she had asked if we could have a chat about helping them be more organised. My memory from where they were when we started:

  • They’d signed a ten year lease for a light industrial unit in Hertford which required quite a bit of fit-out.
  • Mark & Vicki shared a single info@ email mailbox where they used stars and the unread status heavily
  • Orders were managed across their memories, various pieces of A4 printer paper, and a sporadically used whiteboard
  • They had a couple of part-time people in addition to themselves

From my proposal to them 01 March 2012:

Recently the company took on its own self-contained premises in Hertford with full facilities for administration, production and distribution. This leap forward has enabled larger volume orders, and although currently only Mark is blowing, the space is suitable for two full-time making pairs to operate. Currently, most admin is covered by Vicki, all blowing is done by Mark and everyone (including a few part-time freelancers) is involved in the finishing, assembly and packaging. They have assessed that their systems are inefficient, non-scalable and fragile. These include the workflow of enquiry through to final invoice, marketing and smooth operation of the production facility. The aim is to ensure that Rothschild & Bickers are able to maintain momentum in an enjoyable and profitable manner for their well regarded glass work.

First steps:

  • Process: evolving clarification of ideal order workflow
  • Digital admin: setup Google Workspace for email and file system
  • Computers: configured a few iMacs
  • Order tracking: introduced job numbers and a gSheet to track details
  • Website: project management & content population of new site using Wordpress
  • Images: processing and filing photos for web & press

Steadily building:

  • Order management web app:
    • a project to replace the +4 year old Google spreadsheet with something more robust and purpose built
    • researched numerous existing solutions
    • project managed the design and build of bespoke web app
  • SketchUp: develop workflow & in-house style for 3D modelling, product & component library
  • Inventory: developed the physical & digital infrastructure using Zoho with SKUs, labelling, stock control
  • Website: another rebuild, continued growing
  • Team growth: +6 people, Mark is largely responsible for all glassblowing (a risk) though others are coming up to speed
  • A showroom in Islington, London
  • Some sales in USA (glass only, electrics via a partner)

Where they are now:

  • Team of 12 people who benefit from profit-sharing
  • Amy, the general manager, runs operations. Both Mark and Vicki are largely able to delegate operations to their team and thereby focus on the trajectory and development of the business
  • Multiple glassblowers capable of making the product line
  • Website: migrated to Shopify for self-service ecommerce
  • UL rated and growing sales in USA
  • The order management app continues to be heavily used with very little maintenance
  • The inventory system continues