Meet the MD: Ben Staerck of Furniture Clinic

When we asked Ben Staerck to describe his role in less than 100 words, he needed only one: hectic. As he develops his brand and looks at locations for a second shop, BQ catches him to find out a bit more about the man behind the clinic.

Describe your role in no more than 100 words

Hectic – working on several projects at any one time to grow the business. Currently I’m working on expanding the Handbag Clinic brand. After launching a successful store in Chelsea, we’re now looking at other locations for a second shop.

What is it the company does?

I run two related business; Furniture Clinic and Handbag Clinic. Furniture Clinic manufacturers products for cleaning, repairing and restoring leather. We supply the products online and to many business around the UK and the world. As well as making the products, we also operate a national network of repairers who will visit customers homes and fix their damaged furniture or car interiors.

Handbag Clinic was set up in 2013 to offer the specialist service of repairing damaged handbags. We initially focused on offering the service mail order, but this year opened a shop in Chelsea to promote the services.
 
What do you believe makes a great leader?

I think my greatest strength is spotting new opportunities, seizing them and making something happen. This makes sure the business is always evolving and growing and keeps the members of staff engaged and enthusiastic.

What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

Recruitment. Whilst the method of recruitment is fairly simple, ensuring you get the right person is a lot more difficult. I’ve had some major setbacks and wasted a lot of time and money on the wrong people.
 
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?

I’m not really one for relaxing or doing nothing, so I try to always keep myself busy. My garden is a couple of acres and I love to get on the lawn mower and just spend an hour or two mowing the grass. It’s a mundane task, but I find it a great to just get on with it and use the time to reflect on work or home without having to concentrate on what I’m doing.
 
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I’ve always had a business mind, so even when I was little I was trying to earn money selling something. I probably wanted to be a fireman or something similar when I was really little. I was only 17 or 18 when I decided to start Furniture Clinic, so had I not done that my plan was to work in the City in banking or something similar after university.
 
Any pet hates in the workplace?

Indecisiveness! I think most people I employ have the ability to make the right decision, but some won’t without bothering me about it. I’d prefer people to make a mistake and learn from it, than to never become confident enough to make the decision in the first place.
 
Where do you see the company in five years time?

The year before last I launched Furniture Clinic in the USA and this year I’m setting up a joint venture in Hong Kong. I’d really like to see the export side of the business grow as we continue to make strides into foreign markets. I’ve also just launched two new brands in the UK; Saddle Clinic and Shoe Clinic, which I’m hoping will grow to become well known brands in their respective markets within the next five years. With Handbag Clinic, the plan is to keep opening more shops, both in the UK and abroad, including in Qatar this year.
 
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

I think the most important thing to do is get into a position at work where you can focus on growing and developing the business, rather than working within the business. Create a great management team who you can fully rely on to oversee the day to day operations of the business. It can be hard to relinquish control, but you get so much more freedom to do what you want to do with the business when you do.
 
Where did you start your career?
 
I started Furniture Clinic with my father, Keith, when I was in Sixth Form, so I’ve never had a career other than that at Furniture Clinic. He retired in 2012 when I took over as MD.
 
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far.

I launched Furniture Clinic in 2005 from home before moving into a small unit on the Team Valley and then taking on two more units. In 2010, we purchased a 12,500sqft Factory in Burnopfield where we still are today. In 2013, I launched Furniture Clinic Inc, based in New York, as well as launching Handbag Clinic. I won North East Young Executive of the Year 2014. This year, we’ve extended the factory to 16,500 sq ft and opened the first Handbag Clinic shop in Chelsea.