When you’re launching a company because you’ve seen the physical benefits that another country has seen from it, it’s the kind of inspiration to keep you focused. Yet changing customer perspectives is no mean feat.
When Gavin Bradley lost everything in the Lehman Brother’s collapse, like many others he spent two years saying to himself: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. He went on to begin other concepts which didn’t gain sustainable traction until he realised the three elements of business that he needed to be successful and grow. He applied that formula and launched sit-stand.com with a vision for the UK to become like Denmark where 90% of office workers have an electric desk.
Stand up desks are such a niche market, what first attracted you to them?
I’d seen them for the first time in 2013 but it was only when I was watching a show called ‘Trust me I’m a doctor’ where they showed how your blood sugar levels are affected by movement and the importance of building sitting and standing into your day that I really thought about them seriously. I was getting no traction in my work in 2014 and was in a dark place mentally when I started looking into scientific funding which all focused on moderate exercise, there was nothing on fixing sedentary states. Researching more I found that in Denmark, if your job requires you to sit, more than two hours a day, your employer is legally bound to provide you with a sit-stand desk. I have a vision that within the next 20 years we’re going to become like Denmark where 90% of office workers have a sit-stand desk.
You went through many different challenges and tests before focusing on this as a business. What were the core elements you were determined to bring together to start your new and existing business?
I said to myself that first of all, whatever I do has to be something I’m passionate about. If you said to me, ‘ok Gavin you’re selling office furniture’ – I’d have initially thought, ‘no way that’s not for me’. However, I realised that for me it was essential to be disruptive, to go against the grain of an industry which I by-and-large despise in terms of the ethics. Then I asked myself, is what I’m doing recession proof? I didn’t want to invest in something that was a fad or a fashion, I wanted to build on something that had sustainability to give myself some security. But essentially I wanted to do this for the right reasons. With the right people. And in the right way I know we sell wellness to our customers.
So to anyone looking to start again choose something you’re passionate about, make sure it’s recession proof and sustainable. Also ensure you can give an online service?
Covid has developed those three aspects for sit/stand because the ‘nesting’ markets – anything to do with planning a nice home, good value products and health have all emerged as priorities right now and even when we come out of lockdown I don’t think that those will go away. I think people have been pushed to think where they stand on matters over the last year more than ever and there’s an air of zero tolerance towards issues.
How do you feel about the planet friendly aspects of wellness?
Appreciating that wellness has to be embraced as a company wide policy across is the only way businesses can evolve and make it work. So internally we began by eradicating all the polystyrene plastic materials out of our packaging, emailing not printing, etc. Then to our customers we continually encourage recycling existing desktops so that we can just change your frame. There are many areas which we can cover with this but in terms of being planet friendly, it all starts with the one decision to aim to be sustainable. When you’ve made that decision you then start to look at options for solutions in a new light. We’ve got a vision over three years to do this properly.
Yes. So how are you looking to keep innovating within this marketplace now and guard your market segment against competitors?
Fortunately we’ve been in the industry long enough to have a well established bank of trusted customers and reviews and in terms of products, we’re always analysing what our customers want. At the start it was important that we carried ranges that covered every price point to help make the concept accessible. Now that the word is out there and people are working form home it’s become increasingly important to launch customisation options. You can literally choose each aspect of your desk to make it just perfect for you and your space. Staying on top of these types of trends and not just doing a ‘one size fits all’ is essential. As is the service surrounding your products. Being helpful, doing things as quickly as possible. All of these things matter. Systems have to be in place …
Has lockdown had a big effect on the uptake of this?
Yes we’ve definitely seen a rise both in need for desks and a real interest in work posture and health. As many people are working from home potentially for the first time, they’re taking a real interest in researching and finding the right desk for them. We do everything from electric desks to cycle at your desk desks so I think lockdown has really made people assess what’s important to them. Fortunately health and wellbeing seems to be very high on their lists.
One of our other interviewees, mentioned that their teams had initially been working on ironing boards when the first lockdown began…
Yes we found that! Our team were going and delivering the electric desks and so many people admitting that that’s all they had. Hopefully the nation has got a lot more prepared over the course of the past year.
How were sit-stand desks perceived in the UK when you started?
It was initially a hard market to crack as they were seen as only needed to combat disabilities and not for general wellbeing. Naturally we highlighted the wellness feature of them and the benefits to posture. The rise in the wellness movement is making our job a lot easier, but we’ve got a long way to go – we’ve taken the UK from 1% saturation to 5% in just six years which is really positive.
What keeps you motivated?
I really see the effects it has on our customers and when you really read into all of the benefits I don’t think you’d ever go back. People genuinely love the concept of having the choice to break the monotony of their day up – it’s a positive investment in themselves and the companies who are providing their staff with them are receiving really good feedback from their teams. It always feels good to effect positive change and that’s what we’re doing.
You’re only actually asking people to change half of what they do because of the sit/stand/sit element and they already sit anyway. I’ve been road testing one which I’ll do a full review of in another article but what I’m finding is that I actually look forward to the moments when I move it to stand for Zoom’s then back down to do the physical writing, then back up for researching if I fancy it.
Yes, it’s not about doing one or the other all the time. Sitting down for too long can be just as bad as standing all day, it’s about the interrelationship and mixing between the two. It’s so interesting getting the feedback, especially during lockdown, of people finding that they sit down to produce their in-depth documents and stand up for their online meetings. Standing during the meeting actually has made them feel more engaged.
You mentioned the ethics of the industry earlier, what do you mean about that specifically?
People are being encouraged to buy products that are incorrect, expensive and completely damaging for them. The perception of setting up a work station is completely backwards! We find that people are more concerned about buying the right chair first whereas actually everything they’re going to be working from is on the desk. Sort out the desk first and then match it with the perfect chair. Do it that way round, ensure your station is set up so your posture is right and your screen is at eye level.
Let’s hope more companies wise up to this and your mission is heard. Has it been heartening to see the uptake particularly from companies?
Yes absolutely. Because our mission goes beyond just the purchase of a new desk, for a company to go ahead and invest in them for their team, it’s an act of kindness and saying that they care for their staff’s welfare.