Quickfire Q&A: Why do you outsource?

Raconteur asks Christian Corney, commercial director at Goodmans, a British hi-fi and electronics brand dating back to 1923, why the company outsources so many core functions?

Q. What do you outsource?

A. We outsource pretty much everything. Industrial design is outsourced to Rodd Design, manufacturing is outsourced to a limited number of key partners in China and warehousing is outsourced in the UK.

Q. Why outsource?

A. It gives us agility. It means the business can call upon expertise in different areas. We can access the creativity of specialists. Over the last year we evolved the brand. To do that we called on small creative design agencies to help us understand our brand and create projects which can take the brand forward. Goodmans is a small consumer electronics company, facing the might of global brands which have huge R&D budgets and huge teams. We can’t compete in the same way. So outsourcing enables us to be quicker to market and to adapt our product roadmaps quicker. We can use the best minds out there, who gather thoughts from the other industries they work in.

Q. How do you maintain a close relationship with your outsource partners?

A. We are fortunate in that we opened our first office in Hong Kong in 1972, so we have a long history of outsourcing manufacturing. And it is a challenge. You need to make sure your manufacturing partners really get what you are trying to do. The best way of making sure they do is to have face-to-face meetings with them and have regular dialogue. We have an office in China and I personally travel out three or four times a year. Our chief executive is out there five or six times a year.

Q. What are the hardest things to get right?

A. The challenge for our business is that we have UK designers and we create a lot of product identity here. Translating that into a physical product is the difficult part. The interpretation of a manufacturing partner might not always reflect the intent that you had. It can be incredibly nuanced. You can deliver a specification and they will always interpret. It can be how a product feels in your hand. How tactile. Do they get your idea? That is the hardest thing.

Q. Is there anything you wouldn’t outsource?

A. Goodmans has always fluctuated from outsourcing to in-house, based on success, opportunity, size and requirements. I am comfortable with a high level of outsourcing as long as the fundamental values of the brand are being adhered to.

Q. What has the result of your strategy been?

A. Touch wood, it is going well. We undertook a big brand strategy project in early-2014. It was about tapping into the heritage of the brand, understanding its values. Our new product range really crystallises our values. We are getting a great response from consumers and retail customers.