Our staff do it by the book

Rugby Fitted Kitchens owner, Trevor Scott, explains why he prefers on-the-job training to investing in expensive degree courses 

I come from a sales background. Yet strangely, I learnt the basics of kitchen design back in the late Seventies as a side interest while doing a job in the industry that didn’t require that skill – just because I wanted to.

This raises a point that is often forgotten, which is – just how many of us in this industry left school and went to college with, let’s use a broad brush here, furniture or space design, as a possible career choice? Not many, I’ll bet.

Back in the day, when I went to college to study Hotel and Catering Management, and consequently vowed never to work in a professional kitchen, the last thing I expected to end up doing for most of my adult life was to be designing them.

People generally stumble into this industry and come to it from all walks of life and do so across the whole working age range. To suggest to say a 45-year-old that he or she cannot become a kitchen designer simply because they didn’t study the right degree is utter rubbish.

So, what to do? Because without a doubt, these people do need training…

I know, I’ll send them all on the Bucks New University degree course. No I won’t! Three years, at not inconsiderable expense, and then they leave halfway through because the studio in the next town has offered them a higher basic and more commission because I couldn’t, thanks to the cost of all that training. So, it’s Catch 22.

For the vast majority of us retailers who aren’t operating in the rarefied air of the high-end £60k to £100k-plus bespoke kitchen market, this kind of training is simply not an option. But rather than just bitching about it, do I have a solution?

Well, honestly… no.

This industry has grown up over the nearly 40 years I’ve been involved in it, with virtually no dedicated trade organisation. What about the KBSA, I hear Uwe Hanneck, Tina Riley, and all who preceded her as chairperson, cry? Ineffectual, is my answer to them.

In real terms, it’s a case of hardly any members and no clout, so it’s never been taken that seriously – which is a great shame as we do need an umbrella trade body with teeth that can bang the drum for our industry and, via legislation where required, force changes to standards. And not just regarding designer training, but across the whole gamut of knowledge and skills that those working in this industry need at least to be aware of, if not expert in.

Currently at RFK and, I suspect, in most quality establishments, all of this is undertaken in-house by more experienced staff, either informally or as part of an on-the-job learning programme. We have a sales training manual – The RFK Way – and all new designers and sales staff are expected to read this bible, refer to it always and work in accordance with its directions. But this is our only staff booklet to date and I know it should be part of a series that covers a far wider-reaching group of subjects. Time, sadly, is and will continue to be our enemy…

There are, of course, those direct-selling organisations out there, who are anathema to those of us who consider ourselves kitchen specialists, whereby the training is limited to how to dial up the speaking clock and pretend to be talking to the sales manager to secure that last-minute extra discount to close the deal there and then. But then, these companies employ, hopefully, skilled surveyors whose job it is to correct all the errors made by the ‘I’m not a salesman, I’m a kitchen designer’ at point of sale and chip their commissions away to next to nothing.

After all, kitchen salespeople lured into this part of the industry by being offered stupidly high OTE earnings are ten-a-penny, so good staff retention is not a prerequisite for these greedy employers…

The canny salesperson, sorry designer, will, of course, have already included in their quote a JIC (Just in Case) or an OFM (One for Me) to cover for such eventualities, but the only loser here is the consumer.

Trust me, I’m a kitchen designer. Mmm…


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