When speaking with Richard, his enthusiasm and passion for what he does comes bubbling over.
He has been involved in the furniture business for some 30 years. He started out as a cabinetmaker. Working for a company called CRO Furniture, he began on the floor, progressed to service (which he loved as he loves dealing with people and likes to see them happy or even joyful), then moved to the leading commercial furniture company called Co Design, progressed to sales, followed by project management and sales management.
Approximately 22 years ago, he established the company Corporate Culture Australia Pty Ltd which now trades as Cult or Cult Design.
Rather than focussing on the big ticket items like the ubiquitous office workstations, Cult's focus has largely been on lower quantity items such as lounges, meeting room and boardroom tables, high back lounges for collaborative workplaces. Richard tries "not to follow trends", he appreciates that people are really wanting to "hang on to something" like a special or distinctive piece of furniture. Cult has become a sales, marketing and (product) design company.
The company started largely with Danish products but it has always strived to support and promote Australian products. Richard strives to support Australian designers and makers alike.
In 2014 he embarked on the development of NAU (New Australian).
NAU was launched in New York in 2017 and is available through Cult showrooms nationally; NAU was launched in David Jones in Melbourne just last month. It is "a contemporary design brand offering furniture, lighting and accessories by a collective of Australia's most spirited and talented designers…Producing designs suitable for residential and commercial spaces, from elegant lounge furniture to modular shelving with endless possibility, the NAU collection is reductive in form, honest in materiality and timeless in style".
Richard bemoans the demise in Australia of manufacturing industries such as the car manufacturing industry; he would hate to see the Australian furniture industry go the same way.
In terms of growth, Cult has gone from employing 33 people to 60 in the last three years.
One of the challenges Richard says is to keep the momentum going. In recent times, this has been achieved by launching in the United States and Asia and Europe.
With growth too there have been the challenges. Focussed and investing logistics and system changes - with extra products going out it has been important to maintain service levels which are of paramount importance to Richard and Cult. As the company has expanded there have, of course, been the challenges of taking on more costs, properties and rentals etc.
Cult must be unique though in that it operates with no bank debt - there is, for example, no debt over any of its stock.
Richard has had a number of "business mentors" over the years.
In 2014, he joined The CEO Institute. What he loves about The CEO Institute is that it provides for him a forum for listening to other people's perspectives on a range of issues, for hearing about the challenges others face, and sharing successes!
Richard is also actively involved in discovering and mentoring emerging Australian and New Zealand design talent. In 2004, he founded Cult's Design Journey Competition which gives designers throughout Australia and across The Ditch the opportunity to have their designs prototyped and put into production.
"To further foster and develop Australian design talent, Cult has been involved in a range of national awards programs….Cult has proudly supported the Idea Awards as sponsor of the 'Designer of the Year', and also supports 'Australian House of the Year' award through Houses magazine."
The year 2014 marked "Cult's first year as major sponsor of Launch Pad through Indesign Magazine - a respected and industrial design competition supporting Australia's local design community."
Richard is a very positive person and a born optimist. But he does acknowledge that everything is cyclical, and that one day "a rainy day may come" and he wants to make sure that if or when it does he has "the biggest umbrella!" Thus, his non-reliance on bank debt.
But with an overall strategy or philosophy of empathy for others, Richard and his company are sure to continue to enjoy a "Cult following"!
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