Modern Management (Wedgwood)

Modern management, marketing, and high-end sales to ordinary people make pottery company Wedgwood a management innovator.

Pottery dates back to ancient times. Fragments of pottery in China date back 20,000 years. Since then, for the most part, wherever archeologists find people they also find pottery. Therefore, opening a pottery manufacturer, especially in the 1700s, intuitively seems like a terrible idea.

Josiah Wedgwood decided to try something different, creating a pottery business built on high-quality management techniques and top-tier customer service.

Built in 1769, the Etruria Works factory spanned 350 acres. Employees, managers, and Wedgwood – along with their families – lived and work at the site. The company focused on “ornamental pottery,” pieces meant more for display than use. Although advertised as Etruscan his pottery more typically appeared in a Grecian style. The factory utilized division of labor, assigning different workers to a single specialized task. This was unusual before the introduction of standardized parts and the assembly line.

Wedgwood created a high-end showroom in London with well-dressed and knowledgeable staff. Each piece of pottery was beautifully showcased and packaged. Customers who changed their mind later could return a piece for full credit.

The quality of Wedgwood pottery was above average potters, but the company really differentiated by the highest quality purchase experience. They were also apt technology innovators, creating stoneware called Jasper. Like most English potters, they also manufactured local bone china.

More importantly, Wedgwood innovated modern marketing techniques, going so far that he obtained royal permission to brand a line of his pottery “Queen’s Ware.”

Wedgwood is the first known use of artificial scarcity, making his pottery attractive for collectors and investors.

The company