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news Fifty Years and Counting for Brigholme Interiors Group, Toronto Haworth Dealer Congratulations to Joe Williams and his team at Toronto’s Brigholme Interiors Group, who this year are celebrating their dealership’s fiftieth anniversary. Founded in 1961 as Brian G. Holmes Limited, Brigholme today is among Haworth’s top ten dealers in North America.
Simon De Groot
Let Your Manufacturers Know Where They Could Be Doing Better with OFDA’s DMSI Survey
“Business has been fairly good for us over the past few years,” Joe reports, pointing to major diversification efforts, particularly in healthcare, and the addition of a cabling and wireless division as major growth drivers.
One of OFDA’s key roles for the dealer community is to serve as its voice to the industry at large. That’s why if you haven’t participated before in the association’s annual Dealer Manufacturer Satisfaction Index (DMSI) survey, now’s the time to do something about it!
Right now, planning is underway at the dealership for a special anniversary celebration sometime in the spring and, if Joe’s current forecast comes through, he and his team will have plenty to celebrate.
The survey represents an outstanding opportunity to let the manufacturers you work with know what you think of the job they’re doing.
Current president Joe Williams joined the company in 2000 and took over top spot at the dealership in 2008.
“We feel very positive about 2011,” he says. “Companies in Toronto are starting to hire again and our data cabling division looks set for some significant growth in the coming year.”
Corporate Environments of Atlanta Takes to the Clouds for New Productivity Gains You don’t need a Harvard MBA to know how critical it is for dealers of all types and sizes to seize every opportunity to leverage technology in their operations. Knoll dealer Corporate Environments of Atlanta certainly didn’t take too much convincing of that, if their own recent efforts offer any indication. In fact, the dealership has become something of a poster child for Box.net, one of the country’s top cloud computing companies. Corporate Environments IT director Scott Blanck was recently featured in the marketing campaign rollout of Box.net’s latest version. The dealership has been using Box.net for about a year and, says Scott, it has generated impressive productivity gains for the dealership on multiple levels. “We were originally looking for an easier way to exchange files with Knoll and other partners on complex projects and it just snowballed from there,” Scott reports. Today, the dealership uses the system to exchange just about any kind of workflow-related information with sub-contractors and, he says, it’s made it all so much easier. continued on page 4 FEBRUARY 2011
Its goal: to improve dealer-manufacturer relations by identifying topics of dealer concern and to recognize best of class performance. Answering the survey is easy and takes less than five minutes. You may evaluate up to four of your primary suppliers in six key categories: training, product lines, service and support, sales and marketing, management, and technology. All responses are kept totally confidential. Want to get started? Just point your web browser to https://www.iisecure.com/ofdasurvey2011.htm and get ready to let your voice be heard! And don’t forget two other important OFDA projects currently underway: the annual Financial Comparison & Benchmarking Survey and, new this year, the Dealership Achievement Award, which will honor a special dealer for their service to the community, commitment to environmental sustainability and a record of engagement with OFDA and our industry as a whole. You can find more information about these and other OFDA programs at www.ofdanet.org. And as always, the more dealers participate, the more useful the final results will be. PAGE 3
dealer news: continued from page 3 “There’s no calling or having to deal with attachment size issues on emails,” he explains. “And best of all, it’s taken our installation-to-invoice cycle from six days down to less than two!” These days, the dealership’s project managers go out into the field with their iPads and instead of having to cart around cumbersome paper drawings and punch lists, they can access all that information online and process it through the Box.net system. Next steps call for deploying the system out to the sales force and incorporating it into the dealership’s CRM solution. Meanwhile, the dealership is not only enjoying the improved cash flow that comes from speeding up its billing cycle, but also reinforcing its reputation as an innovator and technology leader.
Contests and Web-Only Specials Help Raise Social Networking Profile for BBE Office Interiors, MA Dealer
point for industry information and education. Right now, though, the focus is on building traffic with contests, frequently changing promotions and more. So far, at least, it seems to be working. “We had a big sales promotion last year that we pushed heavily on Facebook and it drew at least a dozen new customers to our showroom,” Dan reports. That’s not a bad start, he says, but he and his team are hoping for a whole lot more, particularly as the market overall continues to show signs of improvement.
Ongoing Education Helps Building Service, Inc., Milwaukee Dealer, Strengthen Ties with A&D Community It was end user education time in Milwaukee last month, as Building Service, Inc. hosted a seminar on European healthcare lighting trends and the growing role of Evidence-Based Design (EBD) in healthcare applications.
New social networking platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn may still be creating more questions than anything else for many dealers, but in Pittsfield, MA, Dan Proskin and the rest of the team at BBE Office Interiors are working hard to find the answers.
Co-hosted by Luxo Corporation, the session focused on Evidence-Based Design and its implications for healthcare lighting.
In addition to offering Facebook-only specials, the dealership is currently running two separate contests aimed at building traffic and expanding its e-mail database of prospects.
“Our goal is to offer a variety of lunch and learn seminars for our clients, prospects and associates which provide education on current workplace issues and trends,” explained sales administrator Lori Torrison.
If you’re a consumer, you can visit the BBE website to register for a prize drawing, with the lucky winner receiving a free chair, while on Facebook, if BBE reaches 250 “likes” this month, the dealership will give away a new LED under cabinet task light to a randomly-selected Facebook friend. “Social networking is clearly part of the future of marketing and a tremendous free marketing tool for businesses of all kinds,” says Dan. “Our challenge is having the commitment and persistence to create constantly changing and compelling content and to keep finding ways to attract customers and prospects to our page.” Ultimately, says Dan, the primary goal is to make the BBE Facebook page a focal
The session drew over 30 attendees, including BSI’s healthcare clients and A&D firms, as well as the dealership’s own workplace strategists and designers.
And the response? “We ask attendees to complete a brief survey after each seminar and always receive positive feedback,” Lori reports. “They appreciate that the purpose of these seminars is to educate and not to sell them anything and several clients mentioned they rely on BSI for education on current industry related issues throughout the year.” Other seminars in the planning stages for the coming year include Generations at Work, Green Construction Methods and Workplace Ergonomics. If ongoing education for customers and prospects is not a priority at your dealership, now might be a good time to follow
BSI’s example and start exploring what you can do to become more than just a product resource.
Fusion Interiors, Twin Cities Dealer, Hosts Local IIDA Chapter Meetings to Build A&D Relationships If you’re not positioning your dealership as a key resource for local chapters of professional industry associations, you’re missing out on an opportunity to build relationships with an important customer segment. Just ask Berk Claiborne and his team at Fluid Interiors in Minneapolis. In addition to serving as chair of the local IIDA chapter himself, Berk’s dealership has hosted several recent IIDA meetings, including new member orientations and a roundtable discussion on NCIDQ certification. “We are happy to host IIDA events as a way to support the design community and as a networking experience for our own staff,” says Fusion marketing coordinator Erica Adams. “It’s also a great way to present our showroom and capabilities to local designers.”
Absolute Office of Oregon Opens New Showroom in Portland In Portland, OR, Absolute Office of Oregon has opened a new showroom. Just 500 sq. ft. but still large enough to present a variety of desks, demo chairs and ergonomic products, the showroom is housed in a historic building in Portland with architects, productions companies, graphic designers and more for neighbors. The dealership was founded in 2008 by John A. Dean and Merry Mabbett Dean. An industry veteran with over 20 year’s experience, John started out in the service side of the business as operations manager for a large installation company. Merry Mabbett Dean, John’s wife and business partner, serves as president of the dealership. She is also an interior designer who served as national president of the International Furnishing and Design Association (IFDA) in 1994. In addition to the new showroom, John and Merry are also celebrating their dealcontinued on page 6
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dealer news: continued from page 4 ership’s selection as servicing dealer for Neutral Posture and the City of Portland Ergonomic Seating contract. Not a bad way to start the year, by any measure!
MOI Announces New Hires and Professional Certifications Baltimore-based MOI is gearing up to take advantage of an improving market with the addition of three new hires and a new certification. Joining the company as vice president of business development is Joanna Hoffschneider. Joanna has ten years experience in the commercial real estate industry and is an active member of local industry associations, including NAIOP and CoreNet. In MOI’s Richmond, VA office, Michelle Gulatto has come on board as an account manager, bringing with her over 25 years’ experience in design, and project management with extensive experience in managing large systems jobs, as well as projects in healthcare, higher education, government and financial institutions.
And in MOI’s Norfolk/Virginia Beach location, Angela Whilden has been named director of interior solutions. Angela has over 16 years’ experience in the design and furniture industries in Southern Virginia. She is a certificate holder through the National Council for Interior Design Qualifications (NCIDQ), and is also a Certified Interior Designer (CID). Finally, Lauren Erisman of MOI DC was recently awarded the Accredited Office Ergonomic Evaluator (AOEE) certification by the Ergonomics Center of North Carolina at North Carolina State University. AOEE certification allows her to evaluate an office workstation, identify priorities for ergonomic improvement, adjust existing equipment and make recommendations for equipment needed.
NBS Business Interiors Goes Foot Warming for a Good Cause in Toledo When it comes to community involvement, few organizations do it better or do more than today’s office furniture dealers. Case in point: Troy, MI-based NBS Business Interiors.
NBS can point to a long list of deserving causes it supports and among the most recent is Hannah’s Socks in Toledo, where the dealership has a branch operation. Homeless shelters receive donated clothing on a regular basis, but socks are usually among the items that are given the least yet needed the most. That’s where Hannah’s Socks and NBS come in. Last December, Pat Alber, a designer in NBS’s Toledo office, organized a special campaign in support of Hannah’s Socks, with a call that went out to all four NBS locations as well as customers and business partners. By the time the drive was over, Pat and her team had collected over 2,000 pairs of socks for people in need. “This was the second time we did a sock drive and the response was fantastic,” says Pat. “Nearly three-quarters of what we collected came from customers. They recognize what we’re trying to do here by way of giving back and they are very generous, even in these tough times.”
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BIFMA DECEMBER NUMBERS:
Orders Up 24%; Shipments Up 19% Earlier this month, the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association (BIFMA) released its market statistics for December 2010 and for the tenth consecutive month, order growth was in the positive column. According to BIFMA, December orders grew 24% year-over-year, while December shipments increased 19%. Full year 2010 orders and shipments increased 13% and 6%, respectively, said BIFMA, a substantial improvement over 2009, when orders and shipments both declined 30% year-over-year. Analyst Budd Bugatch of the Raymond James investment house said January 2011 order growth
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should continue the positive trend, since it will be juxtaposed against the low watermark of the cycle in terms of monthly orders. Suggested full year 2011 orders should increase by approximately 11%, substantially above the current BIFMA forecast of 5.6% order growth. Providing further cause for optimism, Bugatch reported the Architect’s Billing Index improved to 54.2 in December (up from 52 in November and 45.4 last year). This marks its highest reading since July 2007 and seems to suggest better days ahead Bugatch said.
ings, McDowell-Craig, National Office Furniture, KFI Seating, RightAngle Products and Progressive Case. The new product lines will also be featured on a new furniture website—to be announced soon—that will be accessible by both dealers and consumers. Additional enhancements are planned for first quarter 2011 including new Visual Planner functionality, designed to further tailor special order options for customers and quickly close sales the wholesaler said.
AmpliVox Expands Product Line with New AV Presentation Carts
United Stationers Expands Furniture Lines Wholesaler United Stationers has announced it is expanding its furniture product lines, with the addition of new brands that include Eurotech, La-Z-Boy Contract, HPFI, Martin Home FurnishFEBRUARY 2011
AmpliVox Sound Systems last month unveiled a line of 20 new products designed to meet the changing demands of multi-media presentations. The new carts, workstations and presentation stations offer a variety of connectivity and mobility options, in a range of prices to suit any budget, the company said. For more information, visit www.ampli.com. PAGE 7
Frank began attending OFDA’s Dealer Strategies Conferences in 2003 and has been an active member of OFDA in recent years. Serving on a dealer panel in 2007, Frank caught the attention of OFDA with his innovative ideas about the industry and growing dealer trends. Tapped for the board of directors in 2009, Frank is very familiar with OFDA’s programs and heads up OFDA’s Website Task Force, which recently redesigned the website to enhance its value, functionality and navigation to ensure user friendliness. “OFDA is a great organization and one our dealers and manufacturers should be proud of,” said Frank. “What gets me excited about OFDA are the opportunities to network with manufacturers and benchmark with dealers of all sizes and with different aligned manufacturers all across the country. In order for our industry to excel, OFDA must provide a unified voice for government advocacy and all dealers need to set aside their vendor alliances and work together to help each other be better at what we are providing the market. We all can learn from each other, no matter the alliance or the size of the dealership.” Frank has become a highly motivated and outspoken proponent for the association and its annual conference. Challenging dealers at last year’s conference and in his October 2010 OFDealer editorial to bring at least one dealer, installer or industry person to this year’s conference, Frank plans to focus on increasing the number of active dealers in OFDA and increasing attendance at the annual conference.
OFDA’s New Board Chairperson During his 16 years in the office furniture industry, Frank Gutwein has moved from sales and customer service into management and has been the president of his family’s business, Widmer Interiors, headquartered in Peoria, since 2006. He brings with him to the OFDA board the perspective of a small well-diversified, multilocation dealership operating in a highly competitive Illinois market. FEBRUARY 2011
“OFDA offers a wide range of dealer education and networking opportunities,” continued Frank. “Whether through their benchmarking study, weekly eNewsletters, OFDealer and in particular through attending the Dealer Strategies Conference, OFDA is the definitive source for office furniture dealers. I guarantee that anyone attending this year’s conference will find it to be a powerful networking tool and will take away ideas to improve their businesses.” “If you aren’t a member of OFDA, you should be and if you are a member of OFDA but haven’t been attending the annual conference, why not? I want to hear from you— email me at email@example.com.” PAGE 8
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Creating and Sustaining a Profit Culture in Your Business By Libby Wagner
This new year already shows signs of improvement from the past two, which have been challenging for many companies and organizations. continued on page 11
cover story: continued from page 10 Certainly, in the office furniture industry, I have seen clients reassess their business models, rejuvenate their sales teams, and reconsider operations. That’s the gift of a challenging economy, actually, because it forces leaders to pay close attention and let go of those practices or ideas that haven’t really been working for them in the past.
ritory seems more rugged, with suspect weather conditions. In business, it’s not just about hunkering down in the trenches and waiting for the storm to blow over. Instead, it’s about resilience, skill and frankly, having the right gear.
In reality, a challenging economy is the best time to differentiate yourself from the competition because you are forced to get really clear about what’s working and what’s not.
If we waited for sunny days to get out, we’d never go out. You cannot wait for the sun to change or grow your business; you’ve got to get out there now! You can create your own organizational weather, regardless of whether it’s snowing and blowing outside.
For many, revenues and profits have suffered, some customers have simply gone away or budgets have been slashed. The business terrain feels different—where perhaps you might have had a clear line of sight to the end goal before, this new ter-
In the December 2010 issue of OFDealer (“You Can’t Look Forward Until You Look Back,” pages 17-18), we discussed the characteristics of a profit culture, one that supports your business goals, reaches your revenue targets and generates cus-
tomer delight and employee satisfaction. This profit culture, which is an internal measurement of how you are supporting the results you want, is not just some niceto-have pipe-dream. It’s essential if you want to develop the sort of resilience that will carry you through any sort of weather. One of the mistakes I see leaders make over and over is thinking that if they focus solely on the bottom line, it will grow just out of their sheer determination. In reality, whether you make it to the top of the mountain this year and reach the important goals you’ve set will be determined by how prepared you and your organization are for the journey ahead. Your culture (your inside weather!) is in direct correlation to the results you will reap come December.
Profit Culture Pyramid In the Profit Culture Pyramid, you’ll notice that there are five levels to get you to the top of the mountain where your Profit Culture—your results—reside. The trek up the hill does not have to be arduous, long or require extra oxygen, but it does have to be steady and disciplined. You, as the leader, must be purposeful and clear and you must lead the way to the top. You can do this by cultivating an intentional business culture so that everyone is suited up and ready to go.
continued on page 12
cover story: continued from page 11
Let’s examine each level of the Profit Culture Pyramid so that you can assess where you are now, identify the strengths you have and determine what you might need to get you to the top more quickly.
Level 1: Foundations for Success You consistently deliver high levels of the Core Dimensions: Respect, Empathy, Specificity and Genuineness. This is about behaviors—everyone, all the time. The biggest risk to you as a leader is that you’ll blow right by this level and think it’s a no-brainer. Everyone knows that a workplace should have respect or some kind of listening (Empathy), right? It’s so simple it almost seems elementary, but the real question is this: Are you doing it consistently? If you’re not getting the results you want in your organization, whether it’s high performance, customer satisfaction and repeat business or business innovation, this is the very place you need to look first. How people are communicating, interacting, solving problems, dealing with conflict, responding to customers—all of these small wins and losses are dependent upon whether these high-trust behaviors are consistently delivered, noticed and rewarded. Simple, but not easy.
Level 2: Influencing with Integrity and Confronting without Conflict You use language and tools to get what you want, while increasing trust and decreasing defensiveness. Believe it or not, you are not having conversations about your business. You are not having conversations about why that install went totally wrong. You are not having conversations about improving margin erosion or targeting new markets. The business is the conversation, just as the bad install, margin erosion or emerging markets are the conversations. I know it may sound like semantic gymnastics, but the real issue is this: Your use of language, your team’s ability to get on the same page, your increasing efficiencies and effectiveness are all tied directly to how you are engaging in the conversation about these topics. The more courageous the conversations, the more successful your business will be. The less effective your interpersonal skills, your management skills, your confrontation skills, the less money continued on page 13
cover story: continued from page 12 you will make, the less happy your customers will be and the more your employees will leave or cause problems.
We know we have the loyalty and commitment of our employees because we’ve created the types of relationships where they do what’s right even when we’re not around, because they feel a sense of ownership and pride.
Level 3: All for One
When we have a compliance culture, we must incessantly followup, go over, double-check and direct.
You are able to gain commitments to shared vision and goals. You know you have commitment to the results you want if people are consistently demonstrating behaviors that support those goals.
Team members wait for us to tell them what to do, and the worst part is that we enable them to be that way. This is costly and ultimately ineffective. Relationships matter. They impact your bottom line.
If employees are side-tracked, creating work-arounds or even sabotaging efforts to reach the desired vision, you do not have commitment.
Level 5: Creativity, Innovation, Results!
It’s even tricky when people say they are committed, but their behaviors contradict this, which causes confusion and dissention.
You are continuing to become a more effective influencer cultivating the environment for your Profit Culture.
You cannot leave this up to chance. Everyone in the organization needs to know where they are, what their role is and how their performance will be measured.
Your results are here. You’ve clearly articulated your vision, you’ve gotten others to follow you, you’ve created a path and a method to climb the mountain, and you’re prepared for any weather.
They need to know what excellence looks like, they need regular feedback, both positive and constructive and you need to deliver the message, consistently and endlessly.
You’ve got the right gear and the right attitudes, no matter the climate or conditions. You’ve developed resilience on the way up. You’ve assessed and learned from your successes and your failures.
If they’re not mocking you, you haven’t said it enough! Creating a team agreement and/or clearing the swamp of obstacles to high levels of performance, productivity and high morale helps everyone stay roped up on the journey to the top.
You’ve got high levels of trust so that you can reinvent, renew and stake your claim on the next peak. Let this year be the year that you cultivate exactly the Profit Culture you want, no matter the weather outside: resilient, abundant, sustainable and fun!
Level 4: Cultivate Commitment vs. Compliance You have developed strong relationships based on trust and personal power. Would you like less stress associated with your leadership role? Would you like a work-free weekend or a Blackberry-free dinner out? Less stress and a more balanced work life can happen if you have created and cultivated a culture of commitment rather than a culture of compliance. The bottom line is this: When you’re not around, when you’re not looking over someone’s shoulder, how confident are you that they are doing the right thing or the thing you’d do for your business success?
Libby Wagner, president of Libby Wagner & Associates, is one of the only poets regularly welcomed into the boardroom. Often called the The Influencing Coach™ by her clients, Libby's expertise in leadership, strategy, management, and executive team development helps organizations create environments where clarity and increased trust lead to unrivaled results. Have questions about Profit Cultures, defining your Leadership Voice or creating a stronger team? Contact Libby Wagner at 206-906-9203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
cover: case study
continued from page 13
PROFIT CULTURE: Does this really work? Apex Facility Resources, a full-service dealer located in Seat-
At Level 1, Foundations for Success, Apex committed time,
tle, Washington, really wants a Profit Culture! In fact, recently,
energy and resources to identifying “The Apex Way,” defined
president Marlaine McCauley and VP Matt Watson hosted a
it behaviorally and aligned it with their Management Team
fun-filled Profit Culture Launch Party where employees ate,
Agreement and The Core Dimensions: Respect, Empathy,
drank, practiced rusty bowling skills and toasted to the suc-
Specificity and Genuineness.
cess of 2010—and their company-wide bonuses—at a time
The whole management team was not only expected to be
when industry revenues were down 40% in the past two
on board, they were encouraged and recognized for progress
Not at Apex: Their revenues were up over 90% in 2010 and
Marlaine worked consistently and directly with me as her ex-
profits rose 60%. Sounds too good to be true? Read on!
ecutive coach so she could get honest, high-accountability
In 2007, Apex, now celebrating its 14th year in business, was
feedback to keep herself on track for the promises she made
recognized as one of the Top 100 Fastest Growing Compa-
to her team.
nies in Washington.
At Level 2, Influencing with Integrity and Confronting without
As often happens with entrepreneurial businesses, Apex
Conflict, Apex invested in skill building and training for the
could no longer lead and differentiate themselves by gather-
whole organization, so that everyone gained the communica-
ing everyone in the company around the conference table.
tion and interpersonal skills, led by their managers, to resolve
They had become too big, and like many businesses, had not
issues quickly, be respectful in dealing with conflict and in-
had a chance to put into place systems and processes that
crease specificity to ensure success.
could help them move to the next level of success.
At Level 3, All for One, Apex managers meet regularly to not
They were experiencing the pains of growth: expensive
only share real-time issues, but also to make sure they are on
turnover of employees, margin erosion, lack of leadership
track to “keeping their promises” to each other and to their
skills among managers and supervisors, struggles with
work/life balance, high stress, inconsistent or low perform-
They Clear the Swamp regularly to identify obstacles, poten-
ance, lack of focus, lack of trust among some employees and
tial pitfalls, and keep a laser focus on important initiatives.
team members and inconsistent recognition and reward for At Level 4, Cultivate Commitment versus Compliance, Apex
worked hard to clearly articulate performance expectations, They were getting the job done and steadily building their
take time for one-on-ones with employees, offered feedback
business, but at great cost.
and recognition regularly and began improving their delega-
What did Apex do, in a down economy, to create such amaz-
tion skills to even out the workload and improve employee
ing results? First, we began work at the top.
A defining characteristic of a Profit Culture leader is that he
At Level 5: Creativity, Innovation, Results!, the 2010 numbers
or she must be willing to self-assess, redirect, and demon-
(+90% increase in revenues and 60% increase in profits)
strate their own vulnerability. In other words, they must be
show the results of a team that has transformed itself and is
willing to change, too.
committed to their long-term investment in a Profit Culture.
Marlaine is the epitome of “leading from the front”—she com-
The Apex management team is measuring success, getting
mitted to her own development, made changes in her behav-
clear on their data and investing in their people. They also
ior, was willing to have the courageous conversations and
commit and re-commit to the practices that will keep them
created the right kind of atmosphere to create change.
on top, growing, evolving and reaping the rewards.
The Perfect Storm For Estate Planning The Time to Act Is Now By J. Kyle DeVries
When it comes to estate planning, we are currently experiencing a “perfect storm” situation that represents the best opportunity on record to save literally millions of dollars in ultimate estate taxes for wealthy families. Three factors are combining to make the current, highly favorable environment: Interest rates remain at all-time lows; asset values remain depressed, especially in real estate, and the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Authorization and Job Creation Act of 2010 signed by President Obama in December 2010 allows for the shifting of assets on a scale never before seen in the 94 years of the modern estate tax regime. I will explain below the importance of this “perfect storm” but first a quick review of the tax relief act is in order.
The act caps the estate tax rate at 35% and allows for an exemption from estate taxes of the first $5 million of estate value. These rates and exemptions also apply to the generation skipping tax. This means that married couples with estates of less than $10 million will incur no estate taxes whatsoever. This compares to prior law in 2009 (before repeal in 2010), when the top estate tax rate was 45% and the exemption was $3.5 million. If the act had not become law, the rate would now be 55%, with an exemption of just $675,000. The new law will allow many families to escape the estate tax altogether or lower taxes significantly for those with estates greater than $5 million (or $10 million for married couples). Another benefit of the new law is “portability” of the exemption. This allows a surviving spouse to utilize any unused exemption of the predeceased spouse. For example, if the husband predeceased his wife and had only $2 million of assets in his estate at the time, the surviving spouse will be able to use an $8 million exemption (her $5 million plus his unused $3 million). Under prior law, the amount would have been limited to the surviving spouse’s $5 million exemption. continued on page 17
estate planning: continued from page 16 Perhaps the biggest benefit of the law is the reunification of estate and gift taxes. Prior law fixed the lifetime exemption for gifting at $1 million, even though the death exemption was larger ($3.5 million in 2009). The act reunifies the gift exemption with the death exemption of $5 million. This means both a husband and wife could transfer by gift up to $10 million of assets during their lifetimes as opposed to just $2 million under prior law. This is a tremendous opportunity to shift significant assets out of the estate, forever shielding the growth on the gifted assets from estate taxes. (You also have an annual exclusion gift of $13,000 per beneficiary per year available in addition to the gift exemption of $5 million. This is a “use it or lose it” exclusion so it should be utilized each year, if possible.)
As good as this news is the act will only last through 2012, after which time the estate taxes will revert to pre-2001 law (55% rate and $675,000 exemption) unless a new law is passed before then. That is why it is so important to implement a gifting strategy during the next two years that will maximize the amount of future estate tax savings. Even though the law will change by 2013, any gifting done prior to a change in the law will be grandfathered. Uncle Sam cannot unwind the gifts made under current law. Why would you want to make gifts up to $10 million if you are a wealthy family and can afford to do so? The best way to beat Uncle Sam in the estate tax game is to transfer assets from yourself to your children or more likely to
trusts for your children’s benefit. The reason for this is best shown by example. Assume you own a portfolio of real estate that is worth $10 million. Also, assume the portfolio will grow at an average of 6% per year over a 20-year period when the death of the second spouse is assumed and the estate tax is due. If you retain the real estate in the future, it will ultimately be taxed in your estate at what we will assume is 35% (the rate could be more or less when they change the law by 2013). The projected value of the real estate would be $32,071,000 in 20 years with an estate tax of $11,225,000. How that estate tax is paid without selling or refinancing the real estate will be the subject of a future article; however, the net continued on page 18
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estate planning: continued from page 17 to the heirs would be just under $21 million in the above example. If instead, you transfer the real estate to a special trust benefiting your heirs then all the appreciation from the date of transfer would inure to the trust and would not be included in your estate. Based on the assumptions above, in 20 years the appreciation on the real estate of $22,071,000 would be removed from your estate, saving over $7,700,000 in estate taxes at a 35% rate and netting the heirs almost $29 million versus $21 million if you did not transfer the asset. There are techniques to leverage the $5 million exemption to enhance the estate tax savings even further. These include Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts (GRATs), sales to defective trusts (IDITs), financed net gift transactions and other techniques
I will cover in future articles. These techniques use much less of your gifting exemption for each dollar of asset transferred and work best in a lower interest rate environment. The current low interest rates coupled with the fact that most assets, including businesses and real estate, have decreased in value since 2006 and the opportunity the act gives to transfer tremendous value complete the “perfect storm” opportunity. So NOW is the time to explore whether or not a gifting program should be executed and to what extent. The “perfect storm” will not last forever. The act will last only for two years if not amended beforehand; interest rates will start to rise at some point; and asset values will most likely increase soon from their current lows.
How Satisfied are You? The Annual OFDA Dealer Manufacturer Satisfaction Index (DMSI) survey is your opportunity to evaluate the products, policies, service and support of your manufacturer business partners to improve dealer-manufacturer relations. Strictly confidential and open to all dealers, evaluate up to four of your primary suppliers in six key categories: training, product lines, service and support, sales and marketing, management, and technology.
Don’t be behind the eight ball and lose this fantastic opportunity to beat Uncle Sam at the estate tax game. Meet with an advisor who specializes in gifting and estate taxes as soon as possible to assist you in formulating the best plan for you and your family.
Kyle is an estate and business succession planner in Westlake Village, CA. His goal is to assist his clients in transitioning their legacy to their heirs in accordance with their wishes, while minimizing estate and gift taxes and ensuring sufficient liquidity for a seamless transition. Contact Kyle at 805-379-5510, email@example.com or www.devriesfinancial.com
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As a thank you for participating, you’ll receive a FREE copy of the final report so you can compare your suppliers with others in the industry. Click this ad for a Link Directly to the DMSI Survey or call 800.542.6672. FEBRUARY 2011
function in Montreal By Alicia Ellis
When Haworth dealer Marisa DelBello, president of CIME Business Environments in Montreal, was asked to collaborate on office interiors for the new home of NFOE et associés architectes, one of Montreal’s oldest and largest architectural firms, her ability to help create a modern, functional space in one of Montreal’s oldest buildings was put to the test. NFOE’s new home would be located on the ground and first floors of the recently renovated New York Life Building in Old Town Montreal. Built in 1888 in the Place d’Armes square, which contains the NotreDame Basilica, the building was Montreal’s first high rise. Eight stories high, the building is known for its red sandstone frontage, wrought-iron entrance and clock tower. Although renovated in 2005, the building maintains much of the original architectural details, including Corinthian columns, ornate capitals and the original central staircase. The client was seeking a minimalist desking solution with pure clean lines to act as a backdrop for the rich architectural details of the space. They wanted collaborative work environments that supported group interaction while also providing the opportunity for individual thought and reflection.
They needed customized work surface sizes and storage solutions to support the unique work requirements of architectural firms. Most importantly, they needed a desking system that was able to achieve maximum space efficiency for the 11,400 square feet of open space with very few semi-closed offices. continued on page 20
form meets function: continued from page 19 Working closely with Masa Fukushima and Rafie Sossanpour , two of the partners at NFOE, DelBello and account manager Francine Grenier collaborated on a white-on-white color palate that blended form with function while highlighting the unique architectural features of the building itself. “One of the most exciting European trends to come to North America has been the idea of collaborative environments,” said DelBello. “That said, many European office furniture manufacturers have visually appealing products but cable management and electrical integration often bring serious time and adaptability issues.” Hoping to find a solution, DelBello attended NeoCon World’s Trade Fair this past June and was introduced to Group Lacasse’s new Collaborative & Innovative Teaming Environments (C.I.T.É.) products. “C.I.T.É had a very European look and was intelligent in the way the design and electrical engineering was created,” said DelBello, who worked with Groupe Lacasse to put together a proposal and showcase a mockup of the solution for NFOE in their Montreal showroom. “The client was thrilled with the proposal, which included 60 desking workstations, lunchroom seating, Haworth Planes solutions for two conference/meeting areas and customized bookcases, work surfaces and storage solutions.” “Groupe Lacasse was very helpful with the customized solutions that were necessary for storing and laying out architectural plans,” said Grenier. “Oversized work surfaces and storage solutions were developed to accommodate architectural drawings and make the storage conveniently accessible from both sides.” Installation took less than one week and with cable management made easy by an inter-connective trough running through the back of each workstation. “Nothing is more important for CIME than to create spaces that perform beautifully and adapt to the needs of our customer,” said DelBello. “Overall, the aesthetics of the product complement the airiness of the soaring architectural studio and deliver the functional attributes necessary to support the working environment.” FEBRUARY 2011
why you need
Analytics By Jason Kirby
Why spend all that time and money on creating a fancy new web site if you canâ€™t even tell if people will visit it, much less convert into a customer? Your web site is not a black hole nor is it a static environment; the time and money you put into your site are the platform for finding and targeting and obtaining your ideal customers. Customers rarely mention problems they encounter while on your web site. The only way to know what kind of online experience you are providing visitors is to review and interpret your web siteâ€™s data. Welcome to Google Analytics, a free tool available to all specifically designed to: n Track how many people are coming to your web site and how they found your web site. n Track what product or service pages visitors spend their time on to eliminate ineffective pages and promote your best pages (those that result in a customer). continued on page 22 FEBRUARY 2011
google analytics: continued from page 21 n Instantly review reports on your highest performing marketing initiatives; over time, refine your strategy to increase efficiency (save time and money) and visitor conversion (when a web site visitor becomes a customer). The information Google Analytics gathers from your web site can tell you how to spend your time and money moving forward. Understand your potential prospects’ priorities which will in turn allow you to prioritize more effectively. By tracking the performance of your web site you will arm yourself with data which you can harness to make better business decisions. Gathering this data is painless. Google Analytics, a free and robust web site analytics tool, tracks every piece of data you could ever want and more.
turn, customers, or if recipients of your email campaigns are visiting your site. This can also be an ideal time to get a grasp of the path visitors take on your site. Begin to formulate questions for use when you have a full data set off which to make decisions. When you login to Analytics you may be overwhelmed with the quantity of numbers, charts, and the terminology. As is true with most data analytics, pick the “low-hanging fruit.” What are the key terms and figures for you to know? The top five pieces of data most important to you as a dealer are bounce rate, number of unique visitors, top landing pages, top keywords and top traffic sources.
This is the percentage of visitors who land on a particular page on your site and leave immediately without navigating to other pages. As you can guess, the lower the number the better.
Once the code appears on every page of your web site you will automatically start collecting data.
A high bounce rate means visitors are coming to your site and quickly leaving because they are unable to find the information they seek.
Data collected ranges from number of unique visitors, number of page views (and a comparison across pages), time visitors spend on each page, how people found your web site, the geographical location of your visitors, what search keywords bring visitors to your web site, the path visitors take from page-to-page across your web site and much more. Most of the data is not initially statistically significant; wait one to three months of data prior to taking action on any one piece of information. During the first months you should still monitor your analytics weekly to see what traffic sources are sending people to your site. Although it is a narrow slice of data, this can tell you if any of your current marketing efforts are delivering web site visitors and, in FEBRUARY 2011
More broadly, this lets you know which pages are ineffective in meeting your visitors’ needs.
Number of Unique Visitors This measures the total number of visitors coming to your site for the first time. Compare this number to the number of unique visitors you had last month, two months ago and so on. The goal is to see this number gradually rise, indicating more people are finding your web site.
Top Landing Pages This lists the pages visitors first land on when they enter your site. It is your chance to make your first impression.
Typically your top landing page is your homepage, however you may have people landing on product specific or product category pages. This information is important to know because it tells you where you have an opportunity to optimize your first impressions (or maybe last impressions). You want to make sure these pages are designed to engage your visitors to either keep them on your site or encourage them to pick up their phone to inquire further.
Top Keywords This helps you determine what search terms people are using to find your site (versus what you think they are searching for which can often be vastly—and surprisingly--different). Understand what content on your site you need to move or change to make pages more relevant to what your visitors seek. See the case study below to learn how this facet of Google Analytics impacted an office furniture dealer’s bottom line.
Top Traffic Sources This shows you what web sites refer visitors to your web site. Consider referring web sites a referral from another company; their function is the same, although one is online and the other offline. This list of referral sites will tell you what search engines visitors are using to find your business. It lets you know if other companies are sending you traffic or if other marketing efforts are delivering as you had hoped. For example, if you are advertising on Yellowpages.com or any other local business directory, you will be able to see if people are clicking on your ad(s) to find your web site. You will then be able to determine whether your money is well spent in this area or if it should be funneled to higher performing referral sources or initiatives. continued on page 23
google analytics: continued from page 23 caseSTUDY An office furniture dealer found out through reviewing Analytics’ data that the majority of their web site’s traffic was from people typing in the keyword “cubicles.” However on the landing page the first thing visitors saw was “systems furniture solutions.” Visitors expected one thing (cubicles) and saw another (systems office furniture). This dissonance led to a high bounce rate of 46.2%. Translation: Of those who landed on the homepage, almost half left this web site without viewing any other pages. The simple misalignment of the site’s copy with the vocabulary of its visitors (versus the vocabulary of industry insiders) led visitors to have a negative brand and web site experience. After tweaking the web site’s copy and content to say “cubicles” instead of “systems furniture solutions,” the bounce rate decreased to a mere 5% and overall traffic increased by 113%. In turn, conversion rates increased. The rate at which web site visitors became customers became 3.5% which led to 9 new leads a month!
Taking into account average close rate and average sale amount, this web site “tweak” led to an estimated $20,000 increase in revenue per month. Start using Google Analytics and take the time to install it onto your web site and begin interpreting the data so you can start to make better informed business decisions.
Jason Kirby is director of the office furniture marketing programs at eBoost Consulting, a digital marketing consultancy that has generated in excess of 20,000 qualified leads for its clients in the office furniture industry over the past five years. Jason will be hosting a follow-up webinar to this article, “Your Quick Start Guide to Leveraging Google Analytics,” when he will walk dealers through the Google Analytics platform and explain the key pieces of information that matter most to dealers. It takes place on March 3 at 11:00am PST. Register for the free webinar at http://budurl.com/OFDealerWebinar