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news COS Business Products & Interiors, TN Dealer, Celebrates 70th Anniversary Congratulations to Skip Ireland and his team at COS Business Products & Interiors in Chattanooga, which is celebrating its 70th year of service to the local business community this year. Founded as Chattanooga Office Supply in 1941 by Skip’s grandfather, Henry H. Ireland Sr., COS is a long-time Knoll dealer and the oldest active Office Furniture USA dealer in the country. The dealership is still very much in the hands of the Ireland family. Skip and his brother James E. “Jim” Ireland, vice president of operations, represent the third generation of the family to lead the business, having purchased it in 1983 from their father, H. Hudson Ireland, Jr. Since that purchase, they have seen annual sales more than quadruple and the product mix expand dramatically. In addition to office supplies and furniture, the dealership today also carries computer products, laser and inkjet cartridges, safety products, coffee and breakroom items, janitorial products and ad specialties.

Technology Investment is Key to Your LongTerm Prosperity and Profitability This month marks the third year in a row that we’ve made dealer technology a cover story for our magazine and we do so with no apologies. Putting it simply, if a commitment to aggressive use of technology and continuous improvement in that area isn’t front and center in your business planning, you’re basically gambling with your dealership and its long term future. For that reason alone, we hope you’ll find time to spend more than just a few minutes on this month’s cover story. Each of the dealers featured is using technology to run smarter. They’re increasing the overall bandwidth of their business and, perhaps most importantly, giving their people the tools they need to get the job done right.

“There’s never been a better time to be an independent business in the office products industry than today,” Skip says. “We’re certainly proud of our past and the legacy our grandfather and father have left us with. However, the best times are ahead of us and we are really excited about the next 70 years and the continuing opportunity to serve all of our customers in the Tri-State area.”

No two dealers are doing it the same way of course, but hopefully you will find one or two approaches that might make sense for your own organization.

Indiana Business Publication Honors ‘Best Office Furniture Suppliers’

That’s not going to change any time soon and we all know it. That’s why making an ongoing investment in technology is one of the best things you can do for your dealership to secure its long-term prosperity and profitability.

Congratulations are also in order for three Indiana dealers who recently received kudos from the readers of their local business publication for outstanding service and value. Each year, Northwest Indiana Business Quarterly magazine asks its readers—and the publication reports over 32,000 of them for each issue—to cast their votes for the best business suppliers in the area.

Business today may be better than it was, but it’s still fiercely competitive and margins are under more pressure than ever before.

The commitment to make that happen has to come from the top. And if it’s not there already, now’s the time to do something about it.

Earning first place in the “Best Place to Purchase Office Furniture” continued on page 4

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Dealer News continued from page 3 category were HDW Commercial Interiors, an Allsteel dealer in Schererville, IN, and Herman Miller dealer Kramer & Leonard in Chesterton. These two dealers beat out big box competition from runners-up Office Depot and OfficeMax to win first place. Also a runner up in the category was McShane's Business Products & Solutions in Munster. HDW also earned honors as “Best Office Interior Design Firm,” with Kramer & Leonard and McShane's coming in as runners up.

Pacific Office Interiors, Southern CA Dealer, Earns Local IIDA Chapter Honors for Project Team Excellence

substantially eliminate any meaningful balance sheet contributions,” he reports. “This environment has been a catalyst for renewed passion and creativity around the ways in which we work,” says Free, citing increased investments in cross training his people and a greater emphasis on accountability as key factors in the dealership’s response. “Although it may be some time till we return to our pre-recession sales-per-employee ratio, we see many positive signs for the future and expect to be larger, stronger and smarter through our consistent focus on improvement,” he adds.

Marathon Business Environments, MO Dealer, Turns to Facebook for Joplin Relief Fundraiser It’s just a four-hour drive from Columbia, MO to Joplin, and when Frank Sovitch of Columbia’s Marathon Business Environments saw the devastation caused by last month’s killer tornado, he and his team turned to Facebook to find an innovative way to help. Less than 24 hours after the tornado hit, the Marathon Facebook page was up and running with a special fundraiser that promised a $1 contribution to relief efforts, up to a total of $1,000, for every new “Like” they received. Just 48 hours later, Marathon had not only reached its $1,000 ceiling, but had also enlisted about a dozen other local companies to run similar efforts.

In Agoura Hills, CA, Free Taylor and his team at Pacific Office Interiors (POI) were popping the champagne recently, after winning a prestigious Calibre Award from the Southern California Chapter of the International Interior Design Association (IIDA). POI won the award as members of the project team for a new research center at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine. The $80 million project, two years in the making, was for a five-story, 87,500 sq. ft. facility that houses four state of the art laboratories and ten research teams. “The Calibre Awards recognize project team excellence and we were privileged to be part of a team that included some outstanding architects and designers, engineers and construction specialists,” commented Free. “The project team worked incredibly well together and we are very grateful to all the individuals and organizations who played a part in its success.” Like most dealers, Free and his team have found the past few years challenging, to say the least, but, he says, business is starting to show new signs of life. “We’ve observed a definite uptick in activity and revenue, though pricing pressures have constrained margins enough to JUNE 2011

“We were amazed at the response” commented Frank. “One local family came up with a matching funds offer and we were ‘liked’ by people from as far away as Michigan and Arizona.”

MBI, Memphis Dealer, Hosts Fundraiser for Local Charter School If you’ve been in the office furniture business for any length of time, you won’t need an MBA from Harvard to know that education is one of the industry’s top growth markets. In Memphis, Joan Messmore and her team at Memphis Business Interiors (MBI) found a way last month to make a statement about their commitment to the education market and do some good in the community at the same time through a special fundraiser on behalf of a local charter school. It was held on May 5, but instead of Cinco de Mayo festivities, the event was billed as a Cinco de MBI-O celebration. MBI hosted more than 100 clients, business partners, civic leaders and friends at its showroom and treated them to food, music from a local mariachi band and a lot of fun, including a silent auction to benefit the school.

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Dealer News continued from page 4 In addition to the school featured at last month’s event, MBI also sponsors a nearby public school. The dealership purchases needed materials and supplies and school uniforms for children who attend this school and also participates in awards programs and end of year celebrations. “MBI has always felt very strongly about giving back to the community that supports our business and education is a key area where we can make a difference,” says Joan. “It also gives our own team members the pride that comes from working in an organization that proactively seeks out ways to give back.”

MOI, Knoll Dealer, Co-Hosts Seminar on Bonus Depreciation, Tax Benefits of Green Building Investments When Congress approved legislation allowing accelerated depreciation of capital asset investments and introduced similar

benefits for investments in new, energy efficient equipment, it provided a welcome shot in the arm for the office furniture industry during tough times. But for forward-thinking, proactive dealers, it also offered an opportunity to bring added value to their clients and position themselves as more than just another product source. Case in point: David Noel and his team at MOI. The Knoll dealership is headquartered in Baltimore but operates other locations in Washington, DC and Virginia. Last month, its DC showroom co-hosted with the Clifton Gunderson consulting firm a special breakfast seminar on the tax law provisions and their implications for commercial property owners. MOI had initially brought in tax experts from Clifton Gunderson to educate their own people on the new tax provisions and the session went so well, reports MOI VP of business development and marketing

Joanna Hoffschneider, that offering it to the dealership’s clients and prospects was a logical next step. The session drew about 30 attendees from some of the top commercial real estate brokers, A&D firms and project managers in the DC market. “It’s still too early to say the seminar generated any new business directly,” says Joanna, “but it certainly reinforced with our clients and prospects the need, particularly this year, to be making furniture decisions earlier in the project cycle. The bonus depreciation provisions only apply to furniture put in service by December 31 and after that, it’s too late!” The seminar also sent a strong message to attendees about the value MOI brings to its clients. “Providing this kind of education represents a new way for us to offer an extra level of knowledge and expertcontinued on page 6

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Dealer News continued from page 5 ise,” explains Joanna. “It certainly strengthens our credibility as workplace experts and sets us apart from other dealers in our market.” Response has been so positive, she says, that the dealership will be co-hosted a similar presentation later this month in Baltimore.

Business Furniture, Indianapolis Dealer, Expanding into Illinois

Indianapolis-based Business Furniture, a Steelcase dealer that has served the Indiana market since 1922, announced earlier this month it is expanding into central and upstate Illinois. New markets the dealership will cover include Bloomington-Normal, Springfield, Champaign-Urbana and Peoria, IL, as well as the Quad Cities area. Bloomington will serve as its Illinois base of operations, with additional locations planned in the Quad Cities later in 2011, and Springfield and Champaign-Urbana in 2012, the dealership said. “We plan to leverage our expertise and infrastructure to deliver the most comprehensive offering of contract furniture and services available in central and upstate Illinois,” said David Bratton, CEO of Business Furniture. “There are many similarities between the Indiana markets that we currently serve and our new Illinois markets. We look forward to sharing our story in these new locations.” Business Furniture expects to open its Bloomington-Normal facility in September and hire additional employees in support of all markets between now and August.

New Owner for Colorado's Workplace Resource

Denver-based Workplace Resource, one of Colorado’s largest commercial office furniture and related services dealerships, has a new owner. The company has been purchased from Herman Miller by its president, Carla Dore. This transition to independent ownership was endorsed and facilitated by the Herman Miller executive leadership team over the past seven years. The company will continue doing business as Workplace Resource and will continue to be recognized as a Herman Miller Certified Dealer. In addition, it will now qualify as a Women Business Enterprise (WBE). The dealership said that based on gross revenues, it projects to be in the top ten women-owned businesses in the state. “As a woman-owned business, we can significantly enhance our value to our client base—whether they operate in government or the corporate sector,” Carla said. The move to independent ownership also will enable Workplace Resource to enhance its presence and impact in the communities it serves. “We intend to continue, and grow, our commitment to environmental stewardship, giving to the community, inclusiveness and diversity,” Carla said.

U.S. Navy Awards Blanket Purchase Agreement to National Business Furniture The U.S. Department of the Navy has awarded a five-year Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA) to National Business Furniture (NBF), effective June 1, 2011.

big win for both NBF and for the Department of the Navy,” stated Jake Feeley, director of government sales at NBF. NBF's BPA award includes all six office furniture classifications that were solicited. Five of the awarded classifications may be utilized by all domestic and international Navy and USMC buyers, while the sixth is limited to the Navy's eastern region.

Office Basics Acquires BF Molz Boothwyn, PA-based Office Basics earlier this month announced the acquisition of BF Molz in Moorestown, NJ. The acquisition doubles the size of the staff at the dealership and enables Office Basics to consolidate operational functions, resulting in more resources and better costs to customers, the company said. Office Basics said the acquisition makes it the fifth largest independent office supply dealer in the country and will allow it to offer contract furniture and value-added solutions, all at competitive prices. The newly acquired dealership’s name has changed slightly to BF Molz Business Interiors, a Division of Office Basics. “We are very excited to be a part of this great company, and believe the efforts of our combined teams will bring added value and greater opportunity to our customers and business partners,” wrote Dean Molz, president, and Donna Walsh, vice president of BF Molz, in a letter to customers. “We are, of course, delighted to be joining forces with a company that is as established and respected as BF Molz,” said Office Basics president John Leighton. The acquisition of the New Jersey office will help continue to expand Office Basics and its geographic reach, which already includes Lancaster and Bethlehem, PA, the company said.

“The BPA provides all Navy and Marine Corps activities, domestic and international, with additional discounting. It's a JUNE 2011

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BIFMA Releases April Market Numbers, Adjusts Full Year Forecast The Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association (BIFMA) released its market statistics for April earlier this month and while the year-over-year increases in orders and shipments were down from March gains, the numbers still depicted an industry moving very much in the right direction. BIFMA said April orders increased 20% yearover-year, while shipments were up 21%. While the 20% order gain was less than the 25% increase posted in March, analyst Budd Bugatch of the Raymond James investment house pointed out that the April prior-year comparison was significantly more difficult (a 12% increase compared with +5% in March 2010). Similarly, the April shipments 21% gain represented a modest deceleration from March’s 25% increase in shipments, but again, the prior year comparison for April shipments was tougher than the March comp. With the April estimates, the office furniture industry has now experienced year-over-year order growth for 14 consecutive months (following 19 months of year-over-year order declines from August 2008 to February 2010), Bugatch noted. April also marked the 12th consecutive month of year-overyear shipment growth for the industry, he added. “Given the barrage of recent news about an impending economic slowdown, the April BIFMA statistics were a welcome development,” commented Bugatch, who said he had been “braced for a bigger order slowdown due to tougher year-overyear and sequential comparisons” and was also concerned about the generally weaker than expected macroeconomic data that has been released recently.

New Addition to Solomon Coyle Dealer Development Consulting Team Nationally known management consultant, author and speaker James M. Bleech has joined SolomonCoyle, LLC as an executive development consultant. The SolomonCoyle consulting team, led by David Solomon, specializes in helping JUNE 2011

“While we will be ‘watching the skies’ closely in the coming weeks and months, for now at least, we believe the current economic slow patch represents a bump in the road, not the end of the road or a cliff,” Bugatch said. And while he recognized declining home prices and high gasoline prices continue to pressure consumers, Bugatch said he expects business spending to be a bright spot with the office furniture market likely to benefit from pent up demand and continued office space churn as companies reduce their footprint or try to make more effective use of existing space. However, while arguing the office furniture industry is now in a multi-year expansion cycle, Bugatch predicted yearover-year growth rates will moderate in the months ahead in the face of more difficult prior year comparisons. Separately, BIFMA updated its long-term industry forecast, predicting office furniture consumption will increase 15.8% in 2011 and 10.5% in 2012. Previously, BIFMA had called for a 16.6% gain in 2011 and a 9.6% gain in 2012. Due primarily to a decreased estimate for net imports, BIFMA increased its forecast for U.S. manufacturers’ shipment growth from +14.0% to +17.5% in 2011. BIFMA now expects 2011 orders to increase 14.5% versus +9.1% previously. For 2012, BIFMA increased its order and shipment forecast to +9.5% and +9.7%, respectively, compared with the prior estimates of +8.3% and +8.4%, Bugatch reported.

office furniture dealers achieve significant improvements in efficiency, performance and profitability. A Certified Professional Consultant to Management, Bleech specializes in issues of corporate culture and strategic thinking. He has more than 30 years of experience in private industry as a CEO and extensive consulting experience. OFDEALER

As part of SolomonCoyle's consulting team, Bleech will focus on strategic planning, senior management development, mergers and acquisitions consulting, and succession planning. In addition, he is leading the new SolomonCoyle Executive Coaching, Mentoring and Strategy Execution Program. This program continued on page 9

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Industry News continued from page 8 provides office furniture dealer CEOs with an experienced high-level resource outside of the company to serve as a trusted advisor and leadership coach. “Jim Bleech is a tremendous new resource for our clients and we are excited to welcome him to the SolomonCoyle team. After serving as a CEO for most of his career, Jim not only has great empathy for the issues that dealer senior executives' face on a day-to-day basis, but also the ability to make practical recommendations that can help them set priorities and achieve their goals,” said David Solomon of SolomonCoyle.

United Stationers Announces GREENGUARD Certification for Alera Furniture Line, Enhancements to Visual Planner Sales Tool Wholesaler United Stationers announced last month its entire Alera Furniture line has been GREEENGUARD

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Certified for Indoor Air Quality. The certification identifies goods with low chemical and particle emissions for use indoors, including furniture, interior furnishings, building products, cleaning products, electronic equipment and personal care products. The Alera Furniture portfolio offers more than 20 product lines with styles ranging from traditional to contemporary. It comprises more than 600 SKUs and includes office suites, desk chairs, conference and training tables, bookcases, storage cabinets, pedestal desks, reception furniture and wire furniture and shelving. All Alera products are in stock for immediate delivery, are backed by a five-year warranty and meet ANSI (American National Standards Institute) and BIFMA (Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer’s Association) standards. Separately, United announced another continued on page 10

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One of the most recent offerings in the Alera line, the Alera Neratoli high back swivel tilt chair features soft-touch leather upholstery, chrome accents, contemporary cushioned seating and a waterfall seat for enhanced user circulation and comfort.

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Industry News continued from page 9 enhancement of its furniture program with the addition of new automation functionality to its Visual Planner sales tool. This new turnkey enhancement will extend the tool’s usefulness beyond layout functionality and allow dealers to leverage Visual Planner as a furniture sales productivity tool to accelerate the quote process and ultimately win more business, the company said. “This new feature broadens the usefulness of Visual Planner,” said Melinda Myers, director of marketing for United Stationers Furniture Division. “The time-saving benefit of receiving quotes back from United even faster is not only useful for sales reps interested in presenting their quotes to customers more quickly but also for purchasing agents within the dealership.”

These specially-designed podiums are manufactured in the signature pink color of the breast cancer awareness movement. The donation is an extension of AmpliVox’s Pink Podium Promise, which has distributed nearly 100 podiums to breast cancer organizations since its inception in 2010. In the Pink Podium Promise Program, any Komen Affiliate can receive a pink podium free of charge for use at their Komen Race for the Cure, fundraisers, meetings or other events. The pink podiums are made of heavy-duty plastic, making them suitable for indoor and outdoor use.

AmpliVox Sound Systems has announced it will provide pink podiums to Susan G. Komen for the Cure Affiliates for use at their breast cancer awareness fundraising and educational events. JUNE 2011

Groupe Lacasse and its New York City representative, Pringle-Ward Associates, last month hosted over 200 guests at an all-day event to launch the re-design of their joint showroom in the New York Design Center. The expanded display highlights Groupe Lacasse’s C.I.T.É desking product and its Nvision systems line.

Master Manufacturing Co has introduced three new ReStor-It Quick 20 Repair Kits to join its Furniture Touch Up Kit. The company said each kit allows easy repair of moderate furniture and seating damage in 20 minutes. Each compound applies simply and dries in only 20 minutes without the need for heat, with the addition of a convenient activator, the company said.

Manufacturer AIS has announced a 42% sales increase for its 2011 fiscal year, compared to the previous year. The company reported 2011 sales of over $93 million.

‘Pink Podiums’ from AmpliVox Sound Systems Help Raise Breast Cancer Awareness

Groupe Lacasse Expands in New York

Master Manufacturing Introduces ReStore-It-Quick Office Furniture Repair Kits

AIS Reports 42 Percent Sales Increase for 2011

“AIS moves fast,” said AIS CEO Bruce Platzman. “We saw the market changing. We knew that in order to compete we had to deliver products and programs that helped increase dealer profitability and allowed them to offer end-users tangible value. We are very optimistic about the future. The dust has settled from this economic downturn and we couldn’t be more excited to show what AIS has in store.”

from the company’s current location in Compton.

To match popular colors and grains, each kit comes with seven intermixable colors, a color mixing guide, mixing cups, an applicator, and easy-to-follow directions.

New Facility for 9to5 Seating in Southern California Manufacturer 9to5 Seating will be moving this month to a new 100,000 sq. ft. facility in Hawthorne, CA. The building will house corporate offices, a product showroom, manufacturing and warehousing. Design of the building and grounds incorporates features for improved energy efficiency and environmental sustainability and 9to5 Seating said it will pursue LEED Gold Certification for the facility.

For more information, visit: www.mastermfgco.com/restorit.html.

Got News? E-mail Alicia.

The new location in Hawthorne's Century Business Center is approximately 13 miles OFDEALER

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OFDA Announces Manufacturer of the Year Award Winners OFDA presented its prestigious Aligned and Non-Aligned Manufacturer of the Year Awards at the NeoCon World’s Trade Fair in Chicago earlier this month.

nually recognizes those manufacturers that deliver the most consistent and effective overall support to dealers in all of those areas.

The Dealer Choice Awards program recognizes leading manufacturers with a threelevel “Manufacturer of the Year” award, applying Gold, Silver, and Bronze distinctions. The awards are based on a carefully structured, anonymous dealer poll – the OFDA Dealer Manufacturer Satisfaction Index (DMSI) Survey – which is sent out every spring. Its purpose is to improve dealer-manufacturer relations by measuring six functional areas of manufacturer performance that are of greatest importance to a diverse cross-section of dealers throughout North America. The award program an-

The 2011 winners among Non-Aligned Manufacturers are: Gold: AIS Silver: Global – The Total Office Bronze: The HON Company This year’s award winners in the Aligned Manufacturer category are: Gold: Herman Miller Silver: Allsteel Bronze: Steelcase’ “OFDA and office furniture dealers throughout the country are honored to

The winner of the Aligned Manufacturer of the Year is Herman Miller.

As winners of OFDA’s most sought-afteraward this year, Herman Miller, AIS, Global – The Total Office, Allsteel, Steelcase and The HON Company have demonstrated their ongoing commitment to deliver high quality products and management support to dealers who sell their products."

AIS receives the Gold for Non-Aligned Manufacturer of the Year.

OFDA Launches Special ‘Dealer Boot Camp’ Training Program for New Sales Reps

Special workshop rates have been established to ensure high value for members’ investment in this program.

On July 28-29, OFDA will host a new “Dealer Boot Camp” training workshop at the Chicago O’Hare Hilton for OFDA dealer members to help them effectively train new high-potential sales representatives. Attendance will be limited to 15 participants and registrations will be accepted on a first-come/first-confirmed basis.

The two-day workshop will run from 8:30 AM on July 28 through 3:30 PM on July 29 at the Hilton O’Hare, accessible directly from the airport terminals. The workshop will be presented by Debbie Junge and Brenda Brodt of Junge + Associates, both of whom are highly respected office furniture dealer consultants with extensive

JUNE 2011

have these winning manufacturers as strong supporters of our industry,” stated Frank Gutwein, OFDA chair and president of Widmer Interiors, based in Peoria, IL. “These past few years have been among the most challenging for the dealer community in recent memory and these manufacturers have earned special recognition through their unwavering support.

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sales and operations consulting and interactive training experience. Junge + Associates has a strong track record in working with dealerships of all sizes and using various business models to help them improve sales and other key business processes. The program is expressly designed to fill in the significant gap between productrelated training offered to dealers by their continued on page 12

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OFDA News continued from page 11 primary industry manufacturers, and training that dealerships provide to new employees regarding their specific business strategies, goals, processes and policies. In this workshop, Debbie and Brenda will accelerate learning of the industry’s collective “tribal knowledge”—practical information on the “who, what, where, how and why” of the complex sales process— which new sales people new to our industry typically acquire piece-meal by trial and error. This special OFDA workshop will provide a well-structured, interactive format ideal for adult learning and a comprehensive binder that contains in-depth training information to which each participant can refer during and after the session. This approach will reinforce the learning that takes place during the workshop and help ensure its regular use when the participant returns to the dealership. For further information on this exciting new program, visit OFDA's bootcamp website.

The panel discussion will highlight recent case studies and new projects reflecting initiatives of major corporations and federal government agencies to restructure their workplace environments to attract and retain top talent, maximize the flexibility and efficiency of their office real estate footprint, and fully embrace new patterns of workforce mobility, collaboration, technology use and other emerging workplace behaviors. Register today to ensure your place at OFDA’s 2011 conference at the J.W. Marriott Starr Pass, September 25-27.

Remembering an Industry Icon Friends and colleagues of industry consultant Barry Coyle, who passed away this past November after a long battle with cancer, joined co-hosts David Solomon of SolomonCoyle and Mark Vignoles of Service West the day before the NeoCon show in Chicago to recognize Barry's many contributions to our industry, celebrate his life and work and to raise funds to establish the Barry E. Coyle Memorial Scholarship through OFDA. A partner at Solomon Coyle, Barry consulted with more than 125 dealerships, installation companies and furniture manufacturers in the United States, Canada and Mexico. He was generous with his time and talents and deeply committed to his clients’ success.

OFDA Conference to Feature General Session on “Emerging Workplace Trends”

Barry’s many contributions to the success of dealers and other small businesses in our industry were evident in the strong attendance at this special reception to honor his memory. Including contributions made during NeoCon, OFDA is pleased to report that we are two-thirds of the way toward reaching our goal of raising $25,000 to create and sustain a new OFDA scholarship in Barry’s name to recognize his life-long commitment to developing and sharing industry best practices. For more information or to make a donation, visit: http://www.ofdanet.org/Barry-E-Coyle-Memorial-Scholarship-Fund OFDA’s September 25-27 Dealer Strategies Conference program in Tucson, AZ will feature four general session programs, including a post-luncheon session on “Emerging Workplace Trends and Major Customer Needs – The Future is Now!” This is another major highlight of the comprehensive, two-day OFDA educational and networking program aimed expressly at dealers and their key business partners. Mary Lee Duff, Assoc. AI, Principal, IA Interior Architects, will moderate this session, which will feature three knowledgeable, Californiabased panelists who work with national and international customers to create cutting-edge workspaces. Panelists include: • Kevin Kelly, Senior Architect, Center for Workspace Delivery, General Services Administration • Jan Penagos, LEED AP, Senior Strategic Planner, Intuit • Garth German, Change Management Consultant, Expressworks.

JUNE 2011

As David Solomon looks on, Mark Vignoles of Service West remembers friend, colleague and industry icon Barry Coyle at a fundraiser for the Barry E. Coyle Memorial Scholarship.

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Finding the Technology

to Drive a Dealership

By Scott Cullen

As many office furniture dealers have discovered, the right software can enhance productivity, streamline processes and have a strong positive impact on the bottom line. But while a wealth of programs are available, no two dealers are alike and some software offers a better fit for a specific dealership and its needs than others. Let’s look at some of those programs and how they’ve benefitted office furniture dealers. continued on page 14

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Cover continued from page 13 Visualization and Design Programs  20-20

Technologies’ 20-20 Visual Impression

www.20-20technologies.com

Software Synopsis: 20-20 Visual Impression is designed to serve the 3D color visualization needs of the office furniture industry. The software uses manufacturers’ 3D shapes as well as finishes, fabrics, and laminates so the client can see what the product will look like in their office and explore how different fabrics and finishes will affect the appearance of their environment.

In action: “It’s intuitive, quick, and effectively shows our clients their furniture finishes,” explains Liz Plant, furniture project manager for Creative Business Interiors in Milwaukee and Madison, WI. “Nowadays clients want to see what they’re getting before they buy it and this is a valuable tool.” Plant is particularly pleased with the program’s ease of use. Three of Creative Business Interiors’ designers are currently using the program and they’re looking to get their sales force up to speed on it as well. “We all took a training course but really didn’t need it because we were able to sit down and use it right away,” notes Plant.

signed for the office furniture sales team. It encompasses more than 1,200 standard office products, which are accessible by style or product type and also includes a comprehensive system furniture and panel components library. Because the program is Web-based, users can access their account from any location. Sales reps can print 2D/3D drawings or save them as PDFs for emailing. The system can be customized with a dealership’s contact information and logo for branding. It can even be added to the dealership’s Website for lead generation.

In action: Tops Ltd. is a full service dealership in Bermuda that sells office furniture, equipment, and supplies. They started using Visual Planner about three years ago after finding the CAD system provided by their furniture manufacturer difficult to use and too high end for their customers’ needs. Speed is of the essence when it comes to satisfying customers and that’s what Tops gets with Animated Vision, says Jim Ferguson, Tops’ president. “We can get a phone call, do a measurement, and have a drawing back to the customer within 24 hours.” Ferguson likes the ability to reconfigure the space, move desks around, and send those changes back to the customer exactly the way they want with prices.

She also is impressed by the quality of the renderings and the ability to add accessories as well as computers on work surfaces and books on shelves.

“We can use fabrics, take them to the customer, lay them down in front of them, show them the drawings, so it’s a nice touch and feel operation. It allows us a real quick turnaround whereas before we drew it by hand and then had to come back and make changes.”

It’s also eliminated a lot of issues that might come up at the end of a project when clients would say, ‘I didn’t realize I was getting this.’

Asked how easy the system was to learn, Ferguson replies, “Simple, it’s very easy.”

The most dramatic change in the two months since Creative started using 20-20 is its versatility because now they can render any project, any time and Plant no longer needs to outsource this work. “Before we were only able to render our bigger projects,” observes Plant. “Now we can render onesies and twosies.” 

Universal Office Visual Planner from Animated Vision

www.animatedvision.com

Software Synopsis: Universal Office Visual Planner is a Webbased application for an office furniture dealer’s sales, marketing and customer service efforts. The program offers many of the same features of the original Visual Planner, but is specifically deJUNE 2011

 CHI-LLC

Z-Axis

www.chi-llc.com

Software Synopsis: CHI-LLC (Computer Human Interaction, LLC) Z-Axis 3D configuration and visualization software is designed to create photorealistic renderings of designs. Users can choose from a variety of settings and output size specifications to render a design with realistic lighting, subtle shadows and detailed fabrics and finishes. Users can also select from the smallest output (e-mail 240 x 320 pixels) to the largest (16" x 20" 3840 x 4800 pixels). Design renderings can be e-mailed to clients, or users can generate postersized renderings for presentations and demonstrations. In action: BiNW (Business Interiors Northwest) of Washington and Alaska has been using Z-Axis for going on 10 years and has seen

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Cover continued from page 14 it morph from a specification tool into a visual software program that allows not only BiNW’s designers and space planners to use the tool but also their sales people. “It provides us with fast and accurate specifications and its rendering capabilities have made it more impactful in our proposal process,” says Sean O’Brien, president. “Working in and out of an AutoCAD environment is seamless, and from a dealer principal standpoint, it does not allow you to specify the product incorrectly, which is a huge benefit in terms of protecting the integrity of the furniture specification.” Adding Z-Axis has also been helpful for growing the business, particularly when servicing certain verticals, such as the federal government. “Some projects require that we have things, once awarded, completely specified, designed, ordered and installed within four weeks and this is the only software that allows us to do that,” states O’Brien. “We’ve secured large government projects because of this tool.”  Configura

ficient with the output they’re creating and in turn tie it back into the business system so we could ultimately process orders,” states Heather Lanier, vice president of corporate resources at NBS. What stands out for Lanier and NBS’s designers is the program’s visualization output. “Designers live in the world of plan view and isometrics and elevations, but our customers don’t do this day in and day out,” explains Lanier. “With CET Designer we’re able to help our customers understand what we see in a 2D format and present something to them in a 3D application that really allows them to get a sense of what they’re purchasing. This has really helped us shorten the process because they’ve come to a quicker understanding.” Simply put, NBS’s designers are more efficient than ever before thanks to CET Designer, particularly on large-scale projects that involve multiple duplications of workstations and layouts. The program has also changed the way designers interact with customers. “It’s put us more in an elbow-to-elbow approach so customers can sit alongside a designer as changes are being made very quickly and intuitively, versus the old way where we would take a drawing out, get their response, come back and make changes,” says Lanier. “The new way is more engaging and the customer enjoys being part of the process.”

CET Designer

 ICE

www.configura.com

Edge Business Solutions’ ICE

www.ice-edge.com

Software Synopsis: After manufacturers’ products are loaded into

Software Synopsis: ICE merges video game technology with de-

CET Designer extensions, users can drag and drop products into 2D and 3D space, building an office as they go. The software allows users to place, stretch and replicate panels and apply materials as well as finishes, electrical components, work surfaces, and storage. Chairs and accessories can also be added and then rendered to produce photorealistic images of the space. Parts and prices are automatically calculated by the software and an accurate bill generated, which can then be presented to the client.

sign. The interactive, real-time 3D platform supports design, specification and manufacturing. It seamlessly integrates with other software, including AutoCAD, thereby protecting and improving legacy technology investments. During the design phase, the software automatically creates and validates interactive 3D experiences, while updating a comprehensive parts lists, elevations and price quotes.

In action: NBS, a Steelcase dealer with offices in Detroit and other locations in Michigan and Ohio, has been using Configura’s CET Designer software with the Steelcase SmartTools Extension for nearly three years. “Our primary manufacturer, Steelcase, got behind the tool and has really taken an interest in ensuring that the software supports the products they’re bringing to market. It allows the dealer to be more effective and ef-

In action: Agile OFIS (Office Furniture Interiors Solutions) in Houston began using ICE in 2005 for specifying the DIRRT product they were selling. Since then they’ve seen its applications broaden beyond just the specification process. “It’s become more of a sales tool than a specification tool,” says Brian Crawmer, principal. continued on page 16

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Cover continued from page 15 “The thing I love about it is, it’s smart,” says Crawmer. “It automatically fills in the connection details based on the design intent, so it takes human error out of the equation.” It has also brought increased speed, simplicity and accuracy. “Speed is a big deal for furniture when you have to go back and audit,” explains Crawmer. “There’s no real audit process with ICE because it’s all visual. If there’s a fabric that should be red and shows up on your report as brown, you automatically see visually that something’s wrong.” Everyone at Agile uses the program to some extent from sales people, designers and project managers. The bottom line is that it’s helped the company win business. “ICE differentiates us from our competition,” concludes Crawmer. And that’s a big deal for a company looking to land big deals.  ProjectMatrix www.projectmatrix.com

Software Synopsis: ProjectMatrix offers solutions for contract furniture CAD design and electronic specification. The company’s ProjectMatrix site license can reportedly save a dealer thousands of dollars a year in software costs. The software’s Universal Data creates a single AutoCAD library to use in all ProjectMatrix design tools. The data works with multiple applications such as ProjectWorkspace, CET Designer and Google SketchUp.

In Action: Workplace Solutions in Dallas switched to ProjectMatrix two years ago and they haven’t looked back since. Vice president of operations Joe Cunningham and other ProjectMatrix users at Workplace Solutions say they enjoy its simplicity and the vendor’s willingness to enhance the program based on user feedback. “The Panel Builder is real simple and easy to work with,” he says. “And they’re very good about taking our suggestions and fixing or adding something to the software.” Adds Cunningham, “We’re not a very big company but we do a fair amount of sales and it allows us to turn projects around quickly and get it to the customer before anybody else does.”

Business & Marketing Programs  Channel

Dynamix’s Matrix for Business 3.0

www.channeldynamix.com

Software Synopsis: Matrix for Business (MxB) 3.0 is a Web-based program that provides business intelligence, reporting, and analytics and can run on top of a furniture dealer’s existing business system. The program consolidates critical information and makes it accessible in real-time for anyone in an organization. Managers can forecast, fact check, and track using realtime data while executives can review performance across all departments.

In action: Five years ago Creative Office Environments in Ashland, VA, was searching for an easier way to do job costing. “We were looking to generate reports that would help us determine the overall gross profit on a project and it was very difficult doing it with Hedberg,” recalls Martha Goodman, vice president of quality assurance for Creative Office Environments. The solution to their problem was software from Channel Dynamix, which also included a new tool—Matrix for Business. The program is used by all the sales leaders at Creative Office Environments as well as the company’s management team. It’s particularly useful for special requests or whenever there’s a special reporting need. “You can build a report fairly quickly and don’t have to have Crystal Reports parsing your information in order to create something very simple to give you the data you need,” says Goodman. “It’s easy to use and you’re able to select exactly what you want to and export it to an Excel spreadsheet very quickly, and then you can use Excel to manipulate the data.” She also likes the fact that when she does a quote in Hedberg, it updates Matrix for Business immediately. “It’s not like I have to wait until the next day to be able to pull the data,” says Goodman. “I can get reports as I’m entering quotes and orders into the system.” For demanding customers, Matrix for Business has become Creative Office Environments’ go-to program. When a customer wants to know how many chairs they purchased in the year 2000, for example, Goodman can find the answer through Matrix for Business. “It’s a life saver,” she says.

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Cover continued from page 16  Dealer

Choice

www.dealer-choice.com

Software Synopsis: Dealer Choice software is a Web-based program designed for the contract furniture industry that allows users to access project information from any location. The program guides users intuitively through the proposal process, facilitates inter-departmental communications and links all project information to a proposal. An integrated fax and e-mail terminal allows users to place orders and send documents from within the program. It automates customer and vendor discounting; proofreads each proposal; generates customizable reports; stores key charts, drawings, photographs and any other documents pertaining to a proposal in a file vault and features an accounting system that builds and maintains information in real time without the need for posting.

In action: Atlantic Corporate Interiors in Beltsville, MD, holds the distinction of being the industry’s first Dealer Choice user, which is only natural since it was developed by one of their in-house employees with an IT background. After creating that software, the employee left Atlantic to form his own software company and the rest is history. For David Todd, Atlantic’s CFO, the speed of Dealer Choice is a

big plus. “With our previous system, there were some reports that I literally would set to run before I went to lunch and hope they’d be finished by the time I got back,” he recalls. “With Dealer Choice, those very same reports will run in a matter of seconds.” The program is also a lot more user-friendly, Todd contends. If there’s any limitation in the program, Todd sees it on the accounting side, which is only natural since he’s Atlantic’s CFO and notices those kinds of things. However, he’s been able to work around those limitations and expects to see this aspect of the program improve over time. “From an operations standpoint I don’t think there are any deficiencies,” adds Todd. “What’s nice about the program is because it did start from scratch, we and other users have made suggestions that the developers have incorporated into their updates.”  ECI’s

TeamDesign

http://team-design.net

Software Synopsis: TeamDesign enables electronic ordering, e-mail notifications, Internet shopping applications, project management, accounting and Internet customer communications. TeamDesign Version 14 is the latest release of the program and will be rolled out in two phases. The first phase will include new continued on page 18

Will your Dealership be the First Recipien en RI2)'$¶V'HDOHUVKLS$FKLHYHPHQW$ZDUG OFDA is looking fo or an exceptional offfice f interiors dealership for o its first-ev ever Dealership Achievement Award. This prestigious new annual award will honor a dealership with a distinguished record of engagement with and contr t butions to the success of OFDA, our industry as a whole, and their own local communities. For details, click here or call 800.542.6672. Deadline for Entries is July 31, 2011. JUNE 2011

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Cover continued from page 17 reporting capabilities, data dictionary, the ability to enter payables for all vendors on one screen, an option to use standard or average cost for bill of materials components, global PSN, an enhanced proposal change function that allows the salesperson’s percentage to be automatically updated when a different salesperson is assigned to a proposal, automated client software installation and increase sales tax code field length.

In Action: Intereum in Plymouth, Minnesota has been using TeamDesign since 1994. At that time the company was transitioning from a mainframe to a PC and an outside consultant examined the various systems available and ultimately settled on TeamDesign. Fast forward to 2011 and Intereum is still using TeamDesign. The difference, however, are the changes that have come about after ECI acquired TeamDesign in 2006. “Since ECI became involved they’ve really focused on improving their product,” says Mark Lorensen, network administrator with Intereum. “They regularly release updates with improvements and take suggestions from users for improving the program.” Speaking of improvements, Intereum developed a Web reporting package using TeamDesign data in collaboration with CIT (Computer Integrated Technologies), which has led to a business relationship with CIT and TeamDesign. “We just released that and are doing Web demonstrations now,” notes Lorensen. “After seeing the value in this capability, TeamDesign decided to become a partner with us and we’re now selling that to other TeamDesign users.” On the update front, Lorensen identifies some that have been particularly helpful. “The biggest for us is integration with Herman Miller, our primary vendor,” he explains. “It allows us to submit orders to TeamDesign, so the two databases are talking together without the need for us to export out of TeamDesign to the Herman Miller side and import that order. Now it’s all done electronically. We also have automatic acknowledgement, so with the click of a button our acknowledgements are pulled in whereas before we had to be on three or four different screens in two different systems. It’s been a huge time saver for us internally and that’s had the biggest impact on the way we do business.”  IQ

Group

www.theiqgroup.com

Software Synopsis: IQ is a Web-based program designed to help office furniture dealers manage their professional services. A range of packages are available to manage specific areas of a dealer’s business, including inhouse design, estimation, project management, installation, and outsourcing.

In Action: It was love at first sight when David Wells, vice president of IT strategies with McCoy Workplace Solutions, was introduced to IQ at a meeting of industry peers a year and a half ago. Wells has a background in software development so he knows a good thing when he sees it. McCoy Workplace Solutions has been using the program for about a year, primarily for labor estimation. “The one thing we really needed was the ability to track the labor from when the furniture comes in, mapping all our costs, and then tracking the actual labor for the build at the client site, including travel time,” explains Wells. McCoy has 12-15 project managers and they all do things a little differently, which isn’t always the most efficient way, particularly when it comes to estimating labor costs. “As we began using the program we found the software was incredibly flexible and we had the ability to change it in terms of how we function,” notes Wells. “IQ was very open and willing to assist us in making those changes, providing the education and whatever guidance we needed.”  Khameleon

Version 7.0

www.khameleonsoftware.com

Software Synopsis: Khameleon Version 7.0 is a Web-based system that manages daily dealer operations, automates accurate costing, and also provides revenue recognition and flexible billing of products and services. The system is deployable across multiple sites and remote locations, and is accessible by anyone with Internet access and the proper permissions.

In action: FLUID Interiors in Minneapolis has been using the system for about 2-1/2 years. CFO Steve Schmalz says some of his favorite things about the system are some of its simplest features, particularly in the order entry area. “Reports today are also extremely fast versus the hours we had to wait on our old system and that’s meant major productivity gains,” beams Shmalz. Khameleon has also made a difference with FLUID’s customers. “When we invoice a customer, it’s all done automatically, so you don’t have to touch it,” explains Schmalz. “In the old system you could create a PDF, but it was a manual process and there was a chance you could grab the wrong invoice and send it to the wrong person.” Khameleon is also effective for dealing with RFPs from large customers and prospects. “Occasionally they have a question as to what accounting system we use, and when I say Oracle versus a non-branded system, I get instant credibility,” Shmalz notes. Another benefit is integration with Exactor, a sales tax system. continued on page 19

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Cover continued from page 18 “This is a big plus when dealing with national customers across the United States where every sales tax code is different and it’s helpful for a small company to have a tax service that integrates with your accounting system. We went from the three to four days it took before to doing everything in less than an hour.”  RPC’s

Softwares CORE Business System

www.rpcsoftware.com

Software Synopsis: The CORE Business System is an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution that integrates an organization’s business processes into a single software application. The program was designed for small and medium-sized businesses that need to centralize functions into a single, easy to use, and affordable system. Because the CORE software was developed in widely supported and popular programming languages and open source products, it easily adapts to the user and allows RPC to create feature-rich, scalable solutions that cost a fraction of other proprietary products. In action: Goodmans Interior Structures in Phoenix has been using RPC’s CORE Business System and all of its various modules for a little more than a year as their enterprise business system for quoting, order entry, all the way through delivery of work orders, and invoicing as well as accounting. They also use CORE’s new inventory management module, which is designed for larger furniture dealers. Virtually everyone in the company uses the system, reports Doug Klein, CFO, and so far, so very good. “It’s a contemporary system, built on a Java platform,” explains Klein. “The technology is extremely up to date and it was an easy system for us to support internally. From a user interface point of view, all the typical things people were used to in a Windows or Mac JUNE 2011

environment were there so they didn’t have to re-learn a lot about how to navigate around the system. It was intuitive to them.” The biggest change at Goodmans since implementing CORE is that there are fewer system support requirements. “With CORE we have one system with one database, and we train everybody on that one system so our employees have access to information in real time. They have information at their fingertips whereas before they would have to look for it in various places.” CORE has also had a positive effect on Goodmans’ customers. “Our customers like it because we’re able to do some really cool things with CORE such as group together line items in more common descriptions,” explains Klein. “Instead of having 20 different lines for a pod of workstations or a private office we could now put a quote together with a drawing of that area. And when the customer gives us those purchase orders, CORE allows our invoices to look exactly like their purchase orders.”  StructuredWeb www.structuredweb.com

Software Synopsis: StructuredWeb provides a suite of Web-based sales and marketing automation solutions, which are delivered on an on-demand basis. The suite of solutions encompass Website content management, online product catalogs, ecommerce, CRM, sales enablement, search engine marketing, e-mail, advertising, demand generation and direct marketing programs.

In action: It’s been nearly eight years since Pioneer Workspace Solutions in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, discovered StructuredWeb, thanks in large part to a recommendation from one of their primary furniture suppliers. “We knew we had to update our site,” recalls John Wasta, COO. “It was in its second generation and we were struggling with paying the same amount we OFDEALER

paid before to update it.” StructuredWeb gave Pioneer more bang for their buck. Although StructuredWeb’s CRM capabilities appealed to Wasta, what sold his partner and brother was the ability to integrate furniture catalogs with Pioneer’s Website. “Our incentive programs are also totally based around using StructuredWeb,” explains Wasta. “In order for our salespeople to get credit for the calls they make, they have to go into StructuredWeb and input the key information—who they talked to, what they talked about and if they’re supposed to get back [to the prospect]. It tracks all of our furniture opportunities. Now we have six years of information on all of our clients and none of it goes out the door if a salesperson leaves.” Pioneer now has more than 5,000 contacts in the system. The program has met all of Wasta’s expectations and is limited only by how much Pioneer wants to do with it. For now, Wasta remains pleased by the program’s CRM capabilities and the fact that the catalogs are kept up to date. “There’s a lot more we can do if we wanted to,” he concedes. “We did a promotion one year where StructuredWeb created a campaign for us that worked really well. The challenge is we have trouble dedicating the time it takes to put those programs together. You still need to come up with the ideas.” No doubt that StructuredWeb has made a huge difference at Pioneer and Wasta couldn’t imagine switching. “The catalog is the piece that got us there, CRM is the piece that keeps us there,” says Wasta. Scott Cullen has been writing about the office furniture, office products, and office technology industries since 1986.

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projectprofile

BrainstoBrawn: Stiles Office Solutions Has Southern Illinois University Covered By Alicia Ellis When Southern Illinois University (SIU), Carbondale, needed furnishings for a new athletic center and renovated library, they wanted products that would blend well between private offices, reception areas, student workstations and formal and casual meeting spaces. The products needed to represent the professional identity and style of each building, yet offer customizable solutions that would meet the changing and growing demands of student and faculty life on campus. Working from a 15-year relationship that included an existing copier/printer contract with the University, Becky Phillips, president of Stiles Office Solutions, set out to prove that her family-owned company was worthy of the task. “We did mock ups of the furniture needed for both areas drawing primarily on product from two different manufacturers,” explained Phillips. “We then took the dean, associate dean and project manager to both manufacturers’ facilities, so they could see and actually compare products side by side.”

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Once the decision to utilize Kimball Office as the primary source of its office interiors was made, the difficult part of planning and executing the project began. According to Phillips, Stiles went to work talking to everyone involved in the project from academic deans to staff, finding out how the spaces would be used and what the particular needs were of each department. “Our in-house designer, Jen Matthews, who has been with Stiles for the past 14 years, was able to take the information and find the right products for each space while keeping the university on budget,” said Phillips. The recently renovated library was an opportunity for Stiles to tailor furnishings to the space and coordinate furnishings across four floors and planned shelving. The library serves as the epicenter for several university functions, including student workers, faculty, administrative, and professional staff.

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Profile continued from page 20 One of the challenges of the space was choosing pieces that would coordinate between private offices, cubicles, and student meeting spaces. “We needed furniture that was functional, but would blend well together, so when you went from one office into another it clearly tied together,” said Susan Tulis, associate dean at the library. Tulis explained that a person’s responsibilities could easily shift from requiring significant storage one day to a large work surface the next. “Our offices each have different uses and purposes and we wanted furniture that could mix and match depending upon what was being done in a particular office.” In an effort to match furniture with the use of the space, private offices were furnished with Kimball’s Transcend wood casegoods and complemented by Footprint laminate and metal casegoods. The Cetra panel and Traxx wall systems were used in workstations and student offices. “The beauty of what we chose was we could put a wood desk where select staff worked, and then integrate laminate tops on the common tables in other areas to protect them. The flexibility between lines was key,” added Tulis. “The library took several months to plan and was installed in stages per floor,” said Phillips who said the saving grace was that the library was closed during the entire renovation so they didn’t have to deal with students and faculty actually utilizing the area. The new 50,000 sq. ft. SIU Boydston Athletic Center was another story however. Home to the university’s football and basketball teams, tight deadlines and construction work kept Phillips and Stiles Office Solutions on their toes. Previous page: University of Southern Illinois Basketball Arena and Saluki mascot.

“The University really wanted the center to reflect its commitment to athletics and impress potential student athletes,” said Phillips. “We accomplished this in the basketball and football suites which were designed to serve both as individual offices and collaborative areas for team meetings with 10 to 20 student-athletes.”

Top: The University of Southern Illinois head basketball coach’s office includes customized Kimball Office | interstuhl Axos seating, with the Saluki logo, along with a Footprint desk. Middle: The head coach’s office conference room at the University of Southern Illinois includes customized Kimball Office | interstuhl Axos seating, with the Saluki logo and Fluent storage. Bottom: The Morris Library conference room at the University of Southern Illinois includes Kimball Office Stature seating and universal casegoods.

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Profile continued from page 21 The University chose the Kimball Office | interstuhl seating line Axos for executive and side seating. The remainder of the athletic facility was furnished with Fluent and Footprint casegoods, Pose lounge and Hero. Just for You seating. Custom-embroidered logos on the headrests of Axos reinforced the University’s brand and showed their pride. With three weeks to complete the install and the first football game as the deadline, the Stiles installation team worked side by side with construction crews to complete the project on time to kickoff the season with function and style that the University could be proud of.

Above: The public relations office in the Morris Library at the University of Southern Illinois features Kimball Office Wish task seating and Stature guest seating, Footprint desk and storage and the Traxx wall system. Below: The student writing center in the Morris Library at the University of Southern Illinois includes Kimball Office Footprint workstations with the Traxx wall system and Event guest seating.

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Optimistic Outlook

at NeoCon 2011 This year’s NeoCon World’s Trade Fair held just a few weeks ago brought thousands of office furniture manufacturers, dealers and design professionals to the Merchandise Mart to learn about the latest products and trends in the office interiors industry.

Classes were well attended and the exhibit floor relatively busy for at least the first two days of the show with showroom parties and events keeping attendees “talking furniture” into the evening hours. The majority of office furniture dealers that OFDealer spoke to were optimistic about the show and the industry as a whole. Equally as exciting as the new product introductions were enhancements to existing product lines including new fabrics, colors and materials that expanded applications and vertical market opportunities.

Trends such as increasingly collaborative work styles, smaller workspace footprints and, of course, environmentally-friendly materials and manufacturing were again front and center. New this year was bigger, bolder retro colors and an increase in the use of translucent materials, especially in regards to hospitality seating and tables.

The Best of NeoCon awards program highlighted some of the more interesting new products on display. A total of 325 products were entered in 40 product and furnishing categories in the competition. On the following pages, we showcase just a few of the seventy-two awards that were distributed to Gold Winners from some of the key office furniture categories.

Haworth Beside Storage Files & Storage continued on page 24

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NeoCon continued from page 23 Steelcase Bivi by Turnstone Furniture: Benching

Haworth Integrated Palette featuring Reside, Beside and Belong Furniture Systems

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NeoCon continued from page 24 Coalesse Sebastopol Tables: Occasional

KI Learn2 Mobile Education Solutions

Andreu World America Sail Seating: Stacking continued on page 26

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NeoCon continued from page 25 Vitra Inc. ID Chair Concept Seating: Ergonomic Desk/Task

Davis Furniture Industries Kontour Lounge Series Seating: Sofas & Lounge continued on page 27

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NeoCon continued from page 26 Halcon Motus Tables: Training & Work

Andreu World America Sit Wood Seating: Guest

Davis Furniure Industries, Inc. Ekko Tables Series Conference Room Furniture

Nemschoff, a Herman Miller Healthcare Company Oasis Overbed Healthcare Furniture continued on page 28

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NeoCon continued from page 27 Nucraft Cavara Case Goods

Haworth LTB Seating: Benches

Davis Furniture Industries Sola Chair Series Seating: Conference JUNE 2011

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How Visible Are You? By Trish Brock

One question we are all hearing too often these days is, “I haven’t heard much about Company XYZ recently … anyone know how they’re doing?” At a dinner with some business associates recently, one person shared that she was about to make a big purchase but decided against buying from one company because their proposal and supporting documents were tired, old looking and the information was not presented in a particularly professional manner. I think she used the word “lame.” She also commented—and this is important—that they gave the impression they weren’t going to be around much longer. The information she was given could easily have been just as on-target as the other companies she considered, but all things being equal, the company with “lame” materials was quickly eliminated because of the weak impression it projected. After all, why would anyone want to do business with a company that by all appearances seems to be struggling or even going out of business? JUNE 2011

It continues to amaze me when I hear company principals talk about wanting increased visibility in the market and how much they admire another company’s brand, but then they fail to take action to develop a powerful identity for their own dealership. Most owners understand that a strong identity in the community promotes business, helps attract prospective customers and opens doors for sales people, yet many choose to do nothing but talk about it. Using dated materials, throwing information together on letterhead and hoping it passes as a professional overview, or worse, expecting sales people to create something new for each presentation or bid response often seems to be the norm these days. Some dealers assume customers will view them as professional problem-solvers and expect them to invest money in their business by awarding them projects, yet they fail to invest in their own business to promote it. I can’t help asking where this attitude comes from. Is it all too much trouble? Too expensive? Don’t they know how? Don’t they have time? Are they just too busy? Or OFDEALER

is it simply not that important? Do dealer owners and managers really think that approach makes for a more cost-effective, attractive and consistent communication vehicle? And who do they think is calling on customers if their sales people are spending valuable time sitting at their computers putting their own sales materials together? In this age of information, it’s easy for customers to compare you to your competition. Are you doing all you can to make sure the comparison they make comes out in your favor? Let’s review:

Your materials project your dealership’s image. Right, wrong or indifferent, it’s true. Is it the image you want? As you talk about your ability to offer superior products and services over your competitors and partner with your clients now and into the future, do your materials support your claims? Are they well designed, tell your differentiating story and compel buyers to follow your lead? An old corporate brochure talking about continued on page 30

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Visible continued from page 29 how long you have been in business or bid responses that look like everyone else’s may be sending the wrong signals and weakening your credibility.

Are your materials informative and relevant to your customers’ needs? What is important to you may not be to prospective customers. Telling them how great you are is fine, but more importantly, how does this translate into benefits to them? Why does it matter? And how does that make you different and presumably better, than your competitor down the street?

Sales support materials are NOT a waste of money! Too often, dealer principals believe that spending money on sales support materials is a waste of money because, I have frequently heard, the materials quickly become outdated and/or the sales people don’t use them. If this sounds familiar, please keep reading. Materials can be designed so that they can be continually updated, especially when developed and used electronically. If sales people aren’t using the materials currently available to them, it’s likely the materials simply aren’t relevant. Sales people want and need all the help they can get. Ask them what they need and then give it to them. They want to be as successful as you want them to be. Don’t wait until your sales somehow get better before developing new materials. Expecting your sales people to compete without the tools they need is like telling a football team that when they win a few more games, you will buy them helmets and pads.

Sales materials should support the consultative sales process. Do sales people have a variety of pieces to access when discussing the multiple aspects of furniture projects? Or when various topics are brought up by prospects, JUNE 2011

are sales people expected to develop their own with which to respond? It’s interesting to note that a large percentage of sales people admit to altering sales materials given to them in order to make them more functional and pertinent. If materials are developed without the input of the people who are going to use them, then it could be a poor investment. Unless you have been in the trenches with them and are clear about the obstacles they face daily, don’t assume you know what they need.

Differentiate your dealership. Your sales materials represent a wonderful opportunity to set yourself apart, both visually and with your messaging. Make a statement. Be bold. Be creative. Be fun. Your sales people are dying to be different from the folks down the street—give them the tools to do so. With single-digit margins and buyers’ perceptions of furniture as a commodity these days, it is more important than ever to set yourself apart. If you don’t believe you are different and therefore better, then why should prospective customers? And how would they know if you don’t consistently broadcast your differentiating message to the marketplace?

Make them beautiful. This industry has a fashion element to it so it’s important to look the part. You have an important message—make your audience want to read it. The A&D community is automatically drawn to visually stunning materials and so are many of your customers. Your materials can and should be inspiring. No one wants to look at ugly, and it’s guaranteed that the white, three-ring binder with letterhead slipped into the plastic cover will be the last one picked from the conference table full of bid responses.

There is no question that this is a difficult economy for dealers. But some are doing well in spite of the challenges. Many say that their aggressive marketing efforts have made the difference in their ability to be top of mind in the market and win business. Often it is because their competition isn’t as visible and engaged in projecting a strong image. By default, they create a perception of being less viable, much like the company described in the above story that lost business as a result. Unless you are in a market where there is no competition or your business is so good that you might as well be minting money, powerful and supportive sales materials are not optional—they are a requirement. They are part of being in the game and doing business in this era, and certainly in this economy. If all of this sounds like a lot of work, ask yourself this: How much will it cost my business not to be visible and am I leaving my market to wonder how we are doing and if we are still around?

Trish Brock, Principal of Trish Brock & Associates, is a well-known industry consultant. Her cross functional consulting group specializes in increasing sales through effective differentiating brands and materials that support the strategic sales process. TB+A also conducts Mentoring Circles for groups wanting to accelerate new business development. She can be reached at 720-747-5547, via email at tbrock@trishbrockassociates.com or visit her on the web at www.trishbrockassociates.com

It signals boring, status quo and “don’t expect innovative ideas here,” even if it may well come chock full of them. OFDEALER

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Uncover Your Competitive Advantage Realign Marketing and Management Strategies to Transform your Business for Future Success OFDA Dealer Strategies Conference Keynote Speaker Jaynie Smith Jaynie Smith’s customized keynote for this year’s OFDA Dealer Strategies Conference will focus on helping you uncover and clearly define your true competitive advantages and realign marketing and management strategies to “transform your businesses for future success” – the theme of OFDA’s 2011 event. In an industry and general economic environment characterized by unprecedented competition and extreme margin pressures, her focus on differentiation of your organization from the competition will help your company close more sales, improve margins and retain more customers.

Keynote Speaker Jaynie Smith Founder & CEO Smart Advantage, Inc.

Jaynie Smith Highlights: 15 Top Performer Awards for CEO Coaching Contributing Business Expert Columnist to Affluent Magazine Featured in telecast with Jay Conrad Levinson of Guerrilla Marketing Association Guest on Bloomberg Radio, WABC Radio "Brinker Show,"& NPR affiliate WLRN Featured in Entrepreneur, IndustryWeek, Investors Business Daily & Business Strategies Author of the best-selling Creating Competitive Advantage (2006) - now in its 10th printing Radio host of Mind Your Biz Today on The Biz - South Florida’s only business radio station

www.ofdanet.org/conference

June 2011 OFDealer from OFDA  

OFDealer's June 2011 issue from the Office Furniture Dealers Alliance (OFDA)