See Page 12
Also in this Issue: Project Profile: National Audubon Society Seating Special Q & A with BIFMA
news Office Outfitters & Planners, Colorado Steelcase Dealer, Marks 25th Anniversary In Grand Junction, CO, on Colorado’s Western Slope about 250 miles west of Denver, Duncan Rowley and his team are gearing up to celebrate their dealership’s 25th year of service. The dealership was founded in 1984, and drew much of its business in those early years from a nearby regional hospital and the local police department. Today, healthcare and local government remain key markets, says Rowley, and while he reports the dealership’s general commercial business is very slow, the government market remains strong. “We’re finding more GSA work today than we ever have,” he says happily. A Steelcase dealer since 1989, Office Outfitters, says Rowley, has responded to the challenges of a changing industry by broadening its product mix to embrace more mid-market offerings. “The mid-market is where we make our living today,” says Rowley, who points to Steelcase’s Turnstone brand products and the dealership’s membership in the WorkPlace Furnishings organizations as key resources that allow him and his team to respond effectively to increasingly tight budgets. Despite the challenges of the past year or two, Rowley says he remains optimistic about the future. “Last year was a rollercoaster and the first four months of 2009 were dreadful,” he says candidly. “But the market is starting to break loose with a couple of nice projects coming in and we’re slowly getting a sense that things are moving in the right direction.”
NBS, Michigan Dealer, Expands Through Acquisition of Fellow Steelcase Dealer Allied Office Interiors. These are busy times for NBS. Last month, we reported on the Troy, MI-based dealer’s day-long Healthcare Fair event. Now comes word that NBS has expanded its geographical coverage significantly with the acquisition of Allied Office Interiors, a fellow Steelcase dealer with operations in Bay City and Lansing, MI. Richard Schwabauer, owner of NBS said, “We are excited to announce that NBS and Allied Office Interiors have merged to form one, dynamic and innovative Steelcase dealership to serve Southeast Michigan, East Central Michigan and Northern Ohio. “An evolved NBS has emerged comprised of the best and brightest professionals in our business who are committed to this industry and its customers,” Schwabauer added. Following the deal, NBS now has some 117 employees and projected annual sales of $70 million.
Today’s Tough Business Challenges Make OFDA’s 2009 Dealer Strategies Conference a Must-Attend for Your Dealership In just a few short months, OFDA will host its 2009 Dealer Strategies Conference in Austin and you need to be there. It’s that simple. It’s never hard, particularly these days, to come up with reasons not to attend. “We’re watching every penny” … “I can’t afford time out of the office” … “How can I justify spending money on this when times are as tough as they are right now?” You need to be in Austin this October precisely because times are as difficult as they are. Your business won’t grow or be better able to withstand current challenges because of the $1,000 or so you might save by not attending. But just one or two of the many good new ideas that you pick up at the meeting could well make a difference and that’s why you need to be there. Putting it simply, you will have no better opportunity all year to tap into the collective knowledge base of the dealer community—and with OFDA, it’s the entire dealer community, not just one manufacturer’s dealer network—and explore together how best to respond to the challenges we all face. There isn’t a dealer out there who isn’t looking for answers to some very tough questions right now and who doesn’t know the most likely way to find them is by sitting down with other dealers and talking them through. That, at its most basic level, is what the OFDA Dealer Strategies Conference is all about. You’ll find more details and an online registration form on the association’s web site at www.ofdanet.org but the bottom line is this: The Dealer Strategies Conference offers an extraordinarily effective way to discover new ways to strengthen your dealership at a time when it needs it most. For the long-term health of your business, this is one year you can’t afford to miss it. Simon DeGroot Editor in Chief OFDealer
continued on page 3 JULY 2009
continued on page PAGE 2
Dealer News } continued from page 2 Education, PR Efforts Bolsters Expert Resource Positioning for MBI Business Interiors, Memphis Steelcase Dealer
Office Interiors sponsored the keynote speaker for the event, Diane Bunse, an environmental specialist at Herman Miller who manages the environmental management system on the manufacturer’s main campus.
With business as fiercely competitive as it is today, dealers need to be proactively searching out opportunities to position themselves as workplace experts for their clients and prospects. One dealer who’s been doing an impressive job in that area of late is MBI Business Interiors in Memphis, with a combination of ongoing education and a carefully targeted PR effort.
“There’s no question that environmental issues are becoming more and more important in our market and that was very clear from this event,” said Slager. “We gained some valuable exposure as a sponsor and reinforced our own position in the market as a green resource for our clients.”
MBI recently sponsored a presentation that drew about 30 members of the A&D community to hear Steelcase workplace consultant Isabel Stoltzman speak on acoustics in the workplace. The presentation, which came with the extra appeal for designers of Continuing Education Units, covered the basics of sound control, options for minimizing distracting noise and improving the overall acoustic quality of office space. “At MBI, we’re very much focused on doing as much as we can to grow our relationships with the A&D community and education represents a key part of that effort,” said business development manager Emily Rolwing. “It was a very timely topic and we were very pleased with the response.” The dealership also found a way to raise its profile in the larger marketplace as well, when Rowling and some of her co-workers were quoted extensively by a Memphis Business Journal on the growing trend towards shared workspace design. “In all the places I’ve seen it installed, it’s been beneficial to the company,” Rolwing told the publication. “The productivity is increased.” “We find ourselves designing a lot more collaborative spaces,” added MBI’s VP of sales Michelle Bingham. “I think it’s because people are finding out that when you can bring a group of people together and share ideas, you’re getting more and better ideas to market faster.” And now, thanks to their own outreach efforts, chances are when Memphis businesses go looking for ways to boost productivity and morale, MBI is going to be at or near the top of the resource list.
Office Interiors, Indiana Herman Miller Dealer, Co-Sponsors Local Green Expo
Services and Accessories Sales Efforts Bring Welcome Dollars to Bottom Line for Color Art, St. Louis Steelcase Dealership When business is as tough to find as it is these days, it’s more important than ever to maximize the value of every customer on the books. In St. Louis, Missouri, the folks at Color Art Integrated Interiors have found a way to do just that with a program that puts a special emphasis on building sales in the services and accessories area. For nearly a year now, Color Art’s Kevin Hobbes has been operating as a dedicated sales rep charged with the mission of going in either in tandem with the dealership’s other sales reps or coming in after a substantial order has been booked, to capture precious sales and profit dollars that might otherwise be left on the table. “We have an outstanding sales team but with a focus on large project business and big orders, they really have other fish to fry,” he explains. “There are good margins in the services and accessories business, though, and we really wanted to make sure we got our share.” And while the incremental business that comes Color Art’s way through this effort may not be huge in isolation, all those orders for desk pads, recycling systems, signage, artwork and more start to add up quite nicely, says Hobbes. And that’s before Hobbes starts talking about reupholstering, panel cleaning, wood touch-ups and other services. “We just booked about $27,000 in additional business from one project that included just about everything from trash cans to grommets, wire managers and hooks for the panels,” he reported.
As has been the case for so many dealers of late, environmental issues were front and center recently at Granger, IN-based Office Interiors, Inc., when Maria Slager and her team co-sponsored Green Expo 2009, a day-long event that focused on “exploring, educating and inspiring green living, sustainable energy and more viable lifestyles.”
Artwork, says Hobbes, can be especially lucrative, with orders up to $10,000 not that unusual.
The event was organized by a local Public TV station and drew more than 300 attendees who heard presentations on topics such as The Legal Side of Green, Cool Cities & Towns and the Business of Sustainability, and toured an exhibit featuring local companies and their green offerings.
And of course, with budgets stretched tighter than they have been in a long time, the new approach has given Color Art an effective way to maintain and strengthen customer relationships even if new product orders aren’t in the client’s immediate plans.
And as an added bonus, Hobbes’ efforts not only bring welcome new dollars to the dealership’s bottom line but also serve to minimize the chances of a not-so-friendly competitor getting a foot in the door with a valuable client.
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BIFMA May Numbers Show Continued Industry Weakness The Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association (BIFMA) released its market statistics for May last month and to no one’s great surprise, there were still scant signs of any significant improvement in the marketplace. While BIFMA reported a modest improvement in orders in May compared to April, May shipments continued the downward trend seen with depressing consistency so far this year. BIFMA estimated May orders fell 33%, compared to a 2% increase posted last year but up slightly from April’s 38% decline. May shipments fell 36%, compared to the 30% decline in April. According to industry analyst Budd Bugatch of Raymond James & Associates, the May shipments decline represented “the largest single month year-over-year percentage decline we have ever witnessed for the industry (our data file dates back to 1978).” Bugatch said his near- to medium-term outlook for the industry remains guarded, given the high level of economic uncertainty. “The industry’s relevant economic drivers—non-residential construction, business confidence, white collar employment, and office vacancy rates—remain negative, Bugatch pointed out, though he said some indicators have begun to show signs of bottoming. “Unfortunately, given the late cycle nature of office furniture demand, a recovery for the industry is likely to lag improvements in the broader economy by at least three to four quarters,” Bugatch warned. Elsewhere on the statistic front, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported its Architecture Billings Index for May was 42.9, essentially flat with April’s 42.8. While the current ABI reading is well above January’s all-time low of 33.3, it remains under 50 (the line of demarcation between expansion and contraction). Reflecting the difficult economy, the current BIFMA forecast anticipates 2009 order and shipment declines of 29.3% and 28.6%, respectively, down from its previous forecast of a
26.5% fall in orders and a 19.3% drop in shipments. BIFMA expects a modest improvement in 2010, with orders and shipments projected to increase 2.6% and 2.8%, respectively.
Economic Downturn Could Change The Office Furniture Industry Forever, Experts Tell Michigan Business Publication Several top executives at office furniture makers in West Michigan told a local business publication recently the forces currently impacting the industry could result in some permanent changes to the industry An article by reporter Mark Sanchez in last month’s Western Michigan Business Review, warned that what the nation’s economy is now experiencing is sure to alter the landscape in which they operate. “As the economy comes back, our customers may have a lingering memory,” said Don Goeman, executive vice president for design and research development at Herman Miller. “One thing we are trying to get a good read on is how will our customers’ appetite for investments play out?” And even once corporations are willing to spend again, chances are their spending habits will have undergone changes, suggested Sanchez. “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity” will become the corporate mantra for clients, and office furniture makers will have to respond accordingly, izzy+ CEO Chuck Saylor told the reporter. “We are at one of those defining moments in time. This is a systemic, long-term change we’re going through. This isn’t just a blip on the radar,” Saylor added. According to Sanchez, Saylor and others suspect many of the primary design drivers behind product innovation—a need for clients to optimize office space and to improve worker productivity, accommodating teamwork and collaboration, sustainable business practices and enabling technology—will matter much more in the aftermath of the downturn. “In the world of design and space and the outcomes, I don’t see this materially changing,” Haworth chairman Matthew Haworth said. “It may accelerate things that were already going to occur. In terms of innovation, there will be new. And continued on page 6
Industry News } continued from page 5 certainly something new will be attributed to this downturn,” he added. “Customers will be looking for harder-working spaces,” said Jim Keane, president of Steelcase Inc.’s Steelcase Group. In some cases, clients will seek ways to better use office space that will house fewer employees after a corporate downsizing, or they will have to adapt to a reduced square footage, executives indicated.
Configura Joins EMerge Alliance Configura Inc., makers of the CET Designer software program, has joined the EMerge Alliance, bringing the organization’s total membership to more than 40. The EMerge Alliance is an open industry association established in 2008 to promote the rapid adoption of safe, low-voltage direct-current (DC) power distribution and use in commercial building interiors to help reduce energy usage. The EMerge standard gives commercial building owners a way to maximize room and floor reconfigurations and stop the cycle of one-time fixture and device use, Configura said. Configura said it plans to work with EMerge members and their customers who need a simple tool to specify configurable lighting systems, ceilings, walls and floors, and related electrical devices and power infrastructure.
Herman Miller Expands Its Healthcare Market Presence with Nemschoff Acquisition Herman Miller has long had a solid presence in the healthcare market but the Zeeland, MI-based manufacturer last month expanded its footprint in what has been one of the few industry bright spots of late, when it announced it has acquired Nemschoff, one of the market leaders in the healthcare field. Nemschoff, with revenues of more than $90 million in 2008, was purchased through a combination of $32 million in cash and just of over two million Herman Miller shares. In addition, Nemschoff shareholders stand to receive an additional payment, depending on Nemschoff’s performance and Herman Miller’s share price over the next two years. “The acquisition of Nemschoff is a significant step in Herman Miller’s growth strategy and further evidence of our commitment to the healthcare market, where Herman Miller has been a leader for more than 40 years,” commented Herman Miller CEO Brian Walker.
“In bringing Nemschoff into the Herman Miller Healthcare business we immediately expand our product breadth and depth and accelerate our healthcare strategy. We also believe Nemschoff will benefit as we introduce its products into our healthcare distribution channel, and that cost synergies exist in the combination of Herman Miller, Brandrud and Nemschoff.” In making the Nemschoff announcement, the company noted healthcare is an important and growing vertical market opportunity. Relative to other sectors of the economy, healthcare construction remains strong and is supported by significant drivers fueling expectations for future growth. These include an aging population, with the percentage of Americans over the age of 65 projected to grow from 12% to 20% by the year 2030. Additionally, Herman Miller pointed out that 20% of the recent federal government stimulus package is focused on healthcare, while healthcare costs as a percentage of GDP are projected to grow from 16% to 20% by the year 2017. Global demand for healthcare services and related facilities is also expected to continue to rise, Herman Miller said.
HON Congratulates HONors Award Trip Quick Start Winners The HON Company last month announced the winners of its HONors Award Trip Quick Start Promotion. Seven dealer sales representatives from across the United States and Canada secured their spots on a trip in September to the Montage Resort in Laguna, CA, by outperforming their peers in the HON Quick Start earning period from October 1, 2008 through April 4 of this year. “At HON, we’re thrilled to recognize our dealer sales representatives with exciting rewards, such as this trip to the Montage Resort,” said Shelley deSilva, vice president of marketing at The HON Company. “Not only will this be a relaxing experience for our winners, but we hope it will continue to motivate all of our sales representatives by reaffirming the company’s appreciation of everyone’s hard work and dedication.” The Quick Start winners are: Ryan Krebs, Action Office Interiors Saskatoon, Canada Christy Trainer, Corporate Environments Group Bethlehem, PA Mary Jo Halligan, Office Services Co. Savannah, GA continued on page 7
Industry News } continued from page 6 Austin Beaslin, Desks Incorporated of Utah; Salt Lake City, UT
Sustainable features of the 3,000 sq. ft. showroom in Orange County include Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood flooring and relying on renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, geo-thermal and biomass for 100% of the showroom’s energy consumption.
Gary Scheets, WM Putman Co. Bloomington, IL Mike Hodes, Aegis Kansas City, MO Haleema Shafeek, Green Office Solutions Hilliard, OH
Teknion Announces Wohnbedarf AG as its Latest European Dealer-Partner
Jasper Group Marks 80th Anniversary Congratulations are in order for the Jasper, IN-Jasper Group, which this year celebrates 80 years of wood furniture manufacturing. The company was founded in 1929 as the Jasper Seating Company and has grown to become a highly diversified furniture maker, with four different brands: JSI, its contract office line; Community for schools, colleges, government, and dining facilities; Klem for hotels and resorts, and Jasper Library Furniture. The company operates today out of nine production facilities housing over 1.5 million sq. ft. and over 250 employees.
National Office Furniture’s Orange County California Showroom Earns LEED-CI Certification
Teknion Corporation announced last month that it has added wohnbedarf project ag of Zurich, Switzerland, to its growing list of international dealer-partners. “wohnbedarf has a rich furniture design heritage involving such internationally renowned architects and artists as Alvar Aalto, Le Corbusier, Max Bill, Marcel Breuer, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Alfred Roth, plus many leading European office furniture companies,” said Frank Delfino, president, Teknion Worldwide Markets. “This heritage combined with wohnbedarf’s five decades of office space planning makes us particularly pleased to be associated with our new partner.”
Inscape Appoints Regional VP of Sales for Western Division Inscape Corporation has announced the appointment of Michael Ackelbein as regional vice president of sales for the Western U.S. Ackelbein will be responsible for developing and executing regional growth strategies in California and the Pacific Northwest and will be overseeing Inscape’s sales partners in the region. Ackelbein has over 20 years of senior sales and management experience in the contract furniture industry, including the founding and management of dealerships in the San Francisco area, Inscape said.
Maxon Recognizes Rep of the Year National Office Furniture this month announced that its Orange County, CA showroom earned LEED-CI certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The Orange County location is National’s fourth LEED-certified showroom (others are in Jasper, IN, Chicago and New York) and National’s fifth facility overall, including its Research and Development Annex in Jasper.
Congratulations to Vanice Cudina of Robert Wilson Associates in New York City, who was recently recognized by Maxon Furniture as its 2009 Manufacturer’s Representative of the Year. Cudina covers the Manhattan territory for RWA and, according to RWA principal Robert Wilson, has been an outstanding producer for Maxon for over 15 years.
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OFDA Fall Conference Will Provide Toolkit for Members’ Survival and Future Prosperity There has never been a more critical time than now for dealers, whether aligned or non-aligned, to come together with their key business partners and peers to collaborate and align their strategies for survival and resumed growth when the North American economy recovers. The most efficient and effective way to accomplish this is to attend and engage fully in the OFDA Dealer Strategies Conference & Business Meetings. This year’s event will be held in Austin, TX (October 4-6) and will be distinctly different in format, approach – and tone. For OFDA, ensuring our members’ survival and future success has taken on new urgency this year. It is always a challenge to step away from your business for even a few days, but when you face unprecedented challenges, the justification for doing so is even stronger than in calmer times. This year’s conference will offer a practical “survival toolkit” that includes a highly interactive and well-focused management educational program, exciting new product display and private meeting formats to better connect industry dealers with primary business partners, and the quality networking environment that is the hallmark of all OFDA events. Like its members, OFDA has taken a step back this year and reevaluated every aspect of its annual conference strategy, format and agenda. OFDA has designed the 2009 conference with extensive input from dealers, manufacturers and service providers. The program will help attendees evaluate new opportunities for revenue growth and examine ways to exploit them, learn best practices in strategically reducing expenses and managing cash flow, and chart a clear course for a return to sustained profitability. Other industry groups – including the Office Furniture Recyclers (OFR) and Facility Services Network (FSN) among them – will co-locate their fall meetings at OFDA’s conference hotel at the front end of the meeting.
are highly relevant for addressing current priorities in your business. The format will allow attendees to choose among practical break-out educational sessions covering critical financial, new business development, technology, sustainability, and operations issues. We thus encourage you to attend with at least one other key senior manager of your team to maximize the value your business receives from your participation. Ample informal networking time has been included along with the new display and private meeting options to make it easy to connect with industry peers and invited expert presenters and panelists. Their goal and ours is to offer you proven successful approaches to identify and then implement the most appropriate and essential changes in your business to succeed in today’s market and the future. Highlights of our confirmed 2009 conference program include:
Dr. Nate Booth, our opening keynote speaker, will set the tone with his presentation, “Challenging Times Never Last: Resilient Companies and People Do!”
The program has been structured to include a mix of stimulating high-level keynote and general session panel discussions that continued on page 10 JULY 2009
OFDA News } continued from page 9 General Sessions: Manufacturers’ Perspectives on the Future of Industry Distribution – A panel dialogue, moderated by OFDA Chairman Jack King, among top executives from Knoll, Teknion, Haworth and AIS. Gil Cargill – This top former IBM salesperson and widely acclaimed executive trainer, consultant and speaker will offer leading-edge strategies and practical tips on how to accelerate sales in today’s fast-paced, highly demanding market. Emerging Communications Technologies that are Reshaping the Workplace – A presentation from a leading global communications company that will outline strategies small businesses in our industry can use to integrate new communications and other technologies in an increasingly mobile world. Capitalizing on Federal Government Market Opportunities – Moderated panel discussion among senior procurement and facility management officials on how to participate in the tremendous growth of this market sector. 20+ Interactive Breakout Meeting Sessions hosted by recognized industry and general business experts will allow all conference attendees to become more effective in implementing critical management functions and expanding capability in the areas of:
h Managing cash flow and banking relationships for survival and future growth.
h Identifying and developing new sources of product and services revenue.
h Value-based selling in tough markets for higher sales and profitability.
h Dealership and installation company
operations and technology management.
h Impact of new ‘sustainability’
standards/certifications on your customers and you.
In addition, for the first time, OFDA will offer private business meeting suites and free-standing display options to enhance opportunities throughout the event for more in-depth business development and relationship building between dealers and industry manufacturers and service providers. New OFDA online matchmaking tools will allow all conference participants to pre-schedule meetings and further maximize their ROI from conference attendance. Leading industry technology solution providers will again host focused educational presentations in a dedicated “Technology Neighborhood” meeting room. And two prominent local dealers with distinct business approaches – the Facility Management Group of Austin and Office Furniture NOW! – will host attendees at their sites on the second day of the event. Networking time has been expanded so that participants may better follow-up with session presenters and interact broadly with their peers. OFDA is also organizing a special “Evening on the Town” program in downtown Austin for October 5, so that conference attendees can enjoy the wide selection of exciting food and live music for which our host city is famous! OFDA invites you to visit www.OFDAnet.org today to review our conference agenda and vendor marketing prospectus that outlines display, private meeting, and promotional opportunities. Online registration is active and early bird registration is available online through July 31. Your prompt action to register today will save you money and further boost your ROI from participation. Call 800/542-6672 for more information or assistance in registering.
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GSA Contracts are still a lucrative source of revenue even as competition stiffens and more dealers delve into this critical market segment. Hooray for the red, white, and blue, especially when it’s dispensing green. In a furniture industry that’s been rocked by the economic downturn, particularly on the commercial side, GSA business is still doing A-okay. At least that’s the contention of various dealers across the country who do a significant amount of business with the government. “It’s the only business these days,” says Deb Horrworth with Office Images in Rockville, MD. “We have ongoing customers that we’ve been doing regular business with. Some are getting stimulus money, some aren’t, but they’re buying. They weren’t buying earlier this year, but we’re now seeing things break loose.” A sizable government base is one of the reasons Office Images, a HON and Allsteel dealer, is busy. “We’re doing a lot of bids and we’re very competitive, and we’ve gotten a lot of deals in the last couple of months that are keeping us afloat,” says Horrworth . Anthony Bellia, Jr. of Bellia Enterprises in Woodbury, NJ, hasn’t seen much of a slowdown, particularly on the GSA side of the business. Bellia Enterprises has been doing business with the government for more than a decade and the past eight years have been consistent through good economic times and bad. “We seem to get projects no matter what the economy,” says Bellia. “The federal government continues to buy.” JULY 2009
About 40 percent of Bellia Enterprises’ business is government, including federal, state and local governments, and Bellia emphasizes the need to focus on all of those. For Sandra Johnson, a government furniture sales specialist with OEC in Pensacola, FL, who’s doing the buying these days very much depends on what branch of government you’re talking about. Much of her business is with Navy and Air Force bases in Northwest Florida. “The Navy has pretty much been at a standstill with purchasing somewhat sporadic, but things are picking up with the Air Force,” she says. Down at Gulf Coast Office Products, a Knoll and HON dealer also based in Pensacola, GSA business seems to be doing better. After acquiring a company a year and a half ago that was doing some 90 percent of its business with the government, a healthy 20 percent of Gulf Coast’s revenues now come from GSA contracts. Gulf Coast president Mark Wright reports that GSA business is up 25 percent over last year. OFDEALER
continued on page 13 PAGE 12
Cover } continued from page 12 Ripe for Competition Thinking about ramping up your own GSA business? Be prepared. If you haven’t focused on this segment before or if you’ve neglected it in favor of what was once more lucrative commercial accounts, you’ve got a tough row to hoe. “There’s an abundance of people trying to crack into that market right now,” says Wright.
government entities,” adds Bellia. “That comes down to understand- ing the verbiage and acronyms used, so you can convince that government con- tracting officer you’re a dealership that [understands the way they do business]. If you have a salesperson who is trying to learn as they go along, government clients will see right through it.” Asked for specifics regarding verbiage and acronyms, Bellia identifies BVD (Best Value Determination) and FAR (Federal Acquisition Regulation). “When you’re putting out an RFQ, if you don’t understand simple terms like BVD, you’re going to run into a lot of problems with the contracting officer,” he warns.
One reason why Bellia says his dealership has been so successful is because they understand the ins and outs of selling to the government client. That’s one of the things that set them apart from the competition, particularly those dealers who are just turning their focus in that direction. “What I’m hearing from contracting officers and government end users that I’ve been working with for years now is that a lot of dealerships have just decided to flip the switch and sell to the federal government,” he reports. If only it were that easy. “When you work on a government project you have to know how to talk to the end user versus talking to a contracting officer, and you’ve got to know where to develop the relationships inside these
“People that haven’t been doing business with the federal government before face a tremendous learning curve,” adds Horrworth. “[They need to learn] how to attract business and how to get in and talk to people because doing business with the government today is not the same as it was 15 years ago, when you could just walk into a government building and canvass business. You have to get appointments and you have to know people because of security [issues].”
John Rasper, president of DeKalb Office Environments in Atlanta, acknowledges that his company is in the midst of a learning curve. DeKalb only does about 10 percent of its business with the government, mostly because they’ve only recently begun focusing on government accounts. This, explains Rasper, is a logical extension of the business, particularly since they’re vertically focused with a Healthcare Division, Higher Ed Division, Major Accounts Division, and New Business Development Division. Plus, most of the products DeKalb carries are on GSA contracts. “The challenge we’re having with GSA is that we’re not GSA-focused,” says Rasper. “We don’t have a sales team or a sales manager responsible for driving GSA business. Without focus and without attention to detail, you might pick up a few projects, but you’re not really going to be successful.” Rasper is fixing that, having assigned a sales rep who had some familiarity with GSA accounts with a previous employer as the company’s GSA sales rep. “She’s learning the jargon, how to go through the processes and she’s focused on GSA,” says Rasper. “We think she’ll pay dividends.”
What gives Gulf Coast an edge against competitors is a staff of four sales reps who each have 25 years’ experience selling to the government. They understand the market and how to work with those clients, and that as they say, makes all the difference. Realistically, it makes a lot of difference, but there are other factors that have helped make Gulf Coast successful in this market.
In a world where bidding is often the name of the game, one might assume that it’s difficult to leverage customer loyalty. Not so, say successful GSA dealers.
“One thing that has been important to our success is making sure the customer understands what they’re getting and giving them options on the front end,” opines Wright. “That puts you in a good position if you’re able to do that and if you can propose multiple vendors.”
“Depending on the dealer and their past performance, contract officers make recommendations to other end users about dealers who are easy to work with or give better service,” maintains Johnson.
The Loyalty Factor
“Existing customers are key because if you do a good job on their projects, recommendations are easy to come by,” says Wright.
continued on page 14 JULY 2009
Cover } continued from page 13 “Most of the time when agencies canvass for business and they’re going out for bids, they’re dealing with a lot of people they know nothing about,” adds Horrworth. “People will lowball bids and lowball installation to get projects and then fall flat on their face and the agencies don’t get service. We’ve built loyalty over the years because we’ve made government employees look good.” The loyalty that Office Images has developed over the years with government clients is largely because they ensure those clients receive the same service they provide commercial clients, even though margins are often much smaller. Dealers who think they can cut corners often find themselves out of the bidding next time around. “They’ll put that product in there just as it was bid,” says Horrworth. “They won’t field measure or find out if the panels in the specs are placed next to windows. They bid it, lowball it, install it, and then say this is your problem because that’s what your drawings said. But the government will catch up with you eventually.” A dealership looking to do things right by the government can learn a lot from Office Images. They field measure, place project managers on site, and close punch in thirty days. For Bellia, loyalty is most definitely a factor—particularly when it comes to BVD. “We’re finding that loyalty really plays a tremendous role in that because if you’re able to provide knowledge of budgets and ideas to the end user that differentiate you from your competition, end users view you as a valued resource and you’re more likely to earn that business as opposed to just being the lowest price,” he contends.
“The biggest challenge of selling to government clients is whether the customer is standardized on specific manufacturers or not,” says OEC’s Johnson. “If they are and you don’t represent one of those products, you’re pretty much out of the picture.”
There’s a general feeling of optimism among GSA dealers these days, as business continues to pick up.
Understanding what a government agency considers BVD is another challenge. “BVD is tough,” says Horrworth . “It used to be a numbers game and you knew how to play that, but with best value you never know what they’re going to put the emphasis on.” “Every government entity operates very differently and if you’re not effective in following the money trail, you ultimately end up running around in circles,” adds Bellia. “If you find out where the money is coming from and who will write that purchase order you’re more likely to get to the bottom of who that influencer is when it’s time to create a purchase order.” Asked if there’s much of a difference between selling to Uncle Sam and selling to a commercial account, opinions vary. “Government is no different than commercial,” states Horrworth . “If you’re in the bidding and you’re able to sell an agency on a product and direct them a certain way so that the attributes in the typicals match the factories you represent, you’re ahead of the game.” She further explains that it’s all about being involved in the process and helping the customer as much as possible. “You can’t write the spec, but you can certainly lead them down a path that would make it a little easier for you,” notes Horrworth.
DeKalb’s Rasper plans on adding another GSA rep and maybe even a sales manager. Despite being late to the party, he’s expecting GSA to represent 20-25% of DeKalb’s overall business within the next year, and with the President’s stimulus package and many government agencies buying again, that’s not inconceivable. “I would hope that at this time next year we’ll see some of those percentages,” says an optimistic Rasper. “We’re going to finish out the year better than when we started and as we continue to focus we’re going to see some large incremental upticks.” Overall, Bellia feels positive about the next six to 12 months and the potential for added business because of the stimulus package. “Within the Philadelphia market we’re seeing a lot of stimulus money going towards green initiatives for improving infrastructure of buildings such as plumbing and HVAC. I’m cautiously optimistic about what that means to a furniture dealer.” Gulf Coast’s Wright is also optimistic that the end of the year will be good for Gulf Coast’s GSA business and he expects that to continue for the next two years because a number of government buildings and structures are scheduled for construction in the Gulf Coast area. “They have a lot of money penciled in down here and hopefully we’ll get our fair share,” concludes Wright.
Scott Cullen has been writing about the office products, office furniture, and office equipment industries since 1986. He has been working as an independent writer and editor since 1997, and is currently editorial director and managing editor of OfficeSolutions, OfficeDealer, and Practice Manager magazines. Scott also has written for various office equipment manufacturers and market research organizations, focusing primarily onproduct and dealer issues. JULY 2009
PR JECTPROFILE LEEDing by Example: The National Audubon Society By Alicia Ellis
The National Audubon Society has long been known for its wildlife conservation efforts so when the organization decided to downsize and relocate its headquarters in Manhattan, they decided to practice what they preach and set out to achieve the highest level of LEED certification (Platinum) from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) for their new office space.
energy-efficiency, sustainability and reuse of products that allow for the least amount of impact on natural resources.
To achieve that goal, the Audubon Society hired FXFowle Architects, based in New York, to design their new workspace from the ground up. The completely empty 27,000 square foot space would be transformed into a symbol of environmentally-friendly design, with a focus on
“We became part of an entire team that first had to demonstrate an understanding of the overall objectives and secondly, respond with product solutions that met the design, budget, aesthetic and functional require- ments for the space,” said Bruce Stone, vice president of bfi. “Working
To help in these efforts, Metropolitan New Jersey headquartered Herman Miller dealer, Business Furn- iture Inc. (bfi) was brought in and, from the beginning, served as an important resource for product and design expertise to both the architects and the Society.
continued on page 16 JULY 2009
Project Profile } continued from page 15 closely with our associates at Herman Miller, we were able to come up with product choices that made the most sense, the proper statement, and were engineered to afford the highest level of product- ivity within the environment while being constructed with sustainability, form and function in mind.” With over 100 staff members, the National Audubon Society needed private offices, centralized workstations, a conference room and lounge and reception areas. According to Stone, the architect and the end-user looked to the Herman Miller-bfi team for ideas and suggestions to deliver the highest possible quality at the lowest possible cost. “Our mission was to be responsive, professional and accommodating to bring as much value to the design specifications, the procurement process, the on-site project management as possible, as well as coordinate a complex delivery and installation,” said Stone. “This was a full-blown gut and rehabilitation of an entire floor, so everyone from the client side to vA & D, the construction manager, prime trade subcontractors and well as our furniture team had to be on the same page. It was truly a ‘hands-on’ team approach that made the difference here. At each step the Herman Miller-bfi team communicated effectively and professionally, both internally and externally.” When all was done, the new National Audubon Society offices were constructed and furnished almost completely with materials that were either sustainable, recyclable or reclaimed. Innovative features include energy-efficient systems, under floor air distribution with individual duct adjustability, open space planning to allow daylight penetration to the entire floor, occupancy sensors and controls, the use of recycled and locally produced materials and high indoor environmental quality.
Product Profile Private Offices • Herman Miller M-Wall with Vivo Workstations – open area • Herman Miller My Studio Seating: Workstations • Task / Herman Miller Celle Chairs Guest Seating • PO ICF Imprint Pull Up Chairs Closed Conference Room Seating • Eames Alum Management Chairs Open Conference Room Seating - Eames Molded Plastic Wire Base Chairs Art Room • Herman Miller Aeron Stools Lounge Conference Room Seating • Brayton Sidewalk chairs w/Tablet Arm Lounge Conference Room Coffee Table • Bernhardt Halo Table Open Area Conference Tables • Davis Avea Tables Closed Conference Room Tables • Kusch Delgado Folding Tables Keyboards / Monitor Arms • Humanscale
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“At bfi, we were are fortunate to have an experienced, long tenured and committed design division that worked closely with FXFowle, Herman Miller, the National Audubon Society and other teammates to meet the design intent in keeping with all local code requirements and site conditions,” Stone said. “This was by no means an easy project but open communication and the clear directives articulated by the A & D firm, plus having an understanding and committed client, made the job and design possible.
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seatingspecial Seating is without a doubt one of the most important aspects in an office and knowing what’s new, what’s hot and what’s not is vital to providing your customers the comfort they want at a price they can afford. Whether you’re looking for the latest trends in ergonomics, sustainability or just something unique, you’ll be sure to find something you like for your customers or for yourself. Jaks Designed by John Coleman, Jaks works equally alone, or with its fun shapes interlocked and configured into exciting playful, tessellated patterns due to its modular nature and distinctive, graphic ‘cross’ shape. This is a simple form and construction that economically provides seating for up to four people and facilitates meeting and greeting in informal spaces, or a comfortable seat for those who just want to take a break while also having somewhere to perch their laptop for a while. Allermuir | www.allermuir.com
40/4 The Original 40/4 stackable seating solution has paved the way for other high-density stack chair solutions to follow. The combination of straight lines and subtle contours allow for a contemporary or classic finishes. Married with exceptional durability, it’s perfect for meeting rooms, classrooms, training centers, cafeterias, waiting areas and more. A welded steel rear leg (permanently affixed to frame) and interlocking front glide assembly ensures straight rows and dependability. www.americanseating.com
Molecule Created for Arconas by award-winning designer Davide Tonizzo, Molecule’s unique assembly, connects individual structures to one another using a “soft-linking” system; replacing the need for a hard connection. The simple and rapid assembly of Molecule adds an original twist to conventional seating layouts. Molecule consists of two components: a cylindrical upholstered seat and a curved backrest finished in wood veneer with upholstered top pad. The two components of Molecule combine into an endless array of configurations and are designed to simply reconfigure on the fly to respond to changing needs. An optional plywood work surface is also available. Arconas | www.arconas.com
Kruze Collection Designed by David Fox and defined by crisp clean lines, geometric forms and a classic retro flair, the Kruze collection effortlessly resolves many lounge seating applications. Kruze chairs feature a hard shell that can be formed FSC-certified wood finish or fabric-wrapped to create three very distinct looks. Kruze tables are available with wood or tempered glass table top for further versatility. The result is a stunning collection that adds sophistication and panache to the workplace. Boss Design | www.boss-design.com continued on page 18 JULY 2009
Seating } continued from page 17 Zephyr The Zephr from Dale Office was designed to meet the requirements of one of Americaâ€™s leading communication companies that needed a strong multi-use mesh chair that exceeded the comfort level of their existing chairs at a realistic price. A task or conference chair, the Zephyr offers an array of functions that allow users of all shapes and sizes to tailor a perfect fit. Dale Office | www.daleoffice.com
Memento Providing a tactile seating experience from beginning to end, the Memento conference/ executive collection features a refreshingly comfortable knit suspension back available in a range of solid hues and multiple color combinations. Designed to impress with an elegant polished aluminum cantilever arm and complementary high profile base, Memento is a keepsake for executive offices, conferencing applications, workstations and more. Series includes knit-back and fully upholstered models with three available arm selections, two base finishes and a wide range of mechanism options. Encore Seating | www.encoreseating.com
ErgoErgo An innovative seating concept that combines wellness with contemporary design, the patent-pending ErgoErgo allows the body to rock gently in any direction to build strength and flexibility. ErgoErgo is intelligent design and promotes well-being and productivity. And, itâ€™s comfortable, durable, and easy on the budget. ErgoErgo | www.ergoergo.com
Accord Mesh GLOBAL ACCORD MESH is the latest addition to the award winning Global Accord seating series created by designer Zooey Chu. The breathable mesh back promotes airflow and comfort and gently supports the natural curve of the spine to reduce fatigue during extended meetings. Other features include polished aluminum arms, soft urethane arm caps, pneumatic seat height adjustment, tilt-tension adjustment and multiple position tilt control lock. Global - The Total Office | www.globaltotaloffice.com
Saggio by United Chair Saggio features state-of-the-art mesh weave technology to give the chair a soft, yet modern look. Three mesh back styling options combined with a wide choice of upholstery and two types of sit comfort, this unique design combines personal comfort with overall value. Saggio is the result of years of evolutionary craftsmanship and design expertise. Groupe Lacasse | www.groupelacasse.com continued on page 19 JULY 2009
Seating } continued from page 18 Vili Integrating comfort and design is easy thanks to new Vili seating from Gunlocke. An extremely versatile product with 2,080 possible combinations, Vili asserts the sophistication required in a private office setting, and easily translates to high-use spaces, such as educational and healthcare facilities, by adding a surprisingâ€”and stackableâ€”design element. Gunlocke | www.gunlocke.com
Very Very is a light scale seating family that offers design adaptability and versatility with four models. Very is made with up to 71% recycled content and up to 98% recyclable materials. Very has earned gold and silver Cradle to Cradle certification by MBDC, achieved Greenguard certification and may contribute toward LEED credits. Haworth | www.haworth.com
Embody A new, ergonomic, high performance work chair, Embody is the first chair to restore balance to the human/computer relationship by supporting both the mind and the body. Its pixelated support creates seat and back surfaces that automatically conform to your every movement and distribute your weight evenly. Embody carries a 12-year warranty. Herman Miller | www.hermanmiller.com
CLIP Ready anytime additional short-term seating is needed, the CLIP Chair offers a sturdy steel frame, beechwood seat and mesh back for a handy place to sit. When folded, CLIP is only 1 inch deep, and up to three can be stored on the wall bracket. Peter Pepper | www.peterpepper.com
Mirus The new Mirus task chair from The HON Company offers value-driven consumers an ergonomic, stylish task chair at an attractive price point. Mirus ensures a comfortable seating solution by adapting to the contours of the human body, accommodating a variety of users. The HON Company | www.hon.com
Agiliti Agiliti is bringing flexi back. The Agiliti chair has a flexible, plastic back that moves with your body to provide added comfort no matter the setting, granting you a little taste of the lavish. Add an upholstered seat for an even more comforting experience. The chair features non-marring floor glides and comes in six bold colors. Stack with a new flexibility! Safco Products | www.safcoproducts.com continued on page 20 JULY 2009
Seating } continued from page 19 Cirrus The Cirrus line is a collection of executive high back, management mid-back, guest and conference style seating. Each version features a unique knit mesh back with passive lumbar support providing optimum comfort. A 5-position locking, swivel-tilt mechanism is standard with knee tilt option available (except guest chair). Independently adjustable arms feature a spring-loaded height adjustment plus width adjustment to fit almost any body size. Reverse braking casters are standard on either chrome or black 5-star base. HPFI (High Point Furniture Industries) | www.hpfi.com
SP This 96% recyclable, BS EN ISO14001-certified chair uses cutting-edge mechanisms like “Passive Seat Slide” and “Active Lumbar Support” features, which eliminate the need for manual adjustment. Another groundbreaking element is SP’s backrest, composed of thermoplastic urethane (TPU) - the same material used on the inner wall of some automobile tires to insure durable rigidity with rebound. Itoki’s proprietary compound was created after extensive research done to push the material further in performance and capacity. Itoki | www.itoki.jp/english/
Otis The perfect hybrid between a side and lounge chair, Otis centers on a molded piece of Petra polymer, whose high level of post-consumer material allows the chair to achieve an aggregate post-recycled content of close to 50 percent. The versatile back insert creates a colorful accent and the simple detailing of the horizontal split-line between the top-of-the-arms and the backrest quietly elevates the overall aesthetic. That horizontal split-line also provides an extra layer within the design of Otis, while at the same time lowering the chair’s perceived center-of-gravity with a clear or translucent backrest. Izzy | www.izzydesign.com
Talent Public and private spaces, formal or informal settings, Talent lounges, benches and ottomans comfortably perform wherever people gather. Design features include a gently angled backrest, full seat depth, elevated armrests, wood plinth base and legs, and a rich palette of fabrics and leathers. SCS certified, Talent is an enduring interpretation of the club chair’s iconic form. Kimball | www.kimballoffice.com
Salerno The Salerno is part of Kwalu's line of low-maintenance, anti-bacterial designs that look great and are virtually indestructible with a 10-year product warranty on both construction and finish. The Salerno's clean lines and sleek finish will add a simple elegance to any seating location. The ultimate in comfort and style, it features an ergonomic back and lumbar support. Kwalu | www.kwalu.com continued on page 21 JULY 2009
Seating } continued from page 20 Ease Collection A crisp composition of curved seat and back forms, precisely fitted to a slender rod frame, the Ease chair makes a striking solo statement or fills a room with order and style. The seat can be specified in two trim options, wood or upholstered and an upholstered onlay can be applied to the face of the exposed plywood back. Ease wood securely stacks 30 high on its own transport dolly. Leland International | www.lelandinternational.com
Molo The inspiration for softseating comes from a desire for flexible and spontaneous space making. softseating’s magnetic ends allow it to connect to itself, forming a cylindrical stool or low table. softseating pieces of the same size, can also connect to one another to form long winding benches, providing endless seating topographies. softseating is available in textile and kraft paper in white, black and brown. Molo Design | www.molodesign.com
Spine Align Designed with the utmost in comfort in mind, the Balt Spine Align cradles the body, adapting to the user’s posture and giving the support necessary for a productive day’s work. This ergonomic Spine Align lumbar support office chair from BALT features two, full-floating lumbar panels that support each side of the back, removing pressure from the spinal column. The floating design allows each lumbar panel to move with the user, ensuring complete support. Moore Company | www.moorecoinc.com
Aurora Aurora executive/conference and guest seating brings classy luxury and sophistication to any environment with subtle curves and sleek, fixed wrap-around arms connected via a metal sweep across the back. This distinctive design is complemented with undeniable comfort. Aurora is SCS Indoor Advantage Gold certified, level 1 certified by SCS and available with FSC Certified Wood. National | www.NationalOfficeFurniture.com
Premio The Italian designed Premio chair is distinctive, fluid, lightweight, and yet very comfortable. Available with or without arms, this polypropylene chair is not only stackable but stylish. An outdoor option is available with an added UV inhibitor. Upholstered seats are another option for both the stacking and swivel tilt models. The Polypropylene shell and metal frames are 100% recyclable, and all standard fabric upholstery consists of 100% post consumer recycled fibers. SurfaceWorks | www.surfaceworks.us continued on page 22 JULY 2009
Seating } continued from page 21 InTune and InSync Adding to the inMotion series, the InTune and InSync side chair feature Body Balance, a weight-activated counterbalance technology. InMotion chairs conform to users’ bodies and continually adjust with every movement or change of posture and balance. Since they self-adjust, InMotion chairs eliminate human error, thereby reducing workplace injuries and stress. In mid-back or high-back options, with fixed or height & width adjustable arms, with or without a floating lumbar, and in a wide variety of colors and finishes, InTune and InSync are suitable for all styles of de´cor. Highmark | www.highmarkergo.com
Turner The Turner fixed seating system’s multi-pivotal base both swivels and tilts, enabling the pedestal mounted seat to tip forward so students can easily pass through the row behind the seat. The Turner can be installed in straight rows on tiered or flat floors with minimum center-to-center spacing of 23.6 inches (60cm) and minimum row spacing of 35.5 inches (90cm). It features a 12 inch continuous writing surface and an integrated wire management system. Sedia Systems | www.sediasystems.com
Focus Focus offers inherent design flexibility with multiple options-including a slim-back design with multiple back options. Choose from mesh, upholstered with mesh fabric, or plastic backs. The back mirrors the natural curvature of the spine, keeping the entire back well supported. The mesh provides maximum air circulation and conforms to individuals back shapes-evenly distributing body weight and eliminating pressure points. Together the back curve and mesh allow for flexibility and movement while providing a healthy upright posture for hours of comfort. Seat sliders, back tension and lock positions are all easy to adjust and a waterfall seat relieves pressure from the back of the legs. www.sitonit.net
Think Steelcase's Think chair is embodiment of understanding how people sit. The Think chair's ergonomic features include a back flexors track with individual movement of spine and pelvis. The back flexors are individually shaped to the human form to provide optimum support for each area of the back. Seat flexors conform to your shape, providing a dynamic comfort pocket. Additional features include recline support in proportion to the users own body weight, adjustable arms, flexible seat edge and four comfort settings in one dial for preference control. Steelcase | www.steelcase.com
Leopard Leopard fuses robot technology and seating design to offer innovative styling and exceptional comfort. The human muscle mechanism is applied to provide a superior fit that follows every posture change from sitting to standing enabling ultimate ergonomic comfort. Leopard is relaxed seating which reduces muscle load as you move for low-impact sitting. Okamura | www.okamura.jp JULY 2009
BIFMA on the Level Executive Director Tom Reardon Discusses the Association’s New Standard for Sustainability
Last month, BIFMA International, the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association, introduced level, a new product certification program which BIFMA describes as “the first fully transparent, multi-attribute furniture sustainability standard addressing all aspects of sustainability, including material utilization, energy and atmosphere impacts, human and ecosystem health and social responsibility.” Why did BIFMA develop this new standard for sustainable product and what does it mean for the dealer community? We asked BIFMA executive director Tom Reardon for the answers to these and other questions related to level. Here’s what he had to say: Why did BIFMA feel the need for a new sustainability standard at this time, when there are several already in widespread use in the industry? REARDON: The commercial furniture industry has long been a leader in the quest for responsible manufacturing processes, facilities and products. But the industry needed a common language, framework and approach to help evaluate and improve the sustainability of its enterprises. In a world of information overload and a rising tide of environmental claims, level is important because it provides a single, fully transparent way of understanding and communicating what a sustainable furniture product is. The standard provides a common, but challenging set of criteria for furniture producers and their supply chain to evaluate the sustainable aspects of products. And level ensures that an independent third party has conducted the conformance assessment.
How was the new standard developed? REARDON: In 2006 the BIFMA and NSF International began drafting the standard with a broad and diverse group of stakeholders following the American National Standards Institute consensus process. The draft standard, known as BIFMA e3-2008, was released for consensus body vote and public comment in June 2008. Modeled after the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Rating System, the standard provides measurable market-based definitions of progressively more sustainable furniture by establishing sustainability performance criteria in four areas: Materials, Energy and Atmosphere, Human and Ecosystem Health, and Social Responsibility. How is the certification process handled? What are the actual logistics of gaining level certification? REARDON: In order to achieve a level certification, a manufacturer must contract with a recognized, independent, third party certification body. That certification body then uses the BIFMA e3-2008 sustainability standard as a framework to conduct the continued on page 24
BIFMA } continued from page 23 audit function, measure all required information and finally certify the specific product with the level conformance mark. Manufacturers that evaluate their products against the BIFMA sustainability standard without the third party auditing process will not be able to use the level conformance mark and their products are not considered “level certified”. There are presently four certification bodies authorized to certify products to the level sustainability standard; Intertek Testing Services NA, NSF International, Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) and UL Environment. As the standard continues to grow and is adopted throughout the contract furniture industry, more independent auditing firms are expected to apply to participate in the program. Interested manufacturers can consult the level website www.levelcertified.org for a current list of recognized third-party certification bodies. How is the standard itself structured? REARDON: level has three conformance thresholds within the standard. Products can be awarded a level 1, level 2 or level 3 certification mark based on the combined score achieved in the sustainability evaluation. level 3 is the highest award a product can achieve.
Meeting the level thresholds is a lot harder than it sounds. It requires months, if not years, of work by manufacturers to measure their manufacturing process inputs and outputs, incorporate new material formulations, create design protocols, and formalize corporate actions around social responsibility. The level conformance mark is an easily identifiable but hard-earned symbol of a company’s commitment to sustainability. And what does all this mean for the dealer community? REARDON: The level conformance mark will help the dealer community and our customers quickly and easily identify products that have been evaluated against a furniture sustainability standard. It will also allow for fairly simple and direct comparisons of how the various products perform relative to one another; i.e. level 1 (entry level), level 2 (higher degree of performance) and level 3 being the highest tier of performance. It will also make the customers’ job of product specification easier as they won't have to do a ton of research. Instead, they will have a simple, comprehensive and verifiable way to understand how products contribute to green buildings and sustainability as a whole.
These thresholds are analogous to the silver, gold and platinum rankings within the LEED rating system, but they provide the flexibility to add new thresholds to the program in the future as the industry evolves to become even more environmentally and socially responsible. In the level certification process, a product, as well as the organization and facilities that produced it, are scored according to sustainability criteria in the four areas of Materials, Energy and Atmosphere, Human and Ecosystem Health, and Social Responsibility. In order to be level certified, products must meet certain minimum requirements in each area, and then must earn additional optional credits in order to achieve higher levels of conformance.
Successful Leadership: How Do You & Your Organization Rate? By Bill Kuhn
Over the years, I’ve written dozens of articles on leadership. Recently, I’ve been asked how I might describe leadership success in light of these unprecedented times. Before I discuss what is required of a leader today, let me share with you what dealers are telling me is their Number One problem. Several have said it’s a lack of liquidity (cash)—which has been the rationale for my recent columns in OFDealer on financial planning and control. However, the majority of responses discuss two other issues—and it’s who mentions them that is also very enlightening. Dealer principals cite people issues as their biggest concern, primarily recruiting and retaining talent. Other members of the organization—sales, operations, support, and management—cite leadership as the Number One issue. I’m inclined to agree with the staff, because people issues, and even financial management issues such as liquidity, are often symptoms of an underlying cause: ineffective and unenlightened leadership. So, who is a leader today? I believe dealer leadership can be defined in terms of the ability to create and sustain a clear and visible business culture and strategy, guiding all of the activities of the organization toward sustainable high performance and service excellence with customer focus and value. To successfully carry out this definition, I’ve identified seven factors that cover a combination of characteristics, skills and qualities.
Bill Kuhn, principal of William E. Kuhn & Associates, is a noted industry consultant, writer, and speaker with over 35 years of industry experience. He consults with dealer principals and their management teams in areas of strategic planning, leadership and organizational development, marketing, financial management, valuation and merger/ acquisition. For more information, contact Bill by phone 303-322-8233, fax 303-331-9032, or e-mail: BillKuhn1@cs.com. JULY 2009
I suggest that you compare your own leadership traits to the following seven aspects of leadership, and make the commitment to take corrective action when you’ve missed the mark.
Know yourself. Most writers and gurus in the field of leadership acknowledge that leadership’s first commandment is to “know thyself.” This means having self-awareness and being realistic about your skills, talents, attitudes, and behaviors, as well as the effect these have on others. People who understand their capabilities are self-confident and have a much better sense of where they are headed. How effective a leader are you or could you be? continued on page 26 OFDEALER
Kuhn } continued from page 25 Possess a strong desire to achieve.
Delegate and empower.
Dealer principals and presidents are pretty transparent. Marvin Bower, author of the best seller The Will to Manage, titled his book from the proverb, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Dealer principals will be evaluated on their “will” (their desire to find a way, and their commitment, drive, and perseverance) and what they make happen. Only with this personal desire can you stretch your staff and truly challenge them. Is your staff convinced you have the will and can find the way?
Effective execution must be a company-wide effort. Many leaders (and managers) are poor delegators. They feel they need to (or want to) do it themselves. Delegate authority, including decision-making. With delegation and empowerment comes accountability; you’ll want to hold your people accountable for their performance to achieve the expected results. Is there broad-based empowerment and accountability?
Be decisive and act promptly.
Self-management is a combination of many factors: acting with self-discipline and self-control (for example, thinking before acting and staying calm and clear-headed in difficult situations); displaying honesty, integrity, and trustworthiness—a major issue in business today; and being flexible and willing to change. It’s not as much what you do, but how you do it. Are you a good role model that can drive improved performance?
Measure the time period—the gap—in terms of what you intend to do and when you actually do it. Effective execution is required at all levels, at the very top and throughout the dealership. Are you decisive and acting promptly with positive results?
Set a clear vision and direction. Visionary leadership motivates people and builds commitment by making it clear how their work fits into the larger vision of the company. It is particularly useful when change, innovation, high standards of performance, and a strong sense of urgency are required—all critical factors in today’s environment. Have you defined your vision, clarified the direction for change, and communicated so that it has been understood?
It’s a myth that leaders are born, not made. While certain traits may be inherent, leadership can definitely be learned and enhanced, resulting in outstanding leadership skills than can drive exceptional performance.
Become a sensor. In Peter Drucker’s final article, What Makes an Effective Executive, he cited eight practices that every executive should follow, then added a ninth that he elevated to a rule, “Listen first, speak last.” Becoming a sensor—socially aware and able to empathize—requires listening. It is essential for communication with staff and customers. Within your organization, listening will help identify where talents lie; it builds trust and brings new ideas, opportunities, and innovative approaches to your company. With customers, listening gets the knowledge you need, identifies the values your customers’ desire and expect, and builds customer relationships and trust. Have you listened attentively to know and understand your business, your people, and your customers?
Social media: The st Approach to Marketing Your Dealership
By Kama Weinberger IIDA
There is buzz everywhere about social networking but what does it all really mean and how can it help your dealership? A social media campaign can be time consuming, but it can also provide free marketing and the recognition and innovation it gains your dealership can be invaluable. There are essentially four sources that can benefit office furniture dealerships: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Blogging. We will look at each to see how to utilize them and how they work.
Facebook is a more intimate setting to gain “Fans” of your business. You basically set up a “business” page under your personal Facebook account. This is a great way to inform your fans of events you have coming up, new product introductions, industry news and general information on your company. This is also a great way of making updates that you would normally have on your website but it is much easier to do it here. FaceBook is a place to network with people you know.
continued on page 28 JULY 2009
Social Media } continued from page 27
Twitter is an arena to share thoughts, links to interesting industry articles and personal and business information. Sharing yourself with others builds relationships so be yourself, build your network and share information that others find valuable. Following people and being followed develops your market presence and provides a place to network with the people you don’t know. Referrals are the best source of business and Twitter is a great way to get your name and expertise out there. Most people want to know what the return on Social Media is. This quote from Tony Hsieh CEO of Zappos.com hits the nail on the head… “Twittering is like hugging. Just because it's hard to measure the return on investment doesn't mean there isn't value there.”
Blogging Blogging is another excellent way to get information out there without having to constantly update your website. It allows you to write as much as you need plus add pictures. This is a great way to share product introductions and information your potential clients find valuable. BlogSpot and Word Press are two easy ways to start blogging. Once you write your blog post you can tweet a link so interested people can find it.
There is a lot to learn with Social Media but the best thing to do is dive right in. Don’t be afraid to say what is on your mind. As mentioned before, Social Media is free but takes time. In the upcoming months we will be featuring more articles on Social Media and new online technologies to take your dealership into the 21st century.
The best way to gain knowledge from LinkedIn is by joining groups you are interested in or are members of such as OFDA, IIDA, IFMA. As a member of these groups, you can to share ideas and find resources that will be valuable to your day to day business.
Kama Weinberger is a NCIDQ certified Interior Designer and President / CEO of Q+E Design Source & Q+E Furniture Solutions with locations in Denver, San Francisco and Phoenix. She has always been a bit of a tech geek looking at new and innovated ways to market her business and simplify her day to day work process. For more information, check out Kama’s latest LinkedIn group “Social Media for Office Furniture Dealerships” or follow her on Twitter at Furnituregodess. OFDEALER
LinkedIn can essentially help dealers to network with people they know in the industry; develop relationships through their connections to others and highlight their accomplishments and experience.
Guidelines for Communicating
Effectively Many of us have witnessed someone trying to communicate with a person who simply isn’t “getting” what the speaker is saying. I have often observed that the speaker will try saying the same thing repeatedly, but each time with an increasingly louder voice, sometimes more slowly and usually with some marginally controlled frustration. Same words, same confusion, same results. To the speaker, the message is obvious. To the listener, the message is confusing and possibly even irrelevant. As salespeople feel more pressure to compete and close deals and as e-mail blasts fly through cyberspace, how often is the communication more of the same, but louder and more frequent? Maybe even a little frantic? Or worse, communications with your market have been postponed (making you silent!) with the excuse of the tight economy? How effective are these strategies with your current or prospective customers? Are they hearing what you are intending or are you creating confusion? Or, gulp, are you dropping off their radar and not being heard at all? Here are some guidelines that will help ensure that your important message gets heard by your intended audience. When creating marketing materials, ads or proposals, be clear and specific about your message. Trish Brock, Principal of Trish Brock & Associates, is a well-known industry consultant. Her crossfunctional consulting group specializes in helping dealers solve identity, branding and sales support collateral challenges. She also conducts Perceptual Market Assessments and Culture Evaluations to better define market positioning and effective brand messaging. She can be reached at 720-277-3035 or at email@example.com.
More is not better. Many sales pieces, including e-mail blasts, try to say or show too much. Messages get diluted or worse, don’t get read at all. Keep it simple and direct.
Have a plan and strategy when developing any communication. Know what you want to say and don’t make the customer work at finding your real message. Otherwise, you are leaving your messaging to chance interpretation.
Just because they are cost effective isn’t a good reason to inundate your marketplace with e-mails. Staying in front of your audience is a good idea but not if your communication rambles, doesn’t really have a pointed message and is not graphically well designed. It only takes a couple of poorly conceived e-mails before you get blocked or systematically deleted.
Be sure that what your sales materials say is consistent with what your salespeople are saying. A Corporate Visions’ March 2009 survey of salespeople revealed that 74% admitted to rewriting or altering sales materials before actually using them in the field. continued on page 30
Trish Brock } continued from page 29 Sales materials should support your salespeople, the way they work and to further the sales process. They should be current and designed to reinforce the many different conversations that take place in a lengthy strategic sale. Hint: One corporate brochure won’t do the trick.
Be sure your message(s) resonates with and addresses the concerns of your audience.
Whether it’s an ad, sales materials, web site or bid response, make it beautiful, interesting and something that your audience will want to read (and your salespeople will want to use). Don’t underestimate the power of visually stunning materials, especially if you are working with the A&D community.
Are you innovative or boring?
Just because your message sounds good to you doesn’t necessarily mean it will resonate with them. Hint: Reread the first paragraph of this article.
Representing innovative products and offering novel solutions with boring or ill conceived materials sends conflicting messages to your market.
Be wary of corporate chest pounding.
Inform, educate, inspire and motivate your customers! Remember that “how” you say it is as important as “what” you say.
Don’t be afraid of injecting passion and emotion into your sales messaging. If you aren’t enthusiastic about your products and services, why should your customers be?
Don’t play it safe. Take some creative risks to set your dealership apart and get attention.
Don’t believe you are saving money and getting the job done by using boring “anyone can get” clip art. Photos of drones smiling blindly at the camera or shaking hands don’t make your presentations and materials interesting.
It’s not an overstatement to suggest that your dealership can be defined by your customers’ point of view. What messages are you sending to your market and are they being received as you intended? Do your communications help further the sales process, or are your salespeople acting as “free agents” and creating their own? Are they authentic and meaningful to prospective buyers? Do they stand out from your competitors’? Investing the time and effort to develop effective communications that resonate with your market creates opportunity for the growth of your business. Yes, even in this economic climate.
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Stop, Look, Listen & Engage to Overcome Economic Fear
dr.edwardmarshal our heads that we tend to react, blame others, and protect rather than to stop, reflect, listen, understand, engage, and become proactive. Some of us have even gotten numb to all the bad news. This economic tsunami washing over us is like any huge wave we might face at the beach. If we just stand there or try to run away from it, we will get clobbered. If we swim into it, duck under it and are not fearful of its force, we will rise to the top to swim another day. It's a conscious choice we make on how to respond and one we each get to make daily. The bottom line is that moving beyond this very real economic fear must come from the inside out. It is a test of our character.
Fear is perhaps one of the strongest motivators there is. And we have it in spades today. We've gone beyond oscillations in the market to a downward spiral, with hundreds of thousands of jobs lost. This fear has permeated every element of our lives. Everyone knows someone who has lost a job or someone who knows someone who has lost a job. It's two degrees of separation. Economic fear can immobilize us. It causes people in the workplace to be thankful they have a job rather than take risks. It can pit people against one another so that they keep their jobs. It transforms the work atmosphere from one of creativity and collaboration to one that is subdued and often frantic. It's hard not feeling like a victim. In fact, it is quite natural in times as difficult as these to feel that way, especially when the news reminds us hourly of our dire economic straits. After all, we didn't create this mess, and we have no influence over how we get out of it. Yet we face the consequences daily. We don't control bank lending practices, the stimulus package or the decisions of our clients to cut spending or layoff workers. Feeling like a victim carries great risk. It is from that place in
It challenges everything we have believed in and what we thought was supposed to happen in our livesâ€”more challenging work, climbing the ladder, and getting higher salaries and bonuses and financial security for our children and our own futures. The economic meltdown we are in the midst of has changed thatâ€”most likely forever. To meet this paradigm shift, we get to reach inside and find out what we're really made of, what truly mattersâ€”our values, whether we are reactive or proactive, how we work through difficult problems, and how we treat other people who are close to us at home and at work. We find our core, the ground we stand on, our self-confidence, our courage, an attitude of optimism or pessimism, and how resilient and resourceful we are in dealing with issues that deeply affect our families, and how we feel about ourselves and others. No one is a failure. We may face difficult times, but personal failure is not even part of this conversation. It is about a conscious choice we make every day: Is the glass half-empty or half-full? With our mind-set focused on a glass half-full, here is a process for thinking about this: stop, look, listen and engage. continued on page 32
Last Word } continued from page 31 Stop and become aware. The first step is becoming aware of how we are feeling about ourselves and others in the context of this economic crisis. Are we protective of our jobs, competitive toward others, blaming others or risk-averse? Do we feel victimized and out of control? However we feel, our awareness is the critical first step. Look inside and reflect. Once aware, take the time to reflect on what all this means. What insights are you having about yourself, about what truly matters, and about your core values and beliefs? Listen to your true self. What is the ground you stand on? Where does your self-confidence come from? Listen for what you know is true about you. It is here that you will find the basis for becoming proactive and will retire any remnants of the victim. It is here that you will turn and face the tsunami, rising through waves to ride it.
Engage from a place of faith. Coming from this renewed faith, othersâ€”your family, those you work with, your customersâ€”need your leadership. We all need this strength and sense of confidence. To turn back the economic darkness that we each face at home and at work, to free ourselves from fear that can gnaw at our very being and to see that there are other possibilities, we each have a conscious choice to make. Victims no more, we reach inside, remember who we are and the ground we stand on, and lead from our faith and self-confidenceâ€”in ourselves and each other. Then we will move beyond this economic fear forever. Edward Marshall is president of the Marshall Group Inc., a Chapel Hill, NC based collaborative change management and leadership development consulting company. His work focuses on creating workplaces fit for the human spirit, where there is a culture of ownership, and as a result, there is consistent high performance. You can reach Edward at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-593-4358.
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