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The Changing Universe of Buyers and

Influencers Page 12

Also in this Issue: Bill Kuhn – Blending Management and Leadership Market Spotlight – Dealers Soundoff on Sound Masking


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Time to Take Your Clients Back to School!

Milton Morris, Washington, DC Area Teknion Dealer, Receives Honorary Degree

Here’s the deal: There’s not a lot of customers out there remotely interested in buying much of anything and services, while important, can only get you so far. So what’s a dealer to do as one of the industry’s worst downturns in recent memory continues? For many of the dealers we’ve been talking to of late, one increasingly attractive answer lies in focusing on an educational role in the marketplace.

Standard Business Furniture’s Milton Morris urged students at Northern Caribbean University to embrace a spirit of entrepreneurship when he delivered the commencement address at the university’s graduation ceremonies.

Last month, we reported on Haworth dealer Kayhan Hellriegel, president of Kayhan International in Schaumburg, IL, and the recognition she received recently with the award of an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Chicago’s East-West University. On August 9, Milton D. Morris, president and CEO of Teknion dealer Standard Business Furniture in Washington, DC, was the recipient of similar honors. Morris, who holds a PhD from the University of Maryland, last month not only received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Northern Caribbean University (NCU) in Jamaica, but he also delivered the commencement address at the university’s graduation ceremonies. Morris and his wife Merrillie, who serves as senior vice president and general manager at Standard, are both NCU graduates and active supporters of the university. Its Morris Entrepreneurship Centre, named in their honor, is their gift to the university. In his commencement address, Morris reminisced about his years as a working student on the campus and then urged the 1,100 graduates to seek opportunities to improve the well-being of those in need, to be “visionaries who see things to be done, who aspire to achieving great goals, and who are imbued with the drive to get them done.” continued on page 3 SEPTEMBER 2009

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As managing editor Alicia Ellis notes in our cover story, the current wave of corporate downsizing and staff cuts has resulted in many veteran facility managers and designers being replaced by relative newcomers to the industry. They know their own job security will depend on finding innovative and cost-effective solutions for their organizations but all too often, that’s about all they know. For someone with the expertise and experience to bring these newcomers up to speed on current industry trends and point them towards new products that can meet their needs, it all spells opportunity and it’s one that more and more dealers, supported by their primary manufacturers, seem to be embracing. As one dealer currently offering a series of seminars on key industry topics notes in this month’s Dealer News section, education is “opening doors and having a positive impact in ways that we never expected.” The bottom line: If you don’t have a program in place to position your dealership as a valuable educational resource for your customers and prospects, now may be a good time to start working on one, so that when good times return, your new-found students will also be back and, hopefully, ready to start placing orders again. Simon DeGroot Editor in Chief OFDealer

continued on page PAGE 2


Dealer News } continued from page 2 He encouraged them to embrace a spirit of entrepreneurship as “the fastest way to re-energize flagging economies and achieve a competitive posture in a rapidly changing world.”

Virginia after Chasen's Business Interiors, the Herman Miller dealership based in Richmond, unexpectedly closed its doors in July after 30 years in business.

He said entrepreneurs are characterized by self-reliance, innovativeness, and daring. “When those attitudes are brought together,” Morris contended, “you find leaders who are willing to take risks, who are unwilling to accept the status quo, and who reject fear of failure.”

American Office will now serve the Richmond, Charlottesville, and Norfolk markets in Virginia for Herman Miller.

Morris, who is especially passionate about “social entrepreneurship,” told the students, “If you are willing to roll your sleeves up, go to work to get your visions realized, you can change your country, you can change the world.”

Important Milestones for Herman Miller Dealer BPSI and Its President Despite all the current industry gloom and doom, Dave Horsley and his team at Herman Miller dealer Rio Grande Contract Furnishings, Inc. (BPSI) in El Paso have been finding plenty to celebrate recently, as the dealership marked its 40th anniversary and feted Dave for his 20th year as owner and president. Highlighting the festivities was an open house back in May that drew over 200 customers, prospects and members of the local A&D community to mark these two special landmarks. Horsley himself is an industry veteran with over 35 years’ experience that, he says, has taught him some very important fundamentals about running a dealership. “The hardest part of any organization is the people side and if you have good people, you have a good business,” he contends. “The good news for BPSI is that at a time when we need it most, we have really good people!” As it is for virtually every dealer these days, business is not exactly a bed of roses right now. “We’re in strange times and things are tough,” says Horsley candidly. “Fortunately, El Paso is home to Fort Bliss, the second-largest Army base in the country, and it’s been growing and helping the community in general.”

Following Chasen’s Shutdown, American Office, Baltimore-Based Herman Miller, Enters Three New Markets in Virginia Baltimore Herman Miller dealer American Office has geared up to make the most of a major new growth opportunity. This summer, the dealership opened up three new locations in

“We’re very excited by this opportunity and very impressed by the quality and growth potential each of these new markets offers,” commented David Kuntz, president of American Office. With the expansion, American Office will be adding 50 new employees between three new sales offices and two distribution centers in Virginia. “In many ways, it’s a natural extension for us since we already have a presence in Northern Virginia,” Kuntz said. “I’ve been very proud of how the American Office team has responded to this new opportunity and I am also very impressed by the quality of the Chasen’s team. I look forward to having many of them become part of the American Office family.” Commented Herman Miller vice president of dealer distribution Paul Iles, “Under the leadership of president David Kuntz, CFO Michael Kuntz and executive vice president of sales Joe Albrecht, American Office has done a fantastic job of working with Herman Miller to fulfill customer obligations and maintain our presence in the marketplace. They mobilized very quickly and are in Virginia, on the ground and ready to serve.”

OEC Business Interiors, Mobile-Based Steelcase Dealer, Uses Education as Key Element of A&D Outreach In Mobile, AL, Gerri Kennedy-Holland and her team at Steelcase dealer OEC Business Interiors last month made some major progress in the effort to position themselves as experts on the furniture needs of healthcare facilities, after hosting a seminar on “Experiences in Outpatient Care.” The seminar, presented by Jean Gayle of Steelcase’s Nurture division, drew some 20 members of the local A&D community who each received Continuing Education and Learning Unit credits for attending. The event also gave OEC an ideal opportunity to present its healthcare furniture offering to key buyers and decision-makers at the dealership’s showroom. “We received some great feedback from attendees,” reports Kennedy-Holland, who says the informal, after-hours setting for continued on page 4

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Dealer News } continued from page 3 the session allowed the OEC team to strengthen their relationships with the A&D community and provide valuable information and education resources. Such educational efforts are an ongoing part of OEC’s A&D outreach. In July, the dealership set up a healthcare minishowroom at its Gulfport, MS location for a similar event and while attendance was smaller—only about six or seven in total, Kennedy-Holland says—it included the facility managers from the major local healthcare facilities so nobody was complaining too much. “We’re finding events like these are opening doors and having a positive impact in ways that we never expected,” says Kennedy-Holland. Next up: a seminar in Mobile later this month on the latest research into higher education teaching styles and learning behaviors, followed in November by a session, also in Mobile, on improving the overall acoustical quality of the work space.

Joyce Contract Interiors, Boston Area Dealer, Moves to New Location and Adopts New Business Model In Westford, MA, just outside of Boston, Dan Joyce and his team at Joyce Contract Interiors are finishing up with the last of the unpacking after moving from the location they had called home for the past eight years. While the new headquarters is only 15 miles away, the move represents a huge change for the business overall. After operating primarily as a refurbisher of Haworth and Herman Miller workstations since 1990, Joyce made the decision to focus instead on new or remanufactured product sourced from other suppliers and moved from what had been a 15,000 sq. ft. facility to just 1,500 sq. ft. of showroom space. “It got to the point where I felt pricing on new or remanufactured product meant it no longer made sense for us to be in the refurbishing business,” he explains. Instead, Joyce is relying on two primary suppliers—HMU and Global—to target small business and start ups in the greater Boston market and Connecticut, where the dealership maintains a sales office. “The change has probably been the best thing we’ve ever done,” he reports happily. “Fortunately, we were able to find new positions for our refurbishers with other local friendly

SEPTEMBER 2009

competitors and now, we can concentrate on the sales and marketing side of the business without having to worry about inventory, a big refurbishing operation and all the expenses they involved.” Online marketing represents a key component of the dealership’s new business model and some 60% of Joyce’s business currently comes in via the Internet, with four different web sites generating at least 3-4 leads a week. “I’m keeping my fingers crossed, but our business is pretty good right now,” he says. “We’ve got good people and they work hard and that’s more than half the battle,” he contends. So far, at any rate, it’s an approach that seems to be working out just fine.

Pear Commercial Interiors Marks 25th Anniversary, Announces Merger with Wyoming Dealership It’s been a busy couple of months for John Robbins and his team at Haworth dealer Pear Commercial Interiors in Denver. In addition to celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, Robbins is also looking forward to some major business expansion, following the announcement of Pear’s merger with Wyoming Stationery in Casper, Wyoming. Combined operations of the two companies will now include seven locations in Colorado and Wyoming and, Robbins indicated, effectively doubles the dealer and Pear’s sales volume. An industry veteran with close to 25 years in the industry himself—including 14 years with Haworth—Robbins joined Pear in 2001 and bought the company himself the following year. The merger with Wyoming Stationery, he explains, is the first step in what is being planned as a regional expansion effort. Wyoming Stationery’s locations and staff in Casper, Cheyenne, Rawlins and Riverton will remain in operation, with the dealership integrating Pear's systems to provide the complete Haworth product offering to the state of Wyoming. All of the companies will continue business as usual with no job losses or reductions of any kind, Robbins indicated. He will be responsible for the overall combined business operations of the new entity while Jon Campbell will continue to lead the Wyoming team as president.

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BIFMA July Numbers Show Deep Industry Downturn Continues BIFMA International released its market statistics for July earlier this month and once again, the picture was one of an industry mired in a deep downturn. BIFMA said July orders were down 33% compared to the same month last year, matching both May and June’s 33% declines, while July shipments were down 29%. The association also lowered its forecasts for this year and next and now projects 2009 orders and shipments will decline 32.1% and 31%, respectively, down from its previous forecast of minus 29.3% and minus 28.6%. BIFMA said it expects 2010 orders to decline 1.9% compared with its previous estimate of 2.6% growth, while shipments are also expected to decline modestly—down 1.4% compared with the prior forecast for 2.8% growth. BIFMA said it doesn’t expect a return to year-over-year industry growth until the third quarter of next year. Commenting on the latest BIFMA forecast, analyst Budd Bugatch of the Raymond James & Associates investment house said the industry’s key economic drivers remain “decidedly mixed.”

Office Market Gets Failing Grades from Real Estate Economist

Bugatch said the service sector continues to shed jobs, though at a moderating pace and pointed out that July’s 18% decline in U.S. office space construction in July represented the worst year-over-year percentage decline since May 2003. While welcoming a sharp rebound in the American Association of Architects’ Architect’s Billing Index in July (up from 37.7 in June to 43.1 in July), he noted the index remains below 50, indicative of contraction in non-residential construction activity. He also pointed to a report from CB Richard Ellis showing downtown office vacancy rates standing at 13.3% for the second quarter of the year, up 100 basis points from the previous quarter and the highest level since the second quarter of 2005.

If you’re looking for signs of improvement in the office market—and who isn’t?—you may well have to wait at least until the second half of next year, according to economist Arthur Jones of Torto Wheaton Research. Jones recently offered his own mid-year report card on the office market from a leasing perspective and not surprisingly, failing grades showed up pretty much across the board. “If I had to describe the state of the office market in one word, that word would be ‘ugly,’” wrote Jones. According to Jones, the office vacancy rate has risen 150 basis points since the end of 2008 and now sits at 15.5% or fully 250 basis points above the generally accepted range for a healthy vacancy rate (roughly 13%). continued on page 7

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Industry News } continued from page 6 “The next year and a half will present an extremely challenging environment in which it's likely that the vacancy rate will continue to rise and demand will remain weak,” says Jones.

In other changes, Bob Lazar has been promoted to chief operating officer of Office Furniture USA and Janet Bullard has been promoted to executive vice president.

“The problem the office market faces today has to do with weak demand, as slack continues to mount in the job market. At the same time, the slack in the job market translates into space inefficiencies, which make the prospect of a quick recovery virtually non-existent.”

20-20 Technologies Launches 2010 Versions of its Design and Specification Software

Jones says employers are now carrying far more space than they need, and predicts lease expirations over the next year will present downsizing opportunities. He said that although the economic outlook has improved over the near term, prospects for recovery hinge on the job market and the most recent jobs figures still show employers laying off workers, albeit at a decreasing rate.

20-20 Technologies has launched the 2010 versions of its 20-20 CAP Studio, 20-20 Worksheet, 20-20 Giza Studio, and 20-20 Office Sales programs. New and enhanced feature highlights include:

20-20 CAP Studio 2010 including 20-20 Worksheet

“For the next six months, it's hard to see any promise of improvement,” Jones laments, with no evidence to suggest anything but “further deterioration.” The real hope, he suggests, lies in the second half of 2010, when a more viable job market should allow employers to start chipping away at space inefficiencies built up over the past 18 months.

S.P. Richards Names Dennis Arnold Vice President, Furniture; Brad Armacost Named President of Office Furniture USA Industry veteran Dennis Arnold has joined wholesaler S.P. Richards as vice president, furniture. Arnold started his office furniture career in 1989 with Globe Business Furniture. He joined Office Furniture USA as vice president of sales in 1996 and advanced through the organization, most recently serving as president and COO of Chordus, Inc., OF/USA’s parent company. Arnold will report to senior vice president of merchandising, Steve Lynn, who commented, “Dennis is an aggressive sales leader, a capable manager and a seasoned veteran of the office furniture business with solid relationships throughout the industry. We are pleased to have Dennis join the SPR team to lead our efforts in this strategically important category.” At Office Furniture USA, Brad Armacost, previously senior vice-president of sales, has been named president, succeeding Arnold. “Dennis has been grooming me for this for some time,” said Armacost. “I’m excited by the opportunity and the challenge. Dennis positioned the company well before and during the recent downturn, and now we’re ready to reap the benefits.”



Support for AutoCAD 2010 and AutoCAD Architecture 2010;



Block Info Editor allows users to edit information on CAP symbols;



Addition of graphic Panel Builder Reports in Worksheet;



Automatic tagging of Teknion symbols;



CAP Compare enhancements allowing for comparison of individual parts within a panel configuration or standard;



New user-defined default settings for Update Against Worksheet;



Enhanced catalog setup allowing more network deployment control.

20-20 GIZA Studio 

Default setting for saving local libraries to store the symbols locally in the drawing;



Network deployment for Giza catalogs.

20-20 Office Sales 

Enhancements to lighting effects to create more photorealistic and life-like renderings.

“We are proud to be able to offer our customers the highest level of customer service and are committed to supporting their business needs in any technological way we can. That’s why our annual software enhancements and addition of new features are important – because they are truly developed for our clients. The input is theirs, and the responsibility to integrate it into the software is 20-20’s,” said Jean-Francois Grou, 20-20 Technologies president and COO. continued on page 8

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Industry News } continued from page 7 Bretford Introduces Antimicrobial Finishes on Training Tables and Carts Bretford Manufacturing has introduced what it claims are the industry’s first multi-surface antimicrobial finishes for classroom furnishings. The company has given more than 50 different tables and carts for learning and training environments its new Microbe Barrier Technologies antimicrobial surface protection. The treatment, says Bretford, reduces the growth of bacteria, mold, mildew and fungi by 99.99% for the life of the product. Bretford says research at the University of Arizona has found that classrooms are some of the most germ-filled public places. Teachers’ workspaces are more bacteria-laden than workspaces of other professions because of the constant contact with children. This research also showed that every 60 seconds, a working adult touches as many as 30 objects, and that surfaces play a role in the transmission of viruses and bacteria that cause illness. If these surfaces are not effectively cleaned, and then are touched by individuals, the transfer of disease-causing microbes can begin, resulting in cross-contamination, Bretford points out. Bretford said its tables and carts with Microbe Barrier Technologies are available for order and will begin shipping on October 1.

New Online Animation from HON Highlights Side-Access Pedestal Organization Solution

A new online animation from The HON Company is highlighting how office workers can accommodate a wide variety of items into an increasingly shrinking office footprint with the help of HON’s Flagship Side-Access Pedestal.

The animation, available at www.sideaccessped.hon.com, illustrates the numerous configurations possible with the Side-Access Pedestal and a range of options that includes a piling shelf, CD/DVD holder, folder bin, binder storage, file tub and pencil tray.

Allsteel Names New Government Sales VP Marian Morley has been named vice president of government sales and operations at Allsteel. Malisa Bryant, vice president of sales, announced the appointment. Based in Washington, D.C., Morley will lead the company’s Government Account Management team and be responsible for sales and strategy aimed at the GSA market. An industry veteran with more than 20 years experience, Morley has been with Allsteel since 2006 and most recently was Mid-Atlantic region manager.

In Memory of Art Williamson Art Williamson, a former employee of the association from 1978 to 1988, a successful industry management consultant and generous and respected industry friend, died August 29. He was 73. An industry veteran whose career included 14 years with the Shaw-Walker Co. and senior management roles with several dealerships in addition to his service with OFDA, Art was widely known, admired and appreciated in our industry for his humor, personal warmth and forthright approach toward everything. He was always generous with his thoughtful counsel and assistance to anyone who sought them and was an active participant in industry meetings for several decades. He will be greatly missed by everyone in our industry and beyond who knew him. He is survived by his wife of many years, Joan, son David, daughters Patty and Debbie and three grandchildren. SEPTEMBER 2009

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Go configure.

Vicinity.™ So many combinations. So many uses. So little effort. Sometimes the best solution is also the simplest. With a seemingly limitless number of combinations, Vicinity adapts easily to your office’s every need, from public places to private spaces. Vicinity. It’s storage that works. To begin configuring your office space, or for a free catalog or quote, visit www.vicinity.hon.com.

©2009 The HON Company. HON Smart now. Smarter later. is a registered trademark. Vicinity is a trademark.


Learn About the Latest Technologies from Leading Vendors at the OFDA Conference

OFDA2009

Technology Neighborhood Returns The last few years OFDA has organized a “Technology Neighborhood” as an integral part of its annual Dealer Strategies Conference program – a special presentation area where dealers and other conference participants can get authoritative updates on the latest software offerings and features in our industry. This year, with our shift in display formats, OFDA’s Technology Neighborhood will have a special presentation room within the primary educational area of our conference hotel.

DealerStrategies conference

Austin, Texas

Hyatt Lost Pines Resort & Spa

Managing Preparing for the

for the

Present Future.

20-20 Technologies 20-20 Technologies will offer a comprehensive update of its software aimed at industry dealers and others involved in space planning and specification of office furnishings. Steve Compton, director of commercial sales, will lead this timely presentation – to be featured twice during the conference to ensure all interested attendees can take advantage of this program. Tailored to Dealer Principals and Sales Managers, this session will provide practical tips for maximizing the benefit of using 20-20 products such as CAP, Giza and Worksheet. We’ll share processes and deployment strategies used by top dealers to illustrate how 20-20 software can help your company deliver maximum results. This year OFDA also will introduce two exciting new vendors who will make presentations in our Technology Neighborhood.

Connect | Explore | Discover

furnishings. The company has compiled data from over 200 furniture manufacturers to create the most comprehensive database of pre-approval testing and grade-in information in the contract textiles industry. The company’s 6 Clicks technology dramatically reduces the laborious specification process in our industry and restores hours of productive time to the dealer/designer. The online tool allows customers to gain these efficiencies by linking pre-approval and grade-in information to real time inventory data on textile products.

Dijital Media Jit Gohil, CEO and chief designer for Dijital Media, will explain how dealers, manufacturers and others in our industry can “Maximize ROI from their Online Marketing through Comprehensive Strategies.” With industry participants working to find and connect with new customers and present a broader range of service capabilities as part of their brand value proposition, Jit will outline ways to extend your brand and generate more valid sales leads using an integrated approach that includes new social media platforms, company websites and a variety of innovative e-marketing techniques.

Momentum Textile Group – 6 Clicks Technology Eddie Elizondo of the Momentum Textile Group will highlight the company’s specialized online tools designed to dramatically boost the productivity of interior designers and dealership sales and support professionals involved in finding and selecting fabrics for office

Table-Top Display Area to Include Configura OFDA’s new display format will concentrate educational and networking activity like never before. The Barron’s Ballroom Foyer area will feature a variety of industry companies, including Configura, a growing industry provider of advanced, integrated software tools designed to make every sales person a products expert. Configura reduces all steps in the sales and order process to one, to make the drawing of the solution. Everything else is automatically generated: the quotation, 3D images, order confirmation, and parts and material lists can be linked to enterprise resource planning systems (ERP). The company invites you to learn about the features and benefits of its software tools.

Technology Educational Sessions OFDA also is excited to offer a number of sessions in which dealers and other industry experts will highlight their own best practices and learning continued on page 11

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OFDA News } continued from page 10 experiences in adopting social media as a new e-marketing resource and in implementing new productivity-enhancing software platforms.

to highlight new opportunities in their segment of the industry and how they are responding to today’s economic challenges.

In one such session – “Social Media: the 21st Century Approach to Marketing Your Dealership” – Kama Weinberger, principal of Q+E Design Source, will highlight her experiences as a small dealer/designer in this arena. Her goal is to help other industry dealers set realistic goals and expectations about the hard and soft ROI associated with these new interactive, viral communications and relationship-building tools.

By attending, you will expand your strategic vantage-point and gain fresh insights into how you can create new revenue streams, leverage outside resources and relationships for improved productivity, and hone your financial and other management skills to convert tough market conditions into a launching pad for the future success of your business.

Join Your Peers in Austin There’s Still Time to Register for OFDA’s Premier Event OFDA’s technology education track is just one of many aimed at helping dealers and their industry business partners “navigate through unprecedented economic times.” Office furniture dealers of all types, installers, recyclers, manufacturers and industry service providers can expect this year’s OFDA Dealer Strategies Conference (Hyatt Lost Pines, Austin, TX – October 4-6) to ‘raise the bar’ again this year. The conference program includes an exceptionally broad range of timely, practical management education sessions and numerous opportunities for effective professional networking. We also will be joined by the Office Furniture Recyclers (OFR) network, who will host an interactive session

SEPTEMBER 2009

This year OFDA has structured its program to ensure the highest possible ‘take-away’ value for conference participants – no matter where you sit in our industry. Whether you are a small or larger dealer, an aligned or non-aligned dealer, or a large metro or smaller city dealer, you will find sessions that address topics of critical importance to your business. Manufacturers, installation and technology service providers – many small businesses like their dealer customers – also will find huge value by interacting with dealers during social events and networking breaks, and by participating in conference educational sessions alongside their customers and/or suppliers. Register today at www.ofdanet.org, where you can learn about all that this premier industry event has to offer. It will be your most important investment of 2009 – in yourself and your business.

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The Changing Universe of Buyers and

Influencers By Alicia Ellis

Managing Editor

In the May issue of OFDealer, we examined the ins and outs of working with the A&D community from the dealer’s point of view. We received such a great response, we decided to move a step further and look beyond A&D to the landlords, the property reps and the facility managers who are all playing an increasingly important role in the marketplace. Responding to a survey, 90 percent of dealers reported that they do business with all of the above mentioned groups to varying degrees. The consensus of the group indicated that facility managers are the most important of these second tier customers followed by tenant reps, project managers and real estate reps and landlords. “Anyone in our industry must be supportive of and market to each of these customer or audience groups,” said David Torrence, VP and general manager at Interior Workplace Solutions in Allentown, PA. “You never know how critical or timely the relationships you develop can be, that will yield a business opportunity or fulfill the invaluable role of a credible, network resource that supports a dealer's efforts to compete.” According to Susan Borrelli-Gerace, CAD designer with Milton Terry Associates in Oak Ridge, NJ, “It is our experience that the relationships we build with the folks in the commercial real estate

and property/facility management industries are very beneficial, as we receive many leads and referrals through these relationships. A referral from a trusted partner goes a long way with the end users who are considering furniture or related services.” When asked who the most knowledgeable of these potential customers is to work with, responders overwhelmingly chose facilities managers who work with furniture and relocations every day. “The facilities manager is certainly the most crucial individual that we would focus upon, for the sole reason they are more likely to be in control of spending for approved purchases and not speculative, unfunded projects,” said Torrence. “It is their role and obligation to have their pulse on every aspect of a building, whether it is building systems, the function of furniture, the access and circulation of people to the facility. They have to know all the intimate details of the facility, 24/7, whereas real continued on page 13

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Cover } continued from page 12 estate reps, property managers or landlords rely heavily on ‘specialists’ to support their needs. The real estate contingent is more concerned with the pure financials of the ‘deal’ and the terms of the transaction than the specifics of the fit-out and functions of the space. It’s the job of the facilities manager to know the long term strategies of the company, have a handle on the balance sheet and manage (daily) the facility.” But, as John Sorteberg, president of Commercial Furniture Services in St. Louis Park, MN, pointed out, “Companies are down-sizing or eliminating in-house facility departments in order to ‘save costs.’” Dealers are finding that outsourced or less experienced facilities managers and property managers, landlords and real estate reps are either not aware of the dealership’s capabilities or often have misconceptions about product offerings. It is this lack of knowledge that is the primary concern for dealers and according to those surveyed, landlords and real estate professionals are the least knowledgeable about the cap-

abilities and services of the office furniture dealer. “More than likely the real estate rep is the least knowledgeable - NOT any less critical to the success of our efforts, but just less knowledgeable about the value we posses,” said Torrence. “They are not necessarily as intimately involved with the diverse needs of a potential tenant, nor do they typically seek out information on the variety of current trends in office planning and product innovations coming from the contract furniture industry.” Adds Torrence, “The broadest, most obvious change with our customers is the fact that they have become less driven by the need to provide effective and efficient work environments —spaces that foster collaboration, team supported environments, flexible/ adaptable work spaces —in deference to reduced spending on less valued, lowered featured items.

“True, there are ‘green’ initiatives and employee wellness concerns, but if the budget cannot support these ‘premium’ efforts, despite their potential long-term benefits, corporations cannot stay committed to them, primarily because they are not as easily measured as a company's balance sheet that directly reflects the savings from lowering the cost of office furniture.” “The toughest thing is to educate a client about the ins and outs of office furniture—new vs. used vs. refurbished; the quality of different types or lines of furniture; pricing, up front costs vs. the overall costs of doing one thing or purchasing one furniture line over another,” said Sorteberg. “Landlords, some property managers, and some small business owners just lack basic knowledge and experience.” continued on page 14


Cover } continued from page 13 Companies have trimmed the fat; with workers often taking on double duty. And if you think that when the economy improves, companies will go back to their ordinary hiring practices, you’ve got another thing coming.

New Jersey Dealer Reaches Out to New Buyers and Influencers to Fuel Growth

For the foreseeable future, reducing expenses, saving money and getting the most out of every dollar is key and if a company can do it themselves or have someone take on additional responsibilities, they will do so. And that makes reaching out to facilities managers, landlords and other real estate professionals one of the most important things you can do for your dealership today.

One dealer that has enjoyed recent success with some of the new generation of buyers and influencers is Milton Terry Associates in Oak Ridge, NJ.

“The most effective method of marketing to this collective group is through direct interaction,” said Torrence. “Face to face is a guarantee to have a captive audience and be able to gauge an interest level that determines the appropriate follow-up. Network groups, corporate events, and CEU seminars are effective ways to engage this audience.” Torrence notes that on the flip side, email campaigns and direct mail communication are far less effective. “There are no guarantees marketing brochures or other items actually reach the intended party and if they do, evidence of their effectiveness is purely circumstantial,” he said. “It all depends on the recipient to follow-up or allowing and accepting our follow-up with them.” “We provide them with research and insights to direct their ideas to product solutions,” said David O'Connor, director of product marketing and application for Office Environments of New England. “Personal connections over informal circumstances are the most effective ways to develop relationships that allow more face time to demonstrate ourselves as the resource of choice. We need to not be perceived as always selling. We need to partner and assist them in delivering the best possible solution.” “Ergonomic seminars and showroom events allow our staff to interact with the community in a laid back setting,” said Anthony Farah, marketing/business development manager for MDC-UM, a furniture dealership located in Trinidad. “Not selling, just opening a channel for questions and flow of information to the client so they can get a better understanding of our products can be achieved without the pressure of your typical sales call.” “Phone calls, emails and brochure delivery are not enough,” continued Farah. “Personal interaction and discussion is vital to staying in someone's thoughts. Coming to understand what the customer may prefer as far as product is important while still keeping the door open to introduce new product or offerings that will keep things fresh.” If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to start repositioning your contact lists and turn your attention to this second tier of influencers. Ask questions, establish relationships, educate and evaluate new opportunities. SEPTEMBER 2009

OFDEALER

Participating in local community groups and networking organizations is a key element of the dealer’s overall marketing efforts and at one such event, account manager Adam Bedell came into contact with a representative from The Walsh Company, a project management and development firm headquartered in Morristown, NJ. Over the course of approximately six months to a year of meeting at various events and further communications, Bedell built up a relationship with Walsh Company representatives that led to some attractive new business opportunities. “We and two other dealers were asked to bid on a project that The Walsh Company was working on with a local consulting firm that included furnishings for approximately a dozen private offices, ten engineering workstations and other miscellaneous rooms, as well as relocation and liquidation of their old furniture,” recalls Susan A. Borrelli-Gerace, LEED AP, CAD designer with Milton Terry. After The Walsh Company brought each of the three dealers in to meet with the client and present their proposals, Milton Terry Associates not only ended up winning the project, but also found other opportunities with Walsh clients opening up as a result. “In this trying economy, so many of our peers in the industry have experienced layoffs, downsizing and/or re-structuring while at Milton Terry Associates, we find ourselves towards the opposite end of the spectrum anticipating a growth of 20% or more,” Borrelli Grace reports.

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arketSPOTLIGH

Dealers Sound Off on Sound Masking By Alicia Ellis, Managing Editor

For many dealers, sound masking brings back memories of static or “white noise” flowing through an office environment that was often more annoying than productive. Throwing noise on top of existing noise often did little to mask office sounds and actually created more noise as employees sought to talk over sound masking products. In addition, installation of these products was often complicated and ended in frustration, returns and continued maintenance. Well times have changed and so has sound masking. Today’s offices are much different from even ten years ago. Cubical heights are being lowered and group and open office environments embraced, all of which is feeding the need for better sound control in the work environment. It’s a well known fact that uncontrolled noise and lack of speech privacy negatively affects concentration which can impact comfort, stress levels and company morale.

SAS Building courtesy of LogiSon and Janet Trost Photography

According to Niklas Moeller, vice president at LogiSon Acoustic Network, the goal of any good sound masking product is not to eliminate noise all together but to control the “noise floor” or level of continuous sound that characterizes a space at any given time. “When the noise floor is too high, the environment will be irritating and tiring,” said Moeller. “Should it be too low, conversations and noises can easily be overheard which compromises both confidentiality and concentration. As well, noticeable rises and falls in sound over time and across these facilities make it even more difficult for employees to ‘block out’ noise. Sound masking is the only acoustic treatment that can control the noise floor. The system should be audible when listened for, but as unobtrusive as possible.”

Sound masking provides dealers with unique market opportunities in the quest to become a total solutions provider and reach beyond furniture. Whether as part of a construction project or as an add-on for existing customers, offering sound masking systems represents a great way to increase sales and differentiate your dealership. “We believe in creating great places to work,” said Jennifer Pond, designer/project coordinator for Workplace Contract Design, LLC, a Herman Miller dealer in Port Huron, MI. “By including sound management options along with our other furniture and design services, we are promoting ourselves as a full service dealership, offering everything to create great work environments for our clients.” continued on page 17

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Sound Masking } continued from page 16 Using Cambridge Sound Management products, Workplace Contract Design has offered sound management options to their clients for the two years since the dealership began and has a 10-year history of sound masking through the dealership’s owner. According to Pond, Workplace Contract Design usually discusses sound management during the conceptual stages of design, but when the current budget doesn’t allow for it they discuss the ability to add a system in the future. “Many of our projects involve open office environments,” said Pond. “We believe sound masking improves those environments by reducing noise distractions, making it easier to concentrate and stay focused, resulting in a more comfortable and productive space for our clients. After listening to a customer’s need to improve their staff’s work environment, we discuss how reducing noise distractions within the office can help achieve that, in turn increasing productivity and making the initial investment more beneficial to the company.”

Cambridge Sound Management

Ten Tips for Selling Sound Masking You can approach the relationship with your sound masking vendor in a variety of ways. Most dealers identify opportunities and then bring the vendor in to handle the remainder of the process. Others endeavor to be as self-sufficient as possible by having trained sales and installation personnel on staff. Together, you can determine the arrangement that’s right for you. Ten tips for selling sound masking: 1 Position your company as a solutions provider. Ensure clients know you’re knowledgeable about a variety of products that can assist them in creating an effective workplace. Surveys show that clients believe furniture will provide them with acoustic control. Bundling in a product that actually does so will keep them happy. 2. Motivate your sales reps to ask each client about their acoustic concerns and to raise the topic of sound masking at every possible application. If they aren’t talking about it, they can’t sell it. Ensure they’re all knowledgeable enough to explain why clients need sound masking and how it works. Your vendor can provide training and materials.

Pond reports that while each salesperson has some level of sound masking experience, they often use their suppliers’ expertise to support sales when needed. “We highlight our installers’ experience with sound management systems, and offer support from the manufacturer to be sure the installation meets client expectations,” she said. “Based on the volume of a particular project, we can achieve margins between 10% to 30%.”

3. Speak to clients with both new and existing facilities. A sound masking system can be installed at any time. It’s to your advantage to make each client aware of the benefits, even if they don’t plan to immediately purchase the system. They’ll remember you should they experience problems in their space.

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Sound Masking } continued from page 17 Andy Picco, president of Superior Office Interiors in Syracuse, NY, has also found success in sound masking. Working with Lencore for its sound masking products, Picco reports margins from 20% to 40% depending on the size and scope of a project. “We always lead from a ‘green and sustainable’ perspective and sound masking helps with HIPAA concerns and also adds to the potential of added LEED credits,” said Picco. “We look for targeted situations like healthcare, financial institutions, and open plan environments/call centers and then ask the client if they have any problems with acoustical concerns, HIPAA or speech privacy. We also try to offer the ‘ABC’s of Sound Masking’ to our clients, which stand for Absorb, Block and Cover within our customers’ interiors.”

4. Explain that sound masking is a less expensive way of achieving speech privacy and noise control. When installed in a new project, it can reduce costs by decreasing the need for high-spec construction and additional acoustical materials. When retrofit, no remodeling is required. 5. Focus on your client’s return on investment. By reducing distractions, employees will remain on task longer and be less prone to making errors. These two factors contribute to increased productivity, which can more than offset the cost of sound masking over time. Sound masking also increases facility flexibility. It allows furniture reconfiguration and higher densities without sacrificing acoustic comfort or speech privacy. 6. Provide an excellent product. A sound masking system can be in a facility for decades. Ensure you’re confident of its capabilities and the results it will provide in both the short- and long-term. You’re recommending a third-party product and your reputation is on the line. You want your clients to continue to be happy with their purchase. 7. If your client is pursuing LEED certification, make them aware of the acoustic impact of green design and how sound masking can help. For example, it improves acoustic performance in spaces with a large percentage of open plan and low workstation partitions.

Painted Sound Masking Units from Lencore Installed in an Open Ceiling Office According to Picco, all of his salespeople have some knowledge of sound masking but one person handles the presentation and applications for quotes as they are much better versed. As an added sales tactic, Superior Office Interiors includes a quote for all open plan layouts and/or demountable wall projects regardless of a client’s expressed interest. “Sound masking is another way to get your foot into the door of accounts you don’t handle,” said Picco. “It is a green product and a complement to our furnishings while addressing our customers’ needs for speech privacy.” “Often, sound masking is a less expensive way to achieve acoustic privacy,” said Dean Molz, president of Morristown,

8. Work with a vendor who’s committed to providing the same level of customer satisfaction that you are. By combining resources, they can enhance your reputation as a solutions provider and a full-service dealership. They must be able to support all aspects of the sales, installation and customer service process, helping to ensure your client’s sound masking system always performs to the highest level. 9. Install a sound masking system in your showroom so that you can invite customers in and give them a demonstration. 10. Encourage your team to gather references and success stories, which will aid in making future sales. By Niklas Moeller, Vice President LogiSon Acoustic Network.

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Sound Masking } continued from page 19 NJ-based B.F. Molz, an office products and furniture dealership and user of LogiSon sound masking technology. “You may not need to use taller partitions, or potentially save on over insulating a wall. I also see an office without acoustic privacy as being somehow incomplete. Why spend a considerable amount of capital on an office that doesn’t function quite as well as it should? We also address the human resource benefit of a well-designed office. It is proven that fully engaged employees make for more profitable companies.” Molz has been offering sound masking for more than five years and, he says, sound masking addresses the questions customers have about acoustic privacy in an open plan environment. “We see it as a way to offer a realistic and effective solution to an inherent problem in an office that complements our offerings,” said Molz. “The installation and setup process is really quite simple. We are careful to explain the entire process and help the customer understand what will happen from beginning to end.”

The dealership positions sound masking as a part of every new project they are involved with and approaches customers solely from the sound masking angle. And, their most effective means of promotion comes from the dealer’s own showroom. “We have a state of the art environment that customers can walk through, so they can kick the tires, get a feel for, and listen to,” boasted Molz. “We invite customers through our office and demo the system. Once they hear the difference between ‘on and off,’ they are impressed.” Acoustic privacy is critically important to achieving a well functioning office and sound masking is an extremely important aspect of this customer experience. Make the most of the opportunities sound masking offers with education, training and quality products that will help your dealership expand beyond furniture alone and increase the overall value you bring to the marketplace.

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Improving Your Bid Response Package By Julie Knudson

Bid responses are the pivot point in winning a contract—one bidder will succeed and the rest will not. But the importance of the bid process doesn’t stop some dealers from submitting responses that are outdated and ineffective. Your clients have changed, and so have their methods for evaluating bidders. With today’s ultra-competitive environment, it’s time to rethink your bid response platform. Consider the challenges facing your clients, and how they’re different than some years past.

Economic pressures The poor economy has pushed many seasoned professionals out the door, meaning your clients today may have little inexperience in the industry. That inexperience could lead them to miss or misinterpret information if it isn’t clearly explained. Your ability to demonstrate your expertise without appearing threatening or confusing will be critical. While a bleak economy may have put your contact into their current position, it’s also put them under a lot of pressure. Inexperienced clients are eager to prove their worth, and you’re in a position to help make their project a success. By tactfully educating the client as part of the bid process, you can succeed along with them.

Information overload It’s a buyer’s market, which has led some clients to increase the number of bidders in the hope it will drive costs down. Clients may have a dozen or more bid responses to read, and they’re likely to begin skimming your response at the first opportunity. The last thing you want them to do is grow frustrated with your generic answers and flip straight to the price page, but a response that’s jammed with marketing-speak and useless information will prompt them to do just that.

“...turn the bid process into relationshipbuilding pay dirt.”

With the client’s perspective in mind, the need to craft a more targeted bid response becomes clear. As vendors, your challenge is to formulate a response that gives the client everything they asked for, while also demonstrating the value of your expertise, the strength of your resources, and the benefits the client will reap by choosing you.

The following principles will help you to create a response package that’s up to the task.

Additional decision-makers Other groups—purchasing, accounting, and legal among them—are increasingly involved in the bid process on the client’s side of things. There’s a good chance your response will be pulled apart, with chunks being reviewed by folks unfamiliar with the industry. Because these groups aren’t involved in the daily management of the project (or its aftermath), it’s likely they don’t share your client’s view on needs and priorities. Couple these external influences and differing motivators with a client who may not have enough expertise to defend or explain your bid, and it’s a recipe for disaster. If your response is vague, unclear or haphazard, you may not make it to the shortlist.

Be clear Respond honestly and directly to every question posed in the RFP. Don’t expect you’ll have an opportunity to provide additional details later, and don’t assume your client has enough industry experience to extrapolate or infer anything beyond your answers. When striving to present information clearly, don’t be shy about including a list of assumptions or exceptions in your response. This makes it clear to the client that you’ve made your best attempt at an accurate bid, but some things in the RFP were poorly explained or missing. continued on page 22

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Knudson } continued from page 21 Hopefully you can trigger a dialog with the client that reveals additional details, but at the very least it gives you the opportunity to address change orders or other future modifications to the project.

Be concise Answer each question fully, and then stop. Don’t include anything extraneous to the question, unless it is also relevant (see below). Vendors are sometimes inclined to play up their strengths with a little soft marketing, but resist this temptation. Clients will stop reading as soon as your bid response starts looking like a sales pitch.

Keep it relevant Provide information relevant only to this RFP. It may be appropriate to include information that wasn’t specifically requested, but that directly pertains to how you’ll execute the project or serve the client’s needs. This information is designed not to quietly sing your praises, but to

SEPTEMBER 2009

help the client make the best decision. Look at your existing bid response. If anything can’t pass the relevance test, now is the time to remove it. When determining relevance, it’s critical to once again think back to how your client will interpret the information you provide. What’s relevant to you may be worthless to the client, and information vital to one bid response may not belong in another. One exception exists, and that is when an RFP invites bidders to attach marketing or other materials as a separate addendum or in addition to information specifically requested. Careful planning and a thoughtful implementation can turn the bid process into relationship-building pay dirt. And by crafting every bid response with an eye toward how it will be received, used and interpreted by your client, you’ll increase your chances of success.

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Julie Knudson is a former facilities manager, and now helps industry vendors create successful bid response packages, marketing materials and thought-leadership articles. For more information please visit her website, www.olympicbay.com. She can be reached directly at 425.374.4664 or julie@olympicbay.com.

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Blending Management and Leadership: Empower Your Staff to Both Manage and Lead By Bill Kuhn

As I discussed in last month’s leadership column, changes in our industry are demanding unprecedented restructuring and leadership. While the latest industry reports show some signs of stabilizing demand—the past three months have shown the same year over year decline of 33% (that’s stabilizing?) —we are and will continue to be in a period of significant industry restructuring, which applies not only to furniture manufacturers, but to the entire dealer network.

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.

Dealers can no longer afford the luxury of having an organizational structure that strictly has some in the role of leaders, and others in the role of managers.

Dispelling Myths

There are fundamental differences commonly attributed to leaders and managers. Leaders are typically described as visionary—setting direction and strategy—while managers are characterized as those who problem-solve

Myth 1: Leaders are born, not made. There are those who still subscribe to the belief that leaders enter the world with extraordinary genetic endowment and innate charisma and we seem to assign them celebrity status. This is the outdated “great man” theory of leadership, the dealer principal or CEO as hero.

and execute.

Behavior—how we act—is learned and leadership behavior is no exception. Both leadership and management skills can be learned and enhanced.

Leaders Managers Set vision and direction Align and empower Motivate and inspire Foster change

Dealers can have a sales and operations staff that both manages and leads. However, to develop an organization of leader-managers, some myths need to be dispelled.

Plan and budget Organize and staff Control and problem solve Cope with complexity

Both lists of characteristics are valid, but differentiating leaders and managers too often implies that leaders cannot manage and that managers are not in a position to lead.

Your people can and should be empowered to both manage and lead. These times of crisis require creation of the leader-manager, and many in today’s workforce want that opportunity.

Myth 2: It’s the people at the top who are the leaders. That myth assumes that only the people at the top are leaders. Many people at the top have gotten there because of political savvy, a lucky break, or through family succession, not because of their leadership qualities. I can cite numerous examples where leadership is spread throughout the organization, and where sometimes the owner or dealer president excells in skills other than leadership, for example, exceptional selling abilities. Myth 3: People cannot be leaders and managers; they are either one or the other. I continually see the most successful dealerships having a significant number of people who have leadership and management skills and who blend and balance both. continued on page 24

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Kuhn } continued from page 23 It gets back to one’s behavior changing as the situation changes; it’s knowing when to act as a manager and when to act as a leader.

are most frequently found in the leader-manager who has a strong desire to achieve and is devoted to personal growth and development.

Myth 4. People low in the organizational hierarchy cannot have leader- or manager-like influence. This belief exists among some dealer principals. It can also be felt by workers who are convinced there can be no opportunities for someone at their level to assume responsibility for any leader-manager role, even within their department.

3. Trust and Candor. To have ongoing effectiveness as a leader or manager requires the ability to establish trust, credibility, and respect by demonstrating honesty, candor, and integrity. A company’s culture is not determined solely by the dealer principal. The company’s reputation and integrity are dependent upon everyone in the organization exhibiting these traits.

Individuals at all levels can influence others. Anita Roddick, the founder of the Body Shop, gives a good example to dispel this myth: “If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room.”

Additional Qualities and Skills In addition to the list of characteristics of leaders and managers, there are four qualities and abilities that, from my perspective, are important when assuming a leadership or managerial role, or both. 1. Communication. In recessionary periods, employees are nervous and worried about what might happen to the company and to them. Suppliers become more concerned whether they will be paid. Customers begin to wonder whether dealer service will suffer or prices will rise. Silence can be devastating. Communication only from the dealer principal (leader) will not dispel all the concerns that exist.

4. Adaptability. With the continuing downward spiral in 2009, virtually every job within a dealership is, and will be, continually changing. It is not easy for an organization or an individual to adapt and change behavior, yet today it is essential. I attended one of the last workshops led by Edward Deming, the founder of quality management. In his dry style, he said, “It is not necessary to change; survival is not mandatory.” Key words right now are adaptive leadership and adaptive management. Your ability to adapt to changing circumstances as a leader, manager, or leader-manager, will be at the heart of your performance. Leadership and management skills, as well as the blending of the two, can be developed, especially by those who possess the qualities discussed here. I

The people within a dealership can respond by communicating better and more frequently with outsiders and with one another. Information can and should be disseminated from dealer management, sales, and operating people. This provides an excellent opportunity for employees within a dealership to take on a leader-manager role.

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Effective leader-managers must have good communication skills to be understood, to be socially aware and understand others. This requires listening as well as speaking. It includes proficiency in managing relationships and clarity in communicating with peers, subordinates, superiors, and, importantly, with customers. 2. Motivation. In the table on page 23, motivation and inspiration are listed as a leader characteristic. Yet think about a manager in a coaching role. A coach helps to identify an employee’s strengths and weaknesses to improve performance. One of the roles of the coach is to keep people energized, to give performance feedback that builds motivation rather than fear and apathy.

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Inspiring, motivating, and energizing people are as critical to managerial success as they are to leadership. These qualities SEPTEMBER 2009

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Navigating Business Through Unprecedented Economic Times


Three Keys to Inspire Your Employees to Success Now! Today’s tough times have challenged business leaders to make equally tough decisions in order to keep their businesses afloat. In many cases, they have had to reduce headcount and cut compensation for those who are left, and understandably both morale and overall performance suffer as a result. So what can you do about it? The answer begins with you and what you say and do. Let’s look at three things you can do to inspire your employees to thrive and not just survive in today’s tough business climate.

Share the Corporate Vision, Live the Corporate Vision Today especially, leaders must be able to envision clearly what they want to accomplish now and long term, and how they’re going to do it. Not only must they be able to envision it, but they must be able to communicate it to their employees and get them to want to act on it. You must be able to get your team to see past current challenges to the long-term possibilities. Several years ago, a former NFL head coach took over a team that was performing poorly and in one season, he successfully turned their performance around and they ultimately won a Super Bowl championship. The coach was asked, “How did you get your players to improve in one season after having such dismal record for so many seasons?” His answer? “I told them one time what the vision is. And I reminded them a million times throughout the season what the vision is.” You have to keep your vision in front of your people. If you establish a vision at the beginning of the year, and then fail to talk about it again until the end of the year, how seriously will they take that vision? Your people need to see it and hear it from your mouth on a regular basis. And they also need to see you living the vision. They need to see you leading the charge in the pursuit of the vision. continued on page 27 SEPTEMBER 2009

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Tye Maner is president of the Tye Maner Group, a national sales and leadership development firm based in Tampa, Florida. Tye can be reached at tye@tyemanergroup.com and 813-672-1040. PAGE 26


Maner } continued from page 26 Help control your team’s fear.

Here are some rules to follow for establishing your company vision.

Don’t allow your company or team to follow the crowd.

Your vision must be...

Slow down if necessary, but don’t stop.

Defined enough to reproduce itself in a picture.

Energize and Empower Your Team

Durable enough to resist discouragement.

As a leader, your job is to energize and empower your people. You’ve got to get them fired up and you’ve got to keep them fired up. You’ve got to empower them to make some decisions. Create an environment conducive to them doing the best they can possibly do. And when you give feedback, give some good news too. Sometimes, managers, leaders, and coaches feel in order to coach, you only give bad news. Find them doing something right versus always wrong. Create an environment that’s conducive to your team moving forward.

Detailed enough to require action. Demanding enough to require sacrifice. If you have a vision that doesn’t cost you something, it’s not a real vision. It is a hope, wish, or a pipedream. Dynamic enough to recruit others.

Show Your Team How to Drive Through This Economic Storm I remember returning home one time from a vacation with my family. We were driving on the Interstate, and suddenly ran into a really bad thunderstorm. The rain was coming down in buckets and it was difficult to see more than five yards in front of our vehicle. Cars began to pull over to the shoulder of the road until only a few drivers, including myself, were left moving forward. We were not able to drive at the normal speed limit and could only go at 5 or 10 mph. After approximately five minutes or so, though, we were out of the storm and able to begin cruising at the posted speed again. As we started to speed up, it dawned on me how much ground we had covered in comparison to those who were still sitting on the side of road waiting for the storm to pass. And I wondered how many leaders actually run their companies by this philosophy. How many company leaders make statements like these to their people? “We are just going to ride this storm out.” “There is no real reason to push now when no one is buying.”

His district was performing poorly, so his regional manager showed up unexpectedly for the Monday morning sales meeting because he wanted to find out what was going on. After the regional manager heard the district manager berate the team for a full hour, he thought he had a clue to the problem. The district manager said to his boss, “Well, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” And his boss said, “You know, you’re right. At the same time, it’s not your job to make them drink. It’s your job to make them thirsty.” And the key is this: If you get your people fired up, if you get them thirsty and excited about what they’re doing, you won’t have to make them do anything. They’ll do it on their own and they’ll enjoy it. The best way to accomplish this goal is to discover your people’s personal goals and objectives and then show them how accomplishing the corporate goals can help them accomplish their personal objectives. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that these are turbulent times. There is also no doubt these times will pass.

“We are going to sit tight and hope for the best.” As the leader, you must help your staff understand that storms are always going to arise. However, the company and their success will depend on their response to the storm. Here are some guidelines for driving through the storm: Help your team stay calm.

There’s a story I heard not so long ago of a district manager and a sales meeting that illustrates my point perfectly.

The key to your company’s success right now is to maintain the proper focus and assist your employees in maintaining that focus and keeping the proper perspective. Remember, your actions will speak far louder than your words. Your employees will only aspire to the level that their leader has. n

Help your team focus on the destination (vision).

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OFDealer September 2009 Issue