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From Home Furnishing Business

Building on New Ideas

 

By: Bob George

We are in a phase of significant change with new distribution channels emerging. The challenges of supply chain management are the same whether it’s furniture or the latest phone. These challenges may be even greater in furniture.

When we address the human assets that are not on the balance sheet, but are critical to any company’s success, it causes me to reflect on an issue—the issue of integrating new ideas into a company’s culture.

While much has changed over the past 30 years in terms of the development of the second tier of management for retailers and manufacturers, there is much still to be done.

We should challenge ourselves to figure out why the industry isn’t attracting the best talent from business schools. I understand our industry is considered to be mature. However, is it really? We are in a phase of significant change with new distribution channels emerging. The challenges of supply chain management are the same whether it’s furniture or the latest phone. These challenges may be even greater in furniture.

In the 1980s, coinciding with leverage buyouts, new managers entered the industry. In recent years in which the industry has witnessed the change in ownership of some of the larger companies, new managers with new ideas have once again entered the discussion. We continue to handle this new blood in the same way. The new participants often enter the fray with the attitude that the industry is backward and charging in with a new way to manage business. The existing players are amused with these new ones’ lack of understanding about how things work. They respond with the adage of how we’ve always done things this way or that. The challenge for the industry is to encourage the newcomers and the old guard to work together in moving furniture forward.

A question looms.

How much could it cost if the newcomers and the old guard fail to work together? What if the industry had embraced the synchronous manufacturing Stanley had introduced many years ago or the pioneering work of Ethan Allen’s integrating retail and manufacturing? I could continue with examples of how we turned left when we should have gone right. But, as in all aspects of life, it does not help to reflect on the should have dones. It is more important now to identify the current concepts that could have traction.

Allegheny Consignment and others are addressing what to do with old furniture. La-Z-Boy is delivering direct to the consumer. Target marketing is becoming an alternative to television advertising.

I could continue, but what is important is that senior management takes 10 percent of undisturbed time each week to think about what could be.

Pay attention to the stars in your organization, the movers and shakers who will create the furniture industry of tomorrow. You may want to keep them in mind when we come to you for our Forty Under 40 nominees later this month.

 



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