From Home Furnishing Business
Take 5: Bruce Birnbach
Upholstery supplier American Leather turns 25 this year and the company remains solidly committed to its founding roots of domestic, just-in-time manufacturing that turns an order in 20 days. That said, Bruce Birnbach, president and CEO for the last nine years, is always looking to push toward innovation.
Key elements to the company’s future are remaining true to those founding principles along with operating with integrity in all aspects of the business, including employee relations, customer relations and supplier relations.
Respect begins at home, and American Leather’s Dallas home includes 496 diverse employees who are included in company celebrations, fun days and as Birnbach says, “are treated the way people should be treated.”
Home Furnishings Business: Founded in 1990, American Leather turns 25 this year. What has been the key to the company’s success over the years?
Bruce Birnbach: We continue to grow double digits every year by listening to our customers and operating with integrity in all that we do. That has truly been the keys to our success. We’re also always looking toward innovation and trying to be more innovative in every aspect of the business.
When I say operating with integrity that means respecting our employees and the people we work with. At the very core, we have to have a great foundation or the other parts won’t hold together. As an example, there’s a flag in our cafeteria for every nationality represented in our employee team. It’s about showing respect and being respectful to everyone.
Then, it’s about how you deal with your customers—keeping your word and listening to them. It’s about doing what you say you’re going to do.
Integrity is a big deal to us.
HFB: The company was founded on a speedy, just-in-time manufacturing model. How has that model been improved upon?
Birnbach: The model that we grew on was just in time. Today, it’s not so much about improving our speed as it is about executing the promise. We’re always looking to improve on all that we do, but it’s really important that our customers know we’re reliable. That we’ll do what we say we’re going to do and will meet our promises.
The company was built on speed, and it’s always that. Continuing to execute on our promise of a 20-day turnaround is at the forefront.
HFB: Domestic manufacturing is at the core of what makes American Leather who it is. In an industry that sees a lot of off-shore production, how have you guys continued to maintain that platform?
Birnbach: One of the most important things to us is being made in America and having a diverse workforce from all over the world. We have a true international flavor here in our diversity, and it makes us have fun. It’s invigorating.
Within our domestic platform we are unmatched in our speed and the breadth of customization that we offer. Everything can be customized from the leather, the fabrics, even COM covers. Each of our frames have an abundance of configurations to meet a variety of needs. There really is no limit.
HFB: Looking ahead, what innovations can we expect to see from the American Leather in the future?
Birnbach: You will see us continue to innovate and look to create more proprietary products in the future; things that the furniture industry hasn’t seen before. We really want to bring innovation into an industry that I think is starved for it. Leveraging our core competencies of of engineering and product design and brining them together. Looking at our future, we have a lot of great things to look forward to.
HFB: What would you say is the biggest challenge facing American Leather?
Birnbach: Growth. The challenge is how to manage our growth and how to hire the people we need to help us grow. Our business is good. We’re growing a much more rapid pace than the industry.
Finding the right people to fit in with our culture is key. Then, training, training and more training will remain at the forefront to help us move into the coming years.