From Home Furnishing Business
What do you do to get away from it all?
If I have 10 days or more, I’m going to a seaside village in Northern Tuscany. If it’s less than a week, it’s the beach in Hawaii.
What do you get from what you do that recharge your batteries?
The first stage is taking the time to unwind. That can take to or three days. After that I can really dig into relaxation and disconnect my prejudice to always be honing in on a solution to something. When I do reconnect, I can really approach the tasks I deal with using a fresh approach.
I tell everyone on my team to always have a vacation planned. It gives you something to look forward to and helps you do your job better.
Lee Corson, chairman and CEO
Corson Furniture International
Pompano Beach, Fla.
What I do: For the last 65 years, my primary summer relaxation has consisted of “messing around in small boats.” Having sailed and raced well over 100,000 miles to date on a variety of my own and other’s boats, I’ve found they all have different personalities and I’ve enjoyed everyone of them—even the slow ones!
On a few occasions, Poseidon, The Mover of the Seas, has rebelled against some unknown transgression by me or one of my crew members, resulting in less than a desired smooth passage. Giving him the respect he deserves seems to mitigate the problem, and over the years he has generally been reasonable.
What I get: The experience of an offshore passage or the close competition of a around the buoy’s race is totally exhilarating and few experiences can compare. Those of us that have been captured by the lure of the sea share a very strong bond and will likely concur.
(The photo is of one of Corson’s prior boats, all of which have been named “Jilly,” after his bride of 50 years.)
Debbie Suter, co-owner
Owen Suter’s Fine Furniture
What I do: My husband, Owen Suter III, is a sixth generation furniture manufacturer. He loves to unwind and relax by shooting skeet and sporting clays.
What I get: He always says to me it doesn’t take as much time as golf. We have a beautiful outdoor shooting club, Conservation Park, in Charles City Va., that uses the profits from the shooting sports to fund quail preservation. So he relaxes, has fun with friends and helps the environment!
What’s in a name? Sometimes, everything.
That’s what the store now known as Heavenly Bedrooms found out, to its benefit. Previously known as Waterbed Heaven—and later, Waterbed Heaven Bedrooms—the Quakertown, Pa.-based retailer found that, as the bottom dropped out of the waterbed market, the store was probably losing business due to consumer perceptions.
“People didn’t realize we had more than waterbeds, and our conventional (bedding) sales were very slow,” recalled Linda Duell , who co-owns the store with her husband Brian. When the store opened in 1995, it was an all-waterbed business. By around 2005, it was half waterbeds and half conventional mattresses.
“We talked and prayed about what to do, and thought maybe a name change was in order. The very next day, we had 20 clients come in and they said, ‘You need to change your name. I never knew you had all this.’ So in 2007, we changed it to Heavenly Bedrooms. We then added Tempur-Pedic, and a year later, added Serta.”
The rest was history. Heavenly Bedrooms is now a leading bedding retailer in its area—not just because of the new name, but because of the Duells’ philosophy of treating customers right.
Turning Up the ‘HEAT’
“We follow these steps,” Duell said, “We call it HEAT. H is for Hear. E is for Empathize. A is for Apologize. T is for Take Action. … Our big saying for handling customer service is ‘the customer is always right and go from there.’ We always like to ask, ‘What would you like us to do for you?’ We never argue with them, just try and narrow it down to what it is they want to do, and then do it. You’ll find the client is never asking for anything unreasonable—they just want you to sympathize with them and correct it.”
This consideration for customers also impacts the Duells’ sales strategy as well. “We approach everyone with a smile and just a simple greeting,” Duell stated, “telling them our name and then welcoming them to our showroom. We like to tell the client upfront that we don’t work on commission, so we are just here to help select the right product. We are never pushy. It’s all about the client. We don’t follow close behind, but close enough that they know we are here. They really like this approach … they know we are here to help.
“We ask questions pertaining to the bed you have now and why you are replacing it,” she continued. “Is it too soft, too firm or just downright old? This helps us to narrow the search and direct you to a line of mattresses that will work best for your needs. We find most clients shopping today have pre-shopped online and already have an idea what they may be looking for—and now it’s time to try it.”
Show and Explain
Taking care of customers is a top priority for the Duells, and this begins the moment they enter the store. “They are why the sale even exist, so we don’t just talk—we show and explain everything,” Duell said. “We find the more the client is involved with the presentation, the more likely they are to understand the product and make a more-educated purchase. You can talk all you want, but until they see it or touch it, they just don’t get it.
“We feel it is really important to involve the client every step of the way through the purchase,” she continued. “That can be as simple as handing them the remote to a bed and (having) them play around with it (so) they can see how easy it is to use. … Get them involved—get them interested!”
Just Like At Home
While bedding stores often take a simple approach to merchandising, displaying plain mattresses with little else, leave it to Heavenly Bedrooms to do things a little differently.
“We like to display all our sets in an ‘at-home’ atmosphere—tastefully decorated and homey,” Duell said. “We want the client to feel at home and get a true idea on what it can look like at home. Too many stores are so sterile and don’t give the client any idea on what it’ll look like at home. Simple things like accessories, table lamps and pillows can really spruce up a display. We also make sure our store is clean and smells inviting (using a fragrant hot wax burner). We also make certain everything on display is properly set up—we’ve been to so many stores where the display is falling apart or is broken or even set up wrong—not good.”
A Heavenly Future
Looking forward, the Duells are more focused on growing their current location than expanding into new ones. “We don’t want to thin ourselves out, especially in this economy,” Linda Duell said. So to strengthen the Quakertown store, the business is looking to expand its online presence. “We are working on a new Web site—one with more search options, comparison options and product detail,” she stated. “We’re also working with an SEO (specialist) to get our site up to a higher ranking. Even though most of our business is local people, they are searching the Net first for what they are looking to purchase, so we feel it is very important to have a great Web presence.”
Long-term, the Duells, who took over the business from Brian’s parents, have a wish for the future: “We have two older sons—Lake, who is going into collision repair, and hopefully the youngest, Nathan, will want to be the start the third generation of Heavenly Bedrooms.”
By Powell Slaughter
Ask most furniture retailers for their best sales day week in and week out, and a lot will answer Sunday.
While most furniture stores depend on a full weekend to meet their goals, most people out there in the world take Sunday as a day to be with their families and worship as they see fit (or maybe even shop for furniture).
If you work at De Young Interiors in St. John, Ind., you can enjoy that day as well.
Though it shuts the doors on Sundays, De Young is still thriving after 87 years in business.
“We are a faith-based company, and we are closed on Sundays,” said Co-Owner John De Young. “We’ve been able to thrive and survive.”
It also helps make for happier employees.
“A very large store in our area closed, and I knew the sales manager,” De Young said. “I was talking to her about a job, and I told her, ‘You won’t be able to make that kind of money here because we’re closed on Sundays.’ That’s our church and family day.”
While the woman had children and would have liked the time with them, she still wasn’t sure about the money issue. She ended up giving it a shot at De Young Interiors.
“Three months later I asked her how she was liking her Sundays off, and she said she loved it,” De Young said. “In our industry, we push and push and push, and we get burned out. My grandparents set these standards and we carried them on. … We have a sign at the front of the store, and one of the things on there is “Closed Sundays, See You in Church.
“People tell me they appreciate those values. I’m not going to push religion on anyone, but this does serve as our ‘silent’ witness.”
Customers seem to like the store as well—it won the region’s “Best of” in the furniture store category this year.
4 GENERATIONS—SO FAR
Nick and Cora De Young started the business when they opened a joint furniture store and funeral home in South Holland, Ill., in 1928—a common business pairing at the time, when the makers of fine furniture also made caskets.
The store’s emphasis on building relationships in the community it serves dates back to the Great Depression years, when the De Youngs would let people pay their bills when they were able to, a little at a time. That built a spirit of trust and friendship with their customers.
The De Youngs opened a second location in nearby Lansing, Ill., in 1939; and soon committed to the furniture only, bringing their customers more brands and a larger variety of products.
Upon retirement, Nick and Cora De Young turned the business over to their three sons: Gerry, Arnold and Sidney. The brothers ran De Young’s until their retirement in 1993, when the stores passed to their sons and sons-in-law; Jerry and John De Young, Bob Scheuneman and Tom McGehee.
De Youngs closed their South Holland and Lansing locations and, in 2005, the company opened De Young Interiors in St. John, Ind. De Young’s had made a decision to put all its efforts into a single, strong location.
“The demographics were good, and it’s a growth area,” said John De Young of St. John, located along interstates 30 miles south of Chicago in northwest Indiana. “Our town just got rated by CNN as the best place in Indiana to raise a family. The store is right across the street from Lakes Central High School, with 4,000 students. They’ve had a $140 million expansion.
“We’re on a very busy highway, U.S. 41, and that school is a landmark, with parents going to events there. It put us in a highly visible area.”
AN EAR TO THE GROUND
The four partners in De Young Interiors each have 40 years of experience in the business.
“An owner is always on site,” De Young said. “Any time we have to make a call on something to get a customer satisfied, it’s coming from the highest authority—one advantage of a family business.
“My office is right by our counter. I have two open doors, and I can hear the interaction. It’s going back to what we were doing in 1928, with third, fourth and fifth generations of customers.”
Some family owned retailers have closed up shop because they couldn’t get the next generation interested in continuing on or family squabbles.
“The foundation of priorities and how we treat each other is huge, because some families don’t get along,” De Young said. “We disagree sometimes, but we all are committed to the business and each other.”
CARVING A NICHE
De Young Interiors positions itself firmly in medium to upper-middle price points.
“We don’t deal with low-end product, but we have some price-conscious items, and we don’t go crazy at the high end,” De Young said. “That’s where we hang our hat. Customers have come to know us and trust us because of the good brands we carry and the service we offer.”
In May, De Young Interiors was voted “Best in Region” for furniture stores by readers of the local paper.
“We’d won that award in the past, but hadn’t last year,” De Young said. “We won again because we’ve worked a little harder.”
De Young Interiors’ floor staff is a mix of interior designers and sales consultants who have no design background per se, but all are highly trained on the products they sell. The store develops skills through mentoring; and relies more on selling value versus price alone.
“Take Smith Bros.’ construction—our sales consultants know how to say, ‘You may see the same fabric on a less expensive model, but the quality underneath this is better,” De Young said. “Our industry made a mistake by going cheap, cheap, cheap all the time instead of selling value. We have flourished because we’re selling better product and explaining the difference to customers.”
PRESENTATION ON THE FLOOR
Time was, De Young tended to buy the sorts of products he wanted, but that’s changing. There’s more designer input involved now.
In addition to the designers on staff, De Young’s son Kyle, who is sales manager, has a degree from Savannah College of Art and Design. His new bride as of this month has a degree from Harrington College of Design in Chicago.
“Since we have more designers on staff, we’ve gone to more of a committee approach to buying decisions,” De Young said. “Kyle helped bring that to the table. We’re combining the experience of management with the input of designers and sales managers.
“We’re very heavily accessorized—presentation is everything if you’re going to help people visualize how it will look in the home.”
A knowledgeable staff combined with a new emphasis on direct mail and e-mail blasts to give De Young Interiors what De Young “the best first quarter we ever had.”
“We’re continually trying to improve how we communicate to the customers,” he said. “We’ve done television and local cable, and radio in the past, but what we hang our hat on now is our mailing list—direct mail and e-mail.
“I don’t really understand social media, but Kyle does. We’re trying to market more on the social media side along with direct mail pieces. I’m convinced a lot of people aren’t reading newspapers.”
Direct mail and e-mail are especially effective because of the relationships De Young Interiors has built after 87 years in business.
De Young shared an anecdote.
“In 1928, my grandfather started the business, and in the early ‘30s he bought a hardware repair shop,” he said. “A local roofer bought nails from my grandfather.
“In 2004, I was moving records and came across a ledger with this roofer. When I moved to northern Indiana, the man at the end of the block turned out to be the owner of that roofing company.”
De Young shared the ledger with his neighbor, and in addition to getting his business, “he sends his kids to me. You can’t buy that kind of word of mouth.”
GETTING OVER THE HUMP
Like most retailers, De Young Interiors faced a lot of challenges during the recession and the economy’s slow recovery.
“I think the economy in general has made everyone do a self-check,” De Young said. “We had to do cut-backs, but we’re adding people again.
“We had built a new store and were on a real roll when the economy tanked. We keep talking about it on a daily basis.”
While De Young Interiors isn’t resting easy, the immediate future does look promising.
“We had the best first quarter we ever had, and my warehouse is jammed with sold merchandise,” De Young noted. “I think the rest of the year will be good, but I don’t know if it will be great.”
Since De Young Interiors moved to St. Johns, 15 other furniture stores serving the market are no longer in business. The key to the store’s prosperity is Business 101, but apparently not everyone can pass that course.
“The amount of business you can get on the front end, you can lose on the back end,” De Young said. “We watch the doors on both ends, pay attention to detail and minimize expense.”
And despite a lot of multi-generational customer relationships—maybe even because of those relationships—service and satisfaction remain paramount.
“Ours is not a guaranteed approach,” De Young noted. “You have to keep earning that business.” HFB
De Young Furniture Is Setting up for Another Generation of Family Management
Kyle De Young, sales manager at De Young Interiors and son of co-owner John De Young, represents the furniture retailer’s fourth generation of management.
He brings a fine eye and a competitive personality—Kyle went to Savannah College of Art and Design on a baseball scholarship where he graduated in 2010 with a degree in visual communications with a concentration in design.
He’s getting married this month, and his bride Carolyn has a design degree, hers from Harrington College of Design in Chicago.
It’s not where he visualized being, but the family business has provided an outlet to match his skills. A poor job market made working in his field a tough prospect; and after attracting the attention of a number of professional baseball scouts for his middle-infield and outfield play, a shoulder injury left Kyle unable to throw.
“My whole life, I’ve been able to draw and paint,” he said. “I also had played baseball my whole life. … My dad had always said (furniture retailing) is hard, you don’t want to work here,” he said.
Still, Kyle had worked in the store’s back end as he grew up, and he was determined to get a job.
“I’m very competitive by nature,” he said. “I asked if I could work in the business, and (my father) said ‘no’ at first. Suddenly, my cousin moved from a customer service position.”
Kyle finally talked his dad into letting him give it a try.
“I took it as a challenge to solve problems,” he said. “When people call in and they’re upset, it’s like they’re saying your family’s doing them wrong. I take that personally.
“People often feel they’re being taken advantage of, and with a lot of the retail experiences they have, I can understand why.”
Proving that he could take care of some of retail’s trickiest and most emotional situations, Kyle got a shot at sales.
John De Young challenged his son that he wasn’t up to sales.
“My competitive nature came out in sales,” Kyle said. “My goal is that our family is going to take care of the customer better than the next person. We’re going to inform you more than the next person, and give you the best price and the best value.
“My goal is to be better each day with whatever we’re doing, and we have to do a lot of different things in a day—selling on the floor, creating settings, backing up the warehouse.”
John De Young said Kyle brought the passion that won him a scholarship to the store, especially in terms of reaching out to a new generation of customers.
“In the father-son relationship, it’s always been my goal to challenge my boys,” the elder De Young said. “Sports taught good communications skills, good people skills, and how to work with a team to make it all work.”
In addition to his work at De Young, Kyle puts his design background to work on vendor Whittier Wood Furniture’s design committee.
“He helped make some changes in their youth line, suggestions he brought to the table,” John said. “You don’t see many people his age in the business doing that. Kyle has the passion for it—that furniture fever people get.
“I worked side-by-side with my dad, and it makes me very proud to have Kyle by my side. On a daily basis, we bounce ideas around about product, and Kyle brings his age group’s perspective. That’s helped our business. There are some things I don’t agree with, but he’s made the right call on many occasions.”
Taking Time for Getting Away, Getting Healthy Can Pay Dividends.
When’s the last time you insisted that someone on your staff take a vacation? You might miss them while they’re gone, but you might find yourself with a more productive, satisfied employee upon their return.
At Jerome’s Furniture in San Diego, vacations are part of the planning process.
“I tell everyone on my team to always have a vacation planned,” said Jerome’s CEO Lee Goodman. “It gives you something to look forward to and helps you do your job better.”
Goodman believes the anticipation of a fun time away from the job helps people feel better about what they’re doing, especially when problems pop up. They know they’ll be getting a break.
Vacations are all part of striking a balance between work and life, but research shows a lot of people aren’t taking time off.
According to a Harris Interactive consumer poll last May of 2,634 adults, three in five adults (60 percent) planned to take at least one leisure trip through August. That’s down from the last such polls, 65 percent in 2009 and 66 percent in 2010. The percentage of consumers planning multiple trips also dropped.
VACATIONS CAN IMPROVE HEALTH
Canadian insurance and investment provider Standard Life operates an online wellness center where clients can get advice on a range of lifestyle and health issues. Vacations are part of a healthy lifestyle, according to the company.
The wellness center enumerated ways a vacation can benefit your health.
The very first benefit is reduced stress. Studies have shown a direct link between stress and health conditions such as headaches, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and other types of infections acquired as a result of a weaker immune system. Vacations also reduce the incidence of psychological burnout.
Studies also have found a positive relationship between vacations and intellectual function; and that well-rested mind is often more effective.
A vacation can improve your physical health by providing opportunities to catch up on sleep and exercise, two simple remedies for many aches and pains.
All work and know play isn’t good for family relationships. A helps families re-connect in a different setting and to build lasting memories.
Finally, taking time off can be a great opportunity to meet new people, laugh and do the things that you most enjoy.
Rest, relaxation and stress reduction are important for a person’s overall well-being.
Yes, some of this can be accomplished with regular, daily activities like exercise and meditation. However, vacation—an extended time away from work—is an extremely important part of staying healthy and balanced, according to primary care doctors and mental health professionals.
Jamine Hanson, a psychologist, is adamant about the benefits of vacation on a company’s bottom line and a person’s health.
“The impact taking a vacation has on someone’s mental health is amazing,” she said.
“Most folks return from vacation with better life perspective and are more motivated to achieve their goals. Even a relatively brief time-out can be helpful.”
Another study, this one conducted by travel planning site Expedia showed that the average American earns 18 vacation days a year, but only uses 14 of them.
According to the study, the American worker is sadly behind on the vacation calendar when compared with workers in other countries. Every European country included in the survey reported more vacation days earned and used than Americans.
France is at the top of the list with the average worker earning 37 vacation days and using all but two of them.
So, just what is this doing to our state of mind? Well, Hanson said people who don’t carve out down time for unwinding, may find it harder to relax in the future.
“We require down time so that our bodies can go through a restoration process,” she said. “Only when we are safe from external stresses can our bodies relax enough to truly restore themselves.” HFB
Wellness programs can benefit employees—and their employer—by promoting their health, safety and well-being.
The California Department of Public Health offers the following suggestions for implementing a worksite wellness program.
• Why develop a wellness program?
A wellness program may improve staff health, morale and productivity.
• What are some components of a wellness program?
A program may include some or all of these components: wellness newsletter, health risk assessments, health screenings, workshops on wellness issues, walking groups, health fairs, healthy potlucks and healthy snacks for meetings and breaks, physical activity breaks, fitness classes, smoking cessation classes; and incentives such as water bottles, insulated lunch bags, drink coolers, tote bags, stress balls, pedometers and cook books.
• How do you start a wellness program?
First, develop an advisory committee that represents the interests of employees and management.Second, conduct a needs and resource assessment: Determine employee needs, interests, concerns and schedules; identify available space and facilities; determine employer liability under existing health insurance, property owners’ insurance, workers’ compensation to pay, time frames and relevant skills; and identify relevant partner organizations.
Third, develop program components and activities based on the findings of the needs assessment: Determine if services will be provided by agency personnel, consultants or local community agencies; partner with other health-related non-profits organizations to broaden program offerings; develop a written document of program components and expected outcomes; develop formal policies for administering the program; and develop an evaluation plan for the program to specify how impact will be measured (include cost, participation rate, employee satisfaction, employee behavior changes and impact on participant education).
Fourth, include incentives, such as employee release time or items such as pedometers or water bottles, to encourage employee participation.
• Implement the program.
• Evaluate the program.
Rest and relaxation are proven components of improved workplace happiness and productivity. Time away gives the brain and the body the opportunity to unwind, heal and rejuvenate in order to accomplish the work ahead. My favorite escape will always be the a trip to the coast. I may have been a mermaid in my previous life. Who knows? What I do know is that time away from work responsibilities restores my soul. It makes me love what I do.
Regrettably, I can’t go to the beach every day or even every weekend. Instead, I rely on a variety of things to soothe, calm and keep me grounded when escapes just aren’t possible. Some are tangible; some are mental. All do the trick.
The scent of a freshly manicured lawn. Fragrant flowers that seemingly bloom non-stop. Just bathed babies. The rosemary bushes taking over the yard.
An early sunrise on an empty beach. A quite sunset at the end of Oak Island, N.C. Watching the moon rise over the water. Paddling a canoe on a mountain lake in the fall. Climbing to the top of Lookout Mountain during peak leaf-viewing season.
Quiet picnics along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Planting seeds and watching them sprout into something amazing. Being alone. Being surrounded by a crowd of my favorite people.
Watching the clouds float by on a sunny day. A raucous thunderstorm. Opening night of a Broadway play. Scrumptious French toast with a side of bacon. Homemade strawberry jam on a buttered croissant.
The quiet hum of intuition. My boys’ laughter. Big bear hugs and soft kisses. The sight and sounds of sleeping children.
Walking barefoot on a dew-soaked lawn. Sliding down a sliding board at full speed. Spying a rainbow after the storm. Reading on the back porch surrounded by hydrangeas in full bloom.
A sense of belonging. Tent camping in the forest. Roasting marshmallows and making a meal of s’mores. Spa days with friends—or alone. Neighborhood block parties. Love letters The off-the-wall sense of humor of Mason O’Mara, 9.
Freshly fallen snow. Snow angels, snow forts and snowball fights. Sledding down long hills and hiking back to the top. Europe in the spring. Finding four-leaf clovers. Friendly ghosts and funny jokes. Sidewalk cafés, a great book and an empty day ahead.
Climbing trees. Paddle boats. Two weeks at the beach followed by a week in the mountains. A crisp Pinot grigio. An earthy, full Pinot noir. Champagne bubbles that tickle the nose.
Quiet, deep conversations in the dark with Zane O’Mara, 13. Exploring cities. Wandering through historic cemetaries. My camera. Shooting pictures all day long.
Fishing on a dock. Fishing in a boat. Fishing on the shore. Fresh fish for dinner. The peace and tranquility of meditation. Long afternoon naps. Reading notes and stories my children write.
Backyard birdwatching with Evan O’Mara, 6. Chasing lizards and frogs. Riding bikes. Dining al fresco. The ability to keep a secret when asked. Playing fetch with Elke, our dog. Snuggles with the cats.
Holding hands with my awesome, handsome husband Dan O’Mara. (Age not shared intentionally.) Running away for a last-minute trip. Volunteering. Forgiveness, both given and received. Skeet shooting. Morning stretches.
By no means is this an exhaustive list; there isn’t that much space here. Steal a few. They my work for you or they may not. It’s a fairly personal list.