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From Home Furnishing Business

Relaxation at its Best

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

Richmond, Va.

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!

On Bedding : Just Heavenly

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.”

Me Time

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.

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

Inset Story:

Wellness Planning
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.

Editor's Letter : My Favorite Things

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. 

Publisher's Letter : Do Nothing

Here we are in June, the vacation season is about to begin and Home Furnishings Business is taking a look at finding a healthy balance between work and personal time. Way too often we find ourselves completely overwhelmed with demands from both internal and external customers, where do you find the additional time to handle everything?

I think the better question is, should we try and find that time? 
Research shows that down time allows people to recharge their battery. This would include better sleep habits, daytime work outs, afternoon naps (my favorite), vacations and time spent away from the office. All these items boost job performance and productivity.

However, everything we have been taught suggests we should put in more time to achieve goals and handle the increased demands of our jobs. The main problem with this approach is there the limited number of hours in a day. What is one to do? How do you keep any type of personal life when you are working all the time? Most workplaces reward the employees that work long hours and push hard every day, but does that necessarily mean they are the most productive employees?

Stanford University recently conducted a study that required basketball players to sleep 10 hours a night. What they found were the athlete’s performance in practice improved; free-throws and three-point shooting increased by an average of 9 percent. They now understand, the greater the performance demands, the greater the need to recharge. When demand and pressure are on, most of us elect to put in more time rather than rest and recharge.

Another study completed by Florida State University suggests that 90-minute intervals turn out to be the best amount of time to maximize productivity. People must avoid exhaustion and limit time to an amount they can completely recover on a daily or weekly bases. This explains why morning breaks, getting away from your desk for lunch and an afternoon snack break will make better performing employees. The energy an employee brings to his or her job is more important than the number of hours worked. 
Taking time away from work can be any number of things. It can be spent just relaxing, watching your children participate in a ball game, taking in nature and appreciating the things we often take for granted. When is the last time you took the time to appreciate the flowers, trees, the warm summer breeze or the sun shining on your face and the simple fact that you are alive and well? These are the things that bring meaning and help you recharge. These are the things you should be doing to help find that balance in life. 

The following pages will allow you to see what others in the industry are doing to find balance. I hope you enjoy this issue and I will leave you with a bit of advice from “Pooh’s Little Instruction Book” by A.A. Milne. 
“Don’t underestimate the value of doing nothing, or just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering. 
Sometimes doing nothing might just be the best thing for us all.

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