Welcome to our inaugural 40 Under 40 list of retail executives who are making a difference in our industry and their communities. The foundation for the list was created in part by our readers, who took the time to make thoughtful and enthusiastic nominations.
The constant ping of my e-mail during the nomination period last month told me that we’d struck a nerve with our community in celebrating and spotlighting the bright young faces in furniture.
To those skeptics out there who continued with their snide comments about the furniture industry having no young people in it ... well, that’s just not so.
As the nomination deadline approached, we had more than 60 names on the list. That’s quite the slate to winnow down, and trust me, if 60 Under 40 carried the same sing-song word play, we would have been all over that!
Just so you’ll know — we had a number of young execs from the supply side of the furniture industry to be nominated. Those, however, will have to wait on the sidelines for a bit while we go about honoring RETAILERS.
As we were compiling the final slate, a few things jumped out at us that I think are worth mentioning.
When you break down the list, more than half of the 40 Under 40 are working in their family business. Some are the fourth or even the fifth generation to follow in their forefathers’ footsteps.
If those great-great grandparents could only see how their legacies are working now, they may be shocked to find the new tools being put to work in the business. Tools like social media, the Internet and retail technology that allows for easy sales tracking, payroll and other retail back-shop operations. I’m sure the generations before would be in complete wonder of it all. Can you imagine the great, greats with an iPhone? That would be a super picture to Tweet or post via Instagram!
Men make up the bulk of the list with women holding 25 percent of the slots on our 40 Under 40 list.
I’m pretty certain the number isn’t skewed because of some huge conspiracy to prevent young women into the retail environment. Instead, I think it’s more likely the nature of the beast. Furniture retail requires long hours that often include nights and weekends and aren’t the most family friendly.
Our slate is filled with strong, smart, creative, intuitive, savvy retailers who are shaping the future of our industry. They continue to push themselves, their peers and their co-workers to adapt to the ever-changing retail environment.
The furniture industry is much better off with them being part of it.
As President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.”
This under-40 set is definitely built for the future and is well on its way to shaping the industry for the next generation of leaders.
Enjoy the list.
Jerome’s Furniture Looks to Expand Its Customer Reach While Keeping Firm Hold of Its Base.
A family company that looked outside the fold is making waves in Southern California’s furniture retail scene.
Jerome’s Furniture in San Diego had built a thriving business, and while the Navarra family behind the company remains firmly in place, some new blood has added some pop.
CEO Lee Goodman joined the company six years ago, bringing in a fresh face with furniture retailing chops developed at Bob’s Discount Furniture to bear on a promotional institution in the San Diego area.
Jerome’s is expanding into the Los Angeles market and bringing new retail concepts to bear in its efforts.
“Jerome’s has been in business in Southern California for 59 years,” Goodman said. “We are family owned and have a genuine relationship with the community. San Diego has seen Jerry Navarra (our chairman) on TV for the last 40 years, and now his sons Mark and Jim Navarra have begun to show up in some branding ads. “People know us and trust us. We honor our relationship with them by not participating in phony promotions and gimmicks. We have every day low prices. It’s a much more respectful approach to the furniture buying process and our industry. As we expand into the L.A. market, where people are not as familiar with our brand, it presents a wealth of opportunity.”
IT STARTS WITH PEOPLE
What makes Jerome’s different from other home furnishings retailers in the markets it serves?
“To sum it up, it’s our people,” Goodman said. “We have built a team here that is nothing short of phenomenal. Nothing works without the right people, their ability to execute our strategies at the level they do is extraordinary.
“It all starts with the Navarre family. Their warmth and generosity, coupled with their trust has created a relationship that allowed us to make the kinds of decisions we have to make to be successful.”
Those changes included a reorganization of management, but the biggest was a move away from running promotions and sales to working with the “Jerry’s everyday low price” that Goodman mentioned above.
A combination of an established retail brand and avoidance of gimmicky sales paid dividends during the recession.
“It was hard on us, just like it was on the rest of the world,” Goodman said. “We focused on doing the right things and staying disciplined to our model. During tough times, the trust our brand created through the years is seen as a real plus.”
IMPROVING THE EXPERIENCE
Jerome’s has stepped up the shopping experience in its stores. In-store signage allows is helping customer to engage with the brand in an informative, fresh way.
“In-store signage is now more design- and creative-oriented,” Goodman said. “It’s all under the umbrella of improving the customer experience, and we do serve a wide range of customers.
“You can’t be all things to all people, but with our large selection, we’re able to approach a lot of them.”
Finding that “right” selection of product so the consumer can find what she’s looking for is easier said than done, Goodman said.
“After that, it becomes all about value. We pack a lot of features into our product for the dollar,” he said. “We have decades of relationships with vendors, where it makes sense we go direct, and we negotiate great prices on behalf of our customers. We work diligently with our partners to ensure value.
“Merchandising is dependent on what sells best in each individual market. We do notice style preferences shift from market to market, so it’s constantly reviewed.”
THE RIGHT TOOLS
Jerome’s also gives sales associates the tools they need, such as tablets, to create relationships with customers and ensure they are making the right decisions for their home. The store also shares numbers to keep associates on track.
“We get closing rates at not only the store level but at the individual salesperson level—and we find out where they lost the sale, based on questions sales managers are trained to ask,” Goodman said. “We create a dashboard for people so they gain understanding and a perspective of where they stand.”
Metrics “are a big part of who we are,” he added. “We use them to help guide us in finding issues in our company. What products are (customers) coming in for? What’s the impact of our advertising?
“It allows us to make changes based on real information. (For example) We’re a little light on bedding compared to where we want to be. We’ll look at the numbers to see where we should be changing our product offerings.”
SENDING THE MESSAGE
How does Jerome’s express its retail vision in marketing and advertising efforts?
“We run several different messages at one time—branding, services, product focused—whatever we feel is most important for us to communicate at the moment,” Goodman said. “Our target customer covers such a wide range of the American public, we want to be relevant to what they are looking for.”
In addition to television, radio testimonial ads and the occasional print ad, the retailer is exploring digital more and more, and it publishes an upscale custom magazine twice a year.
“As far as digital goes, we’re on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Houzz.com,” Goodman said. “We are constantly revamping our Web site. We’re learning like everyone else, but I know those aspects of our business are only going to continue to get more and more important.”
The aim is to build a big tent that serves as wide a base of consumers as possible.
“No matter how much people make or how much they want to spend, we’re going to have something for most of them in our model,” Goodman said. “We can send out different types of messages to different people without losing who we are. It’s not class-based. All those different ingredients, all those different prices, reach a lot of people.”
Moving forward, Goodman pointed to strategic partnerships with suppliers “and a little thing called the World Wide Web” as keys to future growth.
“We look at e-commerce as a tool to, first, engage customers; and then drive them into our stores,” he said. “The Internet is our focus. We’re going to expand our customer base but not lose our existing customers.” HFB
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.
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.