Success Story: Office Images, Inc.
TeamDesign® Provides Solid Framework for Growth
For Deb Horrworth, there’s no doubt about the role TeamDesign® software plays in her dealership. “It’s the foundation of our company,” she says bluntly. “Once a project’s in TeamDesign, the program takes it from one stage to the next. It structures the overall process properly and makes sure nothing falls through the cracks.”
Horrworth is a principal of Office Images, Inc., an Allsteel® dealer in Rockville, Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C. Business has been booming since the company was founded in 2001—average annual sales growth has been up in the 20 precent range—and that makes a powerful management resource like TeamDesign even more valuable.
“It’s impossible to grow so rapidly without a strong technology base,” she contends. “The reports we get from TeamDesign keep us out of trouble when it comes to profitability and cash flow, and automating processes means we can focus our hiring in the sales and customer service areas, where it can do us most good.”
From government contracts to A&D
Horrworth is hardly a newcomer to the office furniture industry. After starting out in a public relations position with the Department of the Navy, she joined a DC-area furniture wholesaler in 1983 — “my brother worked there and he twisted my arm,” she recalls with a wry smile.
After tours of duty with a manufacturer and her first dealership, which she started in 1993, Office Images opened for business in 2001. Like many dealers in the Washington, D.C. area, the federal government initially was very much the center of its universe. “We started out with nine people and about 95 percent of our sales coming from government entities of one kind or another,” Horrworth recalls.
Seven years later, headcount has grown to 17, and while Uncle Sam is still important for the dealership, it’s by no means the only source of business today, and fully 55 percent of total volume now comes from more traditional commercial contract customers.
A key factor behind the dealership’s growth in the contract market was the arrival of a new business partner, Ric Hammett, in 2002. Hammett came to the dealership with a successful track record with both Haworth and Herman Miller, and a solid network of contacts in the Washington-area A&D community.
Hammett’s expertise and contacts have yielded rich dividends. Today, the dealership generates as much as 70 percent of its non-government business from its work with architects, designers, and an increasingly important customer segment, commercial realtors.
Office Images has two designers on staff who play a key role in space planning and developing specifications for their designer clients. “Most of the designers we work with view our own designers as an important asset,” Horrworth points out.
“They know we won’t compete with them and they depend on us to provide a high level of furniture expertise and to develop solutions that make sense for their own clients’ budgets and priorities.’ ”
In an important move that further bolstered its position with the A&D community, Office Images opened a sparkling new showroom last June. The dealership spent nearly a year looking for just the right location, but the effort was more than worth it, says Horrworth.
“Especially in today’s market, it’s so important for a dealership to have the right kind of space,” Horrworth maintains. “We wanted people to walk in and feel, ‘If they can do this kind of work for themselves, they can do it for me.’ ”
One of the first things a visitor sees upon entering the 6,300 sq. ft. showroom is a unique, floor-to-ceiling wall made of medium density fiberboard, the material used frequently for substrates in desks. “The architect’s thought process was to use some elements that are an intrinsic part of office furniture, and MDF was a very innovative choice,” Horrworth explains.
Also near the entrance is the dealership’s community spaces, including an impressive conference room and a very large resource center, complete with fabric and seating wall displays.
Planning for growth in an uncertain economy
As Ric and Deb look ahead , they’re realistic about the dealership and its growth prospects in an increasingly uncertain economy. But even if sky-high gasoline prices and sub-prime mortgage problems make another 20 percent plus year unlikely, they are not about to join any budding gloom-and-doom club.
“Business might slow down some, but we should certainly be able to do as well this year as we did last year, and possibly even see a 2 or 3 percent increase,” Horrworth says confidently. “And all that has a lot more to do with where we are as a dealership than with the overall environment.”
And just where is Office Images today?
Again, Horrworth’s solid sense of business realities comes through loud and clear.
“There’s money to be had as a dealer, but it’s a tough business,” she says bluntly. “You have to be flexible, you have to be adept, and you have to be aligned with factories that truly want to work with you.”
And that’s just the beginning. “It’s also extremely important as a dealer that you’re aligned with a strong technology partner,” she stresses. “When I think about how few problems we’ve had with TeamDesign — and I personally have been using it since 1998 — it’s truly remarkable. Technology is the base of your company and if it’s not running with you and keeping up with what you need to be doing, you might as well just hang it up,” she says.
“TeamDesign is an integral part of our company and will continue to be so. There aren’t too many alternatives to the program, and it really does fit the needs of the industry it was designed around.”