Success Story: WorkSquared

WorkSquared excels in tough market with TeamDesign®

Annamarie Smith, WorkSquared, Inc.

Even when times are good, there’s nothing simple about running a contract furniture dealership.

But what if instead of just one location, you’ve got five to worry about and they’re spread out over a market that covers close to 100,000 square miles? And that market just happens to be the state of Michigan, a place that over the last few years has been grabbing the economic headlines for all the wrong reasons?

Challenging? Maybe. Impossible? Not really. 

Just ask Annamarie Smith, Sales Coordinator for WorkSquared, Inc. Since joining the company in 1987, Smith has served as a key member of a team that has faced all those challenges, and then some, and met them with remarkable success.

The record speaks for itself: From 2005-2007, WorkSquared doubled in size and in 2008 earned kudos from Inc. Magazine as one of its Inc. 5000 fastest-growing private companies in America. "Even as the Michigan economy deteriorated," says Smith, "we leveraged the information through TeamDesign to successfully manage our enterprise during the downturn."

How they did all that in a market that has seen much of its core economic base under intense pressures in recent years is an impressive story, to say the least.

WorkSquared is a certified Herman Miller dealer and Smith is quick to give credit to the dealership’s primary manufacturer partner for its support. The company started out in Kalamazoo in 1958, but WorkSquared, as it operates today, Smith explains, didn’t really get underway until 1999, when it acquired a healthcare furnishings and equipment dealer in the southeastern part of the state.

Formed after Dave VanLangevelde, an entrepreneur from Holland, Michigan, had a vision to create the single-largest Certified Herman Miller dealer in Michigan. Dave merged two independent furniture dealerships across the state of Michigan: Casper's and LaVene's Business Interiors. Casper's was a well-respected statewide healthcare furnishings dealer, and LaVene's Business Interiors, a Herman Miller dealer in Western Michigan. Collectively, WorkSquared has been providing workplace and healthcare furnishings to Michigan organizations for over 50 years. "We work collaboratively in cross-functional teams," says Smith, "enabling us to work closely with our clients to develop creative and meaningful solutions."

Along the way, a carefully executed hub-and-spoke strategy has taken the dealership into other markets across the state, with two main facilities in Grand Rapids and Novi, Michigan, just outside of Detroit, and satellite sales offices in Kalamazoo, Lansing and Traverse City.

Guiding the organization is a closely-knit team of office furniture veterans all with at least 20 years of office furniture experience and leadership, as well as a shared understanding of just what makes WorkSquared work.

“We’re very much a team-structured entity,” says Smith. “You have to be nimble and able to react quickly in this business and our team structure gives us the ability to do just that.”

Each team, she explains, functions as an autonomous, sales-focused “mini-company,” with sales and sales support, design, project management and accounting all represented. And, she continues, the dealership’s technology infrastructure makes it easy for management to monitor the performance of each team and make adjustments as needed.

WorkSquared has been a TeamDesign user since 1995 and, Smith says, “TeamDesign has played a critical role in supporting our dealership’s growth.”

“Working with TeamDesign,” she explains, “gives us the ability to basically create separate income statements for each team. We know what our costs are and what our margin contributions are on a per team basis and that represents an incredibly powerful management tool.”

TeamDesign also plays a key role in supporting the overall sales process at the dealership. “I learned early on we need effective tools to support our sales organization regardless of what markets they’re in, and we need to be able to give them the best information we can on a timely basis,” relates Smith.

And that’s just for starters! “As they generate orders, we also need an integrated system that will enable us to take that business and manage it all the way from bookings to collections,” she contends.

“We have all that with TeamDesign,” Smith reports happily. “We’ve been able to use the system to take bookings to cash very seamlessly. TeamDesign also allows us to interface with our major manufacturers so that we can generate purchase orders electronically and receive acknowledgements back the same way.”

Customers get top priority

But while the company is not afraid to invest in technology to help keep the business running smoothly, it’s the customer side of things that gets the lion’s share of attention at WorkSquared.

“The dealer certification process at Herman Miller puts a heavy emphasis on customer response and customer service and we take that process very seriously,” Smith explains. “We send out surveys to our customers after every sale and after every project and we aim for 100% satisfaction every time.”

That’s a critical reason, she adds, why WorkSquared has been one of the top five Herman Miller dealers in the country in terms of customer service and support over the past two years. In fact, in October of 2009, WorkSquared received the Customer Satisfaction Award for Herman Miller's Certified Network of dealers. This is the second time the company has received the award in the past three years. “This is a huge accomplishment for us, one we are very proud of and strive for each year,” says Smith.

“ECi has provided the resources to take TeamDesign to the next level so we can continue to focus on generating great information for our sales and leadership team and keep the business growing, no matter what direction the overall market takes.”