With Thanksgiving in our rear view mirror and after attending the Seena Magowitz Foundation Golf Classic raising funds and awareness to find a cure for pancreatic cancer, I have had an opportunity to pause and think about this industry I am in. Here are three reasons why I think all of us in the furniture industry have reason to be grateful for our path in life:
1. We are green: And by that I mean we recycle our people pretty well. Many would criticize our industry for this and I am sure I could find many things to agree on with those critics but here are a few positive aspects of that. If you are having trouble with your current company, by now you have had several friends leave the group you work with so you may have connections in other places. Unless you are a complete idiot, there is a good chance that someone else will put up with you. I know, because I have worked for Stearns and Foster/Sealy for 5 years, Serta for 9 years, and now Leggett and Platt for the past 4. Many of us in this industry have worked for multiple companies because sometimes business evolves and we don’t fit anymore. That is not a good or bad thing — it just is. Isn’t it nice that this industry puts a high value on experience and relationships so we can find a home somewhere else!
2. Relationships matter: Eighteen years ago, Craig McAndrews, my fraternity brother at college, took a job at Stearns and Foster. Shortly thereafter he connected another fraternity brother of ours, Steve Stagner, up with a job and shortly after that, they brought me in. From there, the three of us recruited at least 25 more fraternity brothers, little sisters, and family members to work with us in the industry. How many stories are there like this one? It isn’t just those relationships that matter to me. Over the years I have had the good fortune to work with many people that I have learned from and hold in a very high regard. Many of them became competitors over the years but our friendships have stayed intact. I see this clearly when I attend things like the Furniture Today Leadership Conference just held in Naples, Florida. (You missed an excellent event if you didn’t attend.) One of my favorite things about going to these events is the opportunity to catch up with old friends. It is great looking forward to seeing these people, because I have friends in other industries that can’t say the same thing about the people they work with. A few years ago, I was talking to an industry executive who just started in the furniture business and was being very critical about the “good old boy network” that exists in the mattress industry. “You would never find us sitting at a bar with our competition, it is ridiculous.” I just saw him in the bar at the Ritz a few days ago in Naples, yucking it up with his network. I wonder how he feels now?
3. A giving group: I attended my first Seena Magowitz Golf Classic this last weekend. (It won’t be my last.) This tournament raises money to help find a cure for Pancreatic Cancer. (See their website HERE.) Roger Magowitz started the charity in the memory of his mother that passed away as a result of this horrible disease. The event itself raised over $400,000 that will go towards finding a cure, and in large part, it was the furniture industry that was there donating their time, energy and talent. To see everybody there, giving up their weekend to share in Roger’s mission was pretty great. So many companies being represented by top management – helping raise money for a terrific cause, it was an incredible weekend that made me very proud to say that I am in this industry. If you have not been to this event before, it is a ‘must-do’ for you. Believe me, you will take something valuable home with you, and by that I don’t necessarily mean one of the fantastic live auction prizes.
Yes, there are some real morons in our industry and the shift to private equity ownership has changed some things; but for the most part I see the good in us that was there for me 18 years ago. (For the record, there is absolutely no connection to the comment about there being moron’s in our industry and Perry’s picture on the left.)
There is a joke in this industry that once you get in it you will never leave. Now either that is a mob reference or we all genuinely like what we are doing and who we are doing it with. I left the industry for about 90 days and found myself right back in it. Good thing I did, because I am having more fun than ever. If you take a minute to reflect on your path in this industry, I hope you end up at the same place.