Weekly Editorial

Disruption and Reinvention Make Us Better

Written By Rob Kirkbride, Editor-in-chief, OI Publications • May 13, 2024

The Insider_Weekly_editorial_5.13.2024

Inside today’s officeinsight magazine, you will find a fascinating story about companies that have, and continue to cause healthy disruption in our industry. It is the first industry interview of former Steelcase CEO Jim Hackett to be published since his retirement from Ford Motor Co. and author Bill Wittland does a great job explaining how brands like Turnstone and Herman Miller SQA attempted to change things (and how Vari and Branch Furniture continue that work).

Our industry is also about reinvention. And while Bill’s excellent story does not address reinvention, I thought we could chat about it here. Two brands that are working hard to reinvent themselves are Safco and Bold Furniture.

Safco has a long history in the office furniture industry, but it had lost a bit of focus in recent years. It is a company with a huge number of products that are sold through a variety of channels. Safco is streamlining its commercial furniture and ancillary product offering, which is being led by industry newcomer and Senior Vice President Kristy Howe and industry veteran and Vice President of Product, Marketing and Innovation Shawn Green. Howe comes to the industry with experience at Anderson Windows & Doors and 3M. Green has dealer and manufacturer experience, including his design work at KI.

I had the pleasure of sitting on a panel discussion that was held during Safco’s national sales meeting last week. It was an excellent panel and group of sales folks who were in Minneapolis to learn more about how the company plans to serve our industry. Look for a story on details of its plans very soon in the pages of officeinsight magazine.

Bold Furniture is another company that is working to reinvent itself. It has always been a respected OEM and does work for many of the majors in the industry. The company also made a run at launching its own line of furniture a few years ago, which stalled during the pandemic. Bold is back again and refocused on the industry. Its reinvention is being led by a trio of industry veterans including: Mike Kelley, executive vice president; Libby Ferin, chief marketing officer; and Scott Reus, who is leading sales. Kelley and Reus both were key figures in building izzy+ and Ferin has extensive marketing experience at Herman Miller and Steelcase. Owner Todd Folkert rounds out the team pushing Bold Furniture forward with new products and a snazzy space at THE MART.

Disruption and reinvention aren’t easy. I know from personal experience. But our industry is welcoming and likes disruption. It also offers the grace for some of us to reinvent ourselves. I’m thankful for that.

Disruption is good for everyone. It keeps us on our toes and makes all of us better. Even when it doesn’t work out exactly as planned, as was the case with Turnstone and SQA, it made both Steelcase and Herman Miller better companies with the understanding they gleaned from launching and working on those brands.

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