26 Oct THE PRINCIPLES OF DOING BUSINESS, FROM A U.S. VETERAN
Christopher Leach knows a thing or two about dedication. He also knows that strong working relationships can mean the difference between success and failure.
That’s the kind of thing you learn in the Air Force. Which is one of the reasons why, after serving in Operation Desert Storm, Leach built a successful career as the president of veteran-owned Contract Furnishings in Denver, now in its 18th year of operation. Fittingly, the company’s main clients are government and commercial businesses, and his job is to outfit them with the right tools for their spaces and their employees.
Given his background, Leach has strong principles of doing business—and he won’t trust just any manufacturer when it comes to furnishing his customers’ spaces. His partners must live up to high standards, walk the talk and deliver (over-delivering is even better) every time.
You could chalk it up to a military sensibility, but these values are important in any business partnership.
PRINCIPLE 1: BE THERE FOR YOUR CUSTOMERS
When Leach is pursuing new business, he knows which manufacturer to rely on. HON’s extensive dealer network provides local support, with reps always available to answer questions, solve problems and satisfy any other needs quickly. Plus, HON offers educational materials and other collateral—and still puts boots on the ground in the markets it serves, something Leach said is invaluable to his team.
“Our local HON rep is in our office twice a week. HON’s ongoing training and webinars have engaged my team at all different levels. Some of my team members love the webinars and what they can access on the HON website, while others like the in-person communication. There are so many different ways that HON engages us in a positive way.
“From other manufacturers, we simply don’t have that,” Leach said. “The communication and visibility, and the consistency from HON, is what keeps driving our [sales] numbers up.”
PRINCIPLE 2: HONOR YOUR COMMITMENTS
Trust and understanding are important in the military, and they’re important to Leach. In fact, they’re foundational to his business and critical to expanding his network.
These days, when “instant” seems to be the flavor of the week and expediency is top of mind, business can become transactional, he said.
“Having a [partner] that also values the relationship and supports it, encourages it … that means everything to me. The relationship piece with HON is super crucial and important to us.”
With the company’s GSA contract, Contract Furnishings aggressively pursues government clients, and HON is active in supporting its efforts. As the end of the government fiscal year approaches, Leach said his HON dealer has regularly reached out with leads and information that can help develop that business.
“HON [sends us] information about what’s happening in our market, and that’s a real advantage when you have that local support,” Leach said. “They’re the only partner we, as a veteran-owned business, have that is out there actively looking for opportunities and then helping us respond to them.
PRINCIPLE 3: DELIVER A QUALITY PRODUCT, EVERY TIME
The connection between dealer and distributor is crucial, but it only goes so far if the products don’t meet customer standards or solve their problems.
Leach is focused on design and quality—two things that contribute to attractive, reliable furniture. And he’s found both in HON products; in fact, he has customers who want HON products in their space simply after seeing them—and customers return because they know the relationship goes beyond the transaction.
“That reputation is what keeps people coming back to HON, and for me, it’s what makes HON such an easy sell,” Leach said. “People want these products in their space and they’re seeing the value in that. It’s helped us to sell more HON products instead of packing multiple manufacturers into one sale to meet the needs of an office.”
According to Leach, HON nails the details. “Customers know every product ships with a serial number. They know it has information about when and where it was made, and there’s a strong warranty process. They know they’ll get issues resolved more quickly compared to those who don’t put that information out there. I can tell a client confidently that their parts will ship in 3-5 days, and with some manufacturers, it can take them 3-5 days just to respond to the first inquiry. It puts HON head and shoulders above the others.”
To learn more about how HON supports veteran-owned businesses like Contract Furnishings, please visit hon.com.