New ownership leads company to best sales year
Interphase Interiors wins Best In Class distinction for fifth year in a row.
For Interphase Interiors, 2016 has been a terrific year. The company, which changed hands in 2015, said it logged its best sales year and was one of 30 Haworth dealerships to be awarded the 2016 Best In Class distinction.
This is the fifth year Interphase has earned the Best In Class distinction, and the company is one of only five dealers in North America to receive the award five years in a row.
“I think it would be selfish to say that David (Faasse) and I had anything to do with that. It’s our team,” said Joey Ghent, general manager of Interphase Interiors.
Ghent joined Interphase in September 2015, just a few months after Faasse, who is his father-in-law, purchased the company from Randy DeBoer.
DeBoer had been the company’s owner since 2000, and Ghent said he left Interphase on solid footing.
“It seemed like the company was ready to pop,” Ghent said.
As an exclusive Haworth dealer serving northern and West Michigan, Interphase has benefited from the furniture manufacturer’s strong brand, and Ghent said that remains a key to the company’s success.
“One of the most appealing things was Haworth and their brand and the essence of the brand,” he said.
He noted Haworth President and CEO Franco Bianchi is taking the company in the right direction, and he expects that to continue.
Ghent came to Interphase with a background in the restaurant industry, where he’d done restaurant design and sales work, and Faasse spent his career in manufacturing; he is the former chairman, president and CEO of Best Metal Products in Grand Rapids.
Ghent said with little industry knowledge going into it, he and Faasse planned to spend their first year getting to know the business and building up their team.
“We wanted to reduce turnover,” he said. “What we learned going into it is that there is a lot of turnover in the industry in general, designers and sales, dealer to the manufacturer, or vice versa, seemed to happen a lot. So, let’s reduce turnover. That was probably an unrealistic goal, because our other initiative was our culture.”
Ghent said turnover was inevitable for a company changing hands and focusing on building a new company culture where it “has to be a job where you come in and love what you do.”
But he said in the end, the company came out of its first year with a solid team committed to the same goals.
Ghent said in the office interiors industry, understanding the ins and outs of developing a company’s culture is a big selling point.
“People are coming to us to be their trusted advisor and to help them preserve their culture or improve it,” he said. “How can we not be the best at that if that is why they are coming to us?”
Ghent said one project that stands out from this year is Interphase’s work on Davenport University’s Donald W. Maine College of Business, which he called a “turning point” for the company.
“They said don’t design us a typical university,” he said. “What we want is to give our students a workspace they will see when they graduate.”
He said Davenport wants its students to walk out of its doors and into the business world prepared, and part of that preparation is having a similar environment.
Ghent said what he really enjoyed about the Davenport project was selling the design and a true “tailored solution.”
“The dealer level is about developing these spaces for our customers,” he said, adding the Davenport project, “shows where we are going and the caliber (of our work).”
With nearly a year and a half under his belt, Ghent said Interphase will continue to focus on its own company culture, which he said is an ongoing process, and it will work on becoming the industry benchmark.
“We are trying to set the bar and be ahead of the curve and do stuff other companies maybe aren’t doing yet,” Ghent said.
One of the ways in which Interphase already is leading the pack is in its use of virtual reality.
Ghent said Interphase clients can take a virtual reality walk through their new space to get a better feel for what it will look like and how it will function.
He said Interphase has partnered with Externa CGI, which provides VR services.
The company also is focused on strengthening its brand recognition as a Haworth provider.
“We went through a complete rebrand in January,” he said. “It was time for a new website and trucks and to invest in our brand and let people know who we are and that we are Haworth’s partner.
He added Interphase changed its colors to match those of Haworth’s.
“We are confident that we have our house in order, and it’s time to put our brand out there,” he said.
Ghent said he also sees an opportunity in 2017 to merge his new furniture industry knowledge with his previous restaurant experience — in the form of front of the house design.
“I think, historically, you build out the kitchen, and it’s usually a chef or an entrepreneur doing it and what you are left with in the front of the house is what you are left with,” he said. “You fill it with tables and chairs and booths. But I think there is much more that the restaurant industry is lacking that we at Interphase can maybe capitalize on.”
So, he said putting more thought into the customer experience in the hospitality industry and, specifically in restaurants, could be a direction for the company to focus on in the coming year.