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Like many small businesses, engineering firms are facing a host of challenges in today's economic climate, where money is tight, competition is tough, and a talented workforce is highly valued. In fact, Steve Kutches, President of Aero Foil International, which specializes in designing and building components for the aerospace industry, believes that keeping his employees happy is every bit as important as making his customers happy.
In 2009, Mr. Kutches began a $100,000, 1,900-square foot renovation to put Aero Foil's engineering staff, then located in another area, closer to the machine shop. This way, the toolmakers and engineers could easily collaborate and talk to one another. He also wanted the new space to better support the way the engineers work. "I wanted something that would not only function well, but look professional—a place our staff could be proud of when customers come in," he says.
But as the owner of a multi-million-dollar-a-year business, Mr. Kutches didn't have a lot of time to devote to selecting furniture. He had purchased refurbished Herman Miller furniture in 2004 when they did another renovation and was considering doing it this time, too.
As the renovation neared completion, Mr. Kutches contacted Becky Billinghurst, Sr. Manager, Customer Insight, at Herman Miller. "I had worked with Steve when he purchased refurbished Action Office workstations before from our company store," says Billinghurst. "But since then, Herman Miller launched the Small and Medium Business program, which is made for small companies like Aero Foil.
"The whole philosophy behind the program is simple, sensible solutions for small businesses," she explains. "It offers great discounts and quick delivery times, which meant this time Aero Foil could buy new furniture rather than refurbished."
Billinghurst notes that companies with under 100 employees will often buy used or go to office supply stores for furniture because they think they can't afford Herman Miller. "But that's not true," she says. "The Small and Medium Business program discounts make our products very affordable, with the added convenience of quick delivery dates. They also get the complete range of services provided by our dealership, plus our full 12-year warranty, all of which make it an incredible value. So there's just no comparison in terms of quality, price, and service versus buying used or from a retail chain."
Billinghurst put Mr. Kutches in touch with WorkSquared, a Grand Rapids Herman Miller dealership. Account Representative David Decker says that the Herman Miller Small and Medium Business program turned out to be a perfect fit for Aero Foil. "There's a large product offering to choose from, with great lead times. The only difference is that you do not get the full offering of Herman Miller finishes and fabrics. In this case, Steve didn't care about that. It was more important for him to have nice looking, functional, affordable offices without spending a lot of time planning and making decisions."
In fact, they didn't have a lot of time. The space was almost completed by the time Decker got involved, giving them just a few weeks until move-in day. Herman Miller's Z-Axis program was a tremendous help, making the selection process smooth, simple, and fast, says Decker: "With Z-Axis (Herman Miller interactive software that allows customers to edit and view their space in 3-D), we can create a drawing that automatically generates a parts list and pricing, along with 3-D color images. These images give the client a good idea of what the workstations will look like in the space. It truly differentiates Herman Miller from everybody else."
Mr. Kutches was very pleased with the time-saving convenience it offered. "David would come out with these beautiful drawings and it was all on CAD, which is what our engineers use, so they could view the drawings and then change something right on the spot. They made a couple of tweaks and then, bam, we placed the order and we were done."
Decker recommended going with the Action Office 2 panel system, which would blend in with the AO they already had. "The traditional workstation and panels functioned well for them, so we stuck with it," he states.
Seating is also covered under the Small and Medium Business program and with the dealer discount, they were able to upgrade to Mirra chairs, which "the engineers love; they were fighting over them when they arrived," laughs Mr. Kutches.
He couldn't be happier with the way everything turned out. "I think other small business owners should know about the Herman Miller Small and Medium Business program," he says. "I never dreamed we could afford to have an office that looks the way ours does. It is just gorgeous. Our customers walk in and they're so impressed. In fact, one of the biggest land-based OEMs in the U.S. thought we were just a small little shop until they came here and saw our facility. And that was one of our goals: We wanted to look like the multi-million company we are, not only for our customers, but for our employees and for recruiting purposes, too. We want to attract the best people in the industry to work here. And now I think we can."