Union Services Agency
- Open Office
When Sally and Gary Corbin started Union Services Agency, which specializes in providing commercial insurance to labor unions, they made do with “excuse-my furniture” in what Sally wryly recalls as her “dumpy basement office.”
Seventeen years and three moves later, the daughter-and-dad duo—she a lawyer; he a former Michigan state senator—find themselves in a spiffy renovated warehouse percolating with character. Just five blocks from the Michigan Capitol, their century-old digs feature exposed brick, high ceilings, and other loft-style features that make aged buildings feel just right for cutting-edge companies.
There was only one problem: The time-honored aesthetic that works so well for USA’s building didn’t work so well for its furniture, which remained just plain old—and not in a cool way.
“We bought most of it used and got the rest from office supply stores,” says Sally Corbin, CEO of Union Services Agency. “Our workstations weren’t consistent with the progressive image we want to portray.”
EXPANSION SETS THE STAGE
Plans to expand into an adjacent space gave USA an opening to update its furniture. Sally wanted Herman Miller, but wasn’t sure her slender small business budget could make it happen.
Agency founders Sally and Gary Corbin used the Small and Medium Business Program to make Herman Miller happen.
Never much good at giving up, she roamed the Herman Miller website, found a section devoted to Herman Miller’s Small and Medium Business Program, and submitted a form requesting more information.
Within days, the Corbins were meeting with a pair of Herman Miller reps, showing them how they planned to knock out a wall and asking how a bigger space could be made better.
“USA was in a place we see with a lot of small businesses,” says Michael Dura, a Small and Medium Business consultant with Herman Miller. “The organization is doing well, but its space didn’t signify that.”
“I believe space has a profound effect on performance,” adds Brian Johnson, an account manager with Herman Miller dealer WorkSquared in Lansing. “With USA, the performance was already there; we just had to recommend ways their furniture could enhance it.”
SMALL AND MEDIUM BUSINESS PROGRAM
The first recommendation was the Small and Medium Business Program itself, which offers special pricing on a cross section of Herman Miller products. Price points for products available through the program are broad enough to accommodate just about any budget. What’s more, small businesses also get the benefit of complete design-to-installation services from a local Herman Miller dealer.
“We often work with companies in their first decade that have yet to standardize on furniture,” Dura says of the program. “They’re growing fast and need furnishings that reflect their success, but they need to do it on a really tight budget.”
“Herman Miller became a realistic option when we saw how committed they are to working with small business,” says Gary Corbin, president of Union Services Agency. “This program made it possible to get the furniture we wanted within the budget we had.”
All employees get multiple monitors. But since Flo Monitor Supports keep them elevated, a table alone provides plenty of room to work.
ABOUT THAT FURNITURE
Though largely paperless, Union Services Agency had been toiling in bulky L-shaped workstations, one segment of which was monopolized by the three monitors issued to each employee. Herman Miller suggested a more compact solution—rectangular Everywhere Tables with a trio of attached Flo Monitor Supports. Now, monitors are up and off the work surface, resulting in more usable space even though the footprint is smaller.
For seating, USA picked Aeron after sampling options through Herman Miller’s Try-A-Chair program. As a representative of Herman Miller dealer WorkSquared, Johnson dropped off various models that USA could test over several weeks.
The distinctive back of Sayl chairs was inspired by suspension bridges—like Michigan’s Mackinac Bridge, shown in a prominent photo in USA’s conference room.
“Some competitors design chairs for instant comfort, but they might not be best for long-term ergonomics,” Johnson says. “You need to sit in a chair for a few days to be confident in how it’s going to feel over time.”
Workstation typicals include a pair of Tu pedestals, one of which slides under the Everywhere table and another that sits next to it. Topped with a cushion, the second pedestal doubles as a makeshift seat, cutting office clutter by eliminating the need for guest chairs.
In USA’s conference room, the table is also Everywhere, but the seating is SAYL. With their frameless backs evocative of suspension bridges, the SAYL Chairs complement a prominent photo of the peninsula-linking Mackinac Bridge, a signature union project in Michigan.
SEEING IS BELIEVING
Well before construction began, USA knew exactly how its newly combined space would look from every angle. The Corbins visualized it through Z-Axis, proprietary Herman Miller software that renders three-dimensional color images of proposed office environments before they take shape.
“Z-Axis helped immensely,” Sally says. “We hadn’t even knocked out a wall yet, but I could already see how our furniture would fit and our office would flow.”
Dura says the USA project demonstrates the customer benefits of the Small and Medium Business Program. “By working with us, a forward-looking client now has a space that points to where it’s going as a company, and they did it on a very limited budget.”
Photo credit: Mark Mahaney