Preserving A Brand Through Generations

Building Brands Ep 27 - Ryan Menke - Preserving A Brand Through Generations

Ryan Menke, SVP of Sales & Marketing at OFS stresses the importance of maintaining and staying true to the brand of a multigenerational company. He points out ways that a family run business can stay objective and avoid tunnel vision throughout its history so that it doesn’t fall behind in the market and continues to meet the needs of its evolving clients and growing team.

Episode Links
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Episode Transcript
Tim
Welcome Building Brands listeners. For our 27th episode, I’m joined by Ryan Menke, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at OFS. For OFS, caring about people isn’t just a behavior or a belief, it’s a calling. It’s not just about being a furniture company, through the things they make the interactions they’re a part of, and the values that represent or seize the opportunity to change lives and plant a future for our children’s children. And this episode, Ryan stresses the importance of maintaining and staying true to the brand of a multi generational company. He points out ways that a family run business can stay objective and avoid tunnel vision throughout its history so that it doesn’t fall behind in the market and continues to meet the needs of its evolving clients and growing team. Enjoy the episode.

Tim
If you’re an owner or marketer in the building materials, manufacturing, distribution, or contracting spaces, looking to set up your brand for success now and in the future, this is the podcast for you. on this show, we talk about brand and market strategies used in the real world that grow companies and truly connect with consumer audiences. So sit back, listen in, and let’s get to it.

Tim
Okay, welcome Ryan Menke Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at OFS. Thanks for coming on the podcast. Glad to be here,

Ryan
Tim. Thanks for having me.

Tim
Yeah, let’s start with giving the people a little bit about you and the company. So why don’t we tell you? Or why don’t you tell us a little bit about your professional background and how you got into OFS and into the building products and building space?

Ryan
Yes, I guess I was born into OFS. It’s our family business. So we always joked we grew up drinking lacquer and eating sawdust as kids, but I’ve been in the company now I think I’m going I don’t know, 19 or 20 years, but spent the first four years out of college as part of our family rule working for somebody else. So I actually sold insurance door to door for a year, about the only thing I could find to pay the bills in 1999. And then, and then moved away from Atlanta, then to St. Louis. And that’s really when I started getting back into the industry. I worked for a furniture dealer in St. Louis doing new business development. And I guess being out there representing the company showed me the passion I had for the company because originally, I had no desire to come back and work for FSX. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I took the MCAT GMAC and l sat I was really conflicted. But at least I had test scores, it allowed me to go chase whatever I wanted to do but but after get in the field and kind of understand and more about the company and what we represented it and how the market responded to that I started getting drawn back and there was a point in my career where I interned in our warehousing division and, and my longtime mentor in that group, abruptly passed away cancer at the age I am today. So after a search, they decided maybe it was right for me to come back and run a trucking company at the ripe age, I think it was like, I don’t know, 2526, something like that. So I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Dan had to admit that on day one, but just begged for some time forgiveness, as I figured things out. From there, I pretty much worked everywhere in the business, but finance, they don’t need me there or want me there I know enough to really mess stuff up, but spent 12 years in the supply chain operations and logistics side of the business. And then as of 2013, in October, I got a phone call that my predecessor had moved on to another company and my dad would like for me to step into that role. And so I’ve been doing that ever since I absolutely love it, you get to use, you know, the left side, right side of your brain each and every day. And I love every element of the whole creative side of coming up with a concept or an idea of a product or brand all the way through the execution and sales and, and, and, you know, hitting goals.

Tim
Cool. Tell us a little bit more about fast. It’s a multi generational company, as you mentioned. And that’s how you ended up coming back and getting involved the right way. As you sort of described. How long has the company been around and tell us a little bit more about who you serve and those types of things.

Ryan
If you go all the way back to my grandmother’s side, we started making covered wagons in the 1800s made our last one in 1897 and then the company’s kind of rebirth a bit in the early 1900s. We really say 1937 to kind of the current manifestation so you know going into our 84th year here in furniture specifically, we’ve been a lot of different things quite frankly, we were residential furniture and venetian blinds at one point actually mixed in some wood basketball scoreboards at a point in time, it was a it’s kind of a funny story where my grandfather and all his brothers were all American basketball players. My grandfather and his one brother ended up playing on Indiana university’s first ever national championship team in 1949. And they were just good athletes and they played a little fat faster paced game and the scoreboard wasn’t keeping up and my great grandfather got so frustrated that he got with a local engineering teacher and they did not A lighted scoreboard that could keep up with the pace of play. So we fell into scoreboards, but after about 50 years of residential, my dad was he was out in Thomasville North Carolina working for high point furniture and our Thomasville furniture. And he had seen everything at a time starting to shift to Taiwan. And it raised a lot of red flags for our family business. So he moved home in 1978, and convinced his dad that it was time to make a massive pivot. And that pivot was completely out of residential furniture and over to commercial office furniture, leveraging the skills we had and wood and casegoods. Specifically, you know, he tells us every day that if he and his father would have known how much it was really going to cost to make that pivot. He’s not sure they would have done it. But once they were committed, they were committed to seeing it all the way through I mean, they both mortgage their homes multiple times to, to make this transition. So it really is a fourth generation business. But we almost think of ourselves as a first or maybe second generation because we seem to reinvent ourselves, generation by generation, as times change, customer profiles change, the markets changed. I mean, really all of our growth has come under my father’s leadership since taking over in 1983. He’s grown as you know, multiple times over. So you know, now in our current manifestation, we’re really tried to how do we preserve this legacy for the next 8384 years? So are we doing the right things today to make sure that we can be successful into the future. I mean, I’ve got myself and three siblings are now actively involved in the business, which is unique, it works great folks, we’ve all kind of settled into completely different areas of the business where we can leverage our skills the best and provide the most value. So it’s, it’s, it’s interesting for us legacy really isn’t a business model, it’s more of the impact you can have on as many people as possible. And when you’re looking at it, that legacy also can’t be an anchor, right? So it’s, it’s you, you’ve got to hold on to the values and who you are, but not necessarily the business model itself. You’ve got to be comfortable, you know, disrupting yourself. And we’ve all you know, dad’s always said that, he said, we’ve got to be our own worst critic, we’ve got to point out our flaws before we allow our competition to do that do that. So we take that to heart and try to live that every single day.

Tim
Man, the legacy not being an anchor thing is probably the quote of the episode. But we’ll see where this goes, we’ll see where it goes. You did mention about how you pivoted into the commercial space. So who you primarily trying to reach with the business right now as an interior designers? Is it actual business owners? Who’s the Who’s your, like, kind of target pool that you’re trying to do business with?

Ryan
Can I say yes to all, you know, our industry, so interesting, it’s, it’s got so many layers to it, and there’s an X supply chain guy, it’s kind of hard to wrap your head around all the different hands that are involved in executing a project. So they’re all important in different stages of a project, whether it be, you know, ultimately, the ultimate decision makers who you want to get to, right. So that is different on every project, you know, it used to be pre COVID, it was, you know, it’s really starting to get dominated by corporate real estate, as well as facilities, I think post COVID A&D community is going to continue to reinforce their strengths of you know, Human Centered Design, and design, and not only for physical safety, but psychological safety. But I think that that also then brings your human resources group is going to have a much stronger seat at the table, as well as your health and safety and even maybe even legal. So we just think that you kind of got to meet your customer where they want to be met at a particular part in that journey until the end.

Tim
Cool. All right, we’ll get back into the generational brand stuff, because you started to touch on that, oh, ffs, you know, 80 plus something years, and it’s sort of current iteration of furniture in general, whether it was the pivot from residential to commercial, it’s, and you’ve, you know, evolving from covered wagons even which just makes me think of Oregon Trail. So my mind is wandering right now. What do you think, has kind of balanced the company between its exponential growth over the last 40 to 50 years, and also kind of staying true to itself to be able to make it through all those generations and carry on the way it has?

Ryan
I think there’s a few things in there. One is you’ve got to constantly be evaluating your actions against your values, and do they align, you know, your purpose and your promise, and your value should really not change that often, they do evolve a bit, but they shouldn’t change. So I think part of that is, you know, being a real hard critic of yourself, making sure that people are living those values, which is it’s an ongoing effort, right? So but we also surround ourselves with people we aspire to. And that’s evolving, right? So what you know, got you here won’t get you there. So I think that’s an ever changing group of people you should be surrounding yourselves with, we rely on an outside Board of Directors, there’s a few family members on the board, but the majority is outside from all different disciplines. So that we get a very well rounded perspective, we get a group that holds us accountable. We try to, even though we’re a privately held company, we try to run ourselves as if we’re public. And so I think that’s helped us a lot. Yeah. So I mean, I think those are a lot of a lot of things. And it’s, you know, from, if you think back to the kids is making sure you’re telling the stories a lot so that you’re telling stories that reinforce the behavior that you expect now, and in the future, that can come down to either work ethic, or Yeah, I remember early, early on when my dad doesn’t remember the story, but I remember vividly I was, you know, literally Gage, and he was missing all my games. And I was pretty frustrated with him, right? So I was like, hey, why aren’t you at my games, all my friends, dads, their, their their coaching, or any as you know, son, you got to, you got to understand we have two families, we got our family at home. And then we have our work family. And they’re both very, very important to us. And so you know, at the time, I think we had 400 people working for us. He said, so if that’s the average American family, it’s a spouse in two kids. So we’re responsible for 1600 people and putting, you know, clothes on their back roof over their head food on their table. And that’s a responsibility we can never take too lightly. So there are sacrifices we have to make, in order to you know, make sure we’re taking care of everybody. And that that never really resonated with me actually didn’t like it as a kid. You know, because you’re thinking about you and what your dad there to see a strikeout. But later in life, as I got more involved in the business, it really became a lesson that that, you know, just echoes true over and over and over again. But even now that we’re I think we’re right at 1700 people now it doesn’t, it doesn’t change that dynamic just makes it that much more important.

Tim
In order to be able to reinforce those values and keep the vision and mission everything moving forward. That’s that takes with that level, something 1700 people within the company locally, and I’m sure through the network across the country, a high level of reinforcement, frequent reinforcement to be able to, to maintain that level of buy in from from a workforce that size.

Ryan
Yeah, I think you a couple things, I think it requires a ton of communication, right? You got to be communicating those values, you’ve got to be calling them out on the good side and the bad side. It’s always that, you know, praise and public coaching private thing. So we’re also blessed to be surrounded by some of the best leaders I’ve ever worked with. I mean, our executive staff is, you know, absolutely phenomenal. And, and my team I get to work with every day, it’s I haven’t worked with a better group. So I think that continues to reinforce by the people you have in your organization.

Tim
So let’s talk about getting to this point, let’s kind of break it down into each of the generations. What do you think the focus of the first generation was, you know, your grandfather, let’s let’s consider the post wagon era, what do you think the first iteration of the furniture version of OFS was really focused on in terms of what his goals were, and then maybe follow that up with your father’s generational input, and then how you and your siblings are starting to take it now.

Ryan
But it really my great grandfather really kicked it kicked off the furniture side in a serious way from a business standpoint. And it was I think he was driven partly because my grandmother’s family didn’t want her to marry him. So he had this drive to prove that he was more than capable. And turns out, he was an absolute amazing businessman. But he’s also super creative. So not only did he run the business, but he also designed all the products. I mean, I’ve got his sales kit on the shelf behind me that he used when he traveled as a salesman, but you know, kind of always back against the wall, like you said, they’re the ones out there pioneer, the brand. I mean, I remember my grandma’s story of him driving around Illinois, and he wasn’t coming home until he sold a desk. But he gave himself one week and if it wasn’t sold, at the end of that week, he was going to close up shop and try something new and he just he made it happen. Then they merged the businesses after the you know, kind of before World War Two, but after World War Two is when my grandfather got more involved and he wanted to actually be a Supreme Court justice. So the business for him was kind of a lifestyle business it afforded him to chase his passions and pursuits and most of those are around environmental sustainability. He he actually established the Indiana Nature Conservancy he he acquired acreage all over the state of Indiana, due to erosion from industrial Ag and industrial and just an industrial manufacturing. So he was a very, very strong environmentalist. And then once my dad came back and had this new spark and energy and brought you know, this this new life to the business Actually, my grandfather started getting really interested in it when my dad was starting to have some success was that there were some very interesting dynamics in that transition that that are etched in all our memories of those two kind of battling for control of where we were going to go. But that’s why we call ourselves a first generation fourth generation company, because my dad really is that pivot. I remember living out what my great grandfather went through. So every time we go on vacation, we’d have a cargo van. And we’d have a little miniature desk return in the back of the van, and we’d stop at dealerships on the way to Florida trying to get somebody to tie into this company that my dad was starting. But the thing that I’ve always respected about my dad was he he’s such an unbelievable motivator, like he just he so good with people. But he’s also obsessively curious. And we’re lucky enough that he’s passed that on to his kids that I mean, he just I remember his kid always having a stack of books on his on his nightstand. I don’t know if I’m trying to be him or what, but I would same thing, right. So we’re all voracious readers, but we also like to get out in the world and experience it. I think that helps knock down biases, because experiences are just biases, right? Yeah. So if we can get out and experience more, it gives us more context and more understanding of the world around us. I think that’s what allowed us to continue to grow and evolve and grow and evolve was that insatiable appetite for new experiences, and never really hanging on anything is precious, other than our values and our purpose and our promise so and that is really, that. Our mission is what we make people feel is as important as what we make. And you know, that goes for our clients, as well as our you know, all of our employees. So I think that’s really been the most important piece in all this is that is that obsessive curiosity, and the ability to continue to grow and evolve and grow, evolve and look for new opportunities and intersection points where you can leverage skills with market needs.

Tim
It sounds like the your great grandfather and grandfather kind of set the foundation for that, you know, that ultimate creativity is what drove the initial product line. They set the foundation they built stability, the business was a thing had legs, your father kind of saw a pivot point reinvented it made it grow from there, you guys are taking it from from that aspect. Is there anything along the way that you’ve recognized you need to watch out for to make sure that you don’t hinder the growth process or evolution of the company?

Ryan
Complacency, bureaucracy, and politics, they’ll kill an organization faster than anything. And I think inherent in all those is ego, I mean, we have a saying, leave your ego at the door and your title at the door every time we get together. Because we want to make sure that every voice is heard every voice is heard equally. Yeah, it’s those three things will kill any organization. And so we just we will, we won’t let them in, if we start to see it, we address it. If it’s not corrected, then we have to make a change. And, and, and which which happens over time, you have to be willing to, you know, evolve your organization to never allow that to happen.

Tim
Yeah, and you said you talked about this earlier on, when you were talking about how you got back involved with working the other positions in the company, I just had multigenerational distribute distributor co owner on in one of the past episodes, and he same type of approach for his family’s company work, the ways that the people that we have on our team work and learn how their days go and learn how these things work together. And, and, and understand why we’re doing this. And if it still suits you and your interest is there and your motivation is there. We want you as part of the next iteration of the company, the expansion, whatever growth, extending the vision into the future. So but there’s a lot to watch out for because you’re mentioning the ego, like just stepping in because you think you deserve it because you have the family name, or you know, the growth or money is there and you just want to step in and start taking advantage. That’s not the right way to evolve a company, let alone carry on a brand strategy and the mission and vision through what you’re doing. So I’ve heard that theme a lot talking to multi generational holders. And I thought it was also interesting when you’re talking about each phase of the company to even the the thing like going out and trying to sell the desk in one week. Completely different sales strategy for startups back in the 20s and 30s than it is today. Today. It’s like can we drop 50 grand and social and digital ads and see if anything happens before we take off during the vacation trip and stopping at distribution or retail centers on the way down. There was no internet, it was phone, book travel, things have obviously evolved and there’s, well we’ll see what happens post pandemic but there’s some hybrid of maintaining those customer relationships. But you do see travel becoming more of a your existing customer we’re keeping the relationship with you healthy versus customer acquisition acquisition strategies. It’s just interesting to also just you just subconsciously like slipped in that progression in marketing tactics to and sales tactics was interesting thing I wanted to point out. And the other thing you talked about was sort of having like objective regulation, you talked about the external Board of Directors, there are other aspects that affect the company to like, who you work with what what products you’re being strategically told you should evolve in. What else are you doing to just make sure that, you know, you’re not mistakenly deviating from from where you should be going with the company?

Ryan
Yeah. So I mean, I think that just goes from being tuned in the market and, and making sure you’re like truly seeking out information to learn, right? You don’t want you know, if you’re just going out to ask questions that reinforce the thing you want to hear, that’s not doing you any good. So I think, you know, making sure that you’re, you’re listening, trying to read between the lines and macro trends, you know, we do a exercise a few times a year, and we we map out truths, verse trends, and trying to understand, you know, because you never want to react, like we we try as an organization not to react to anything, we want to respond to things. And there’s a big difference in that, you know, reactions are, you know, spur of the moment, in the heat of the moment, a response is calculated, right, it’s, it’s contextual, we really try to, again, absorb as much as we can, from as many different areas as possible, we participate on tons of different boards, whether they’re local philanthropic boards, to helps us understand kind of macro contextual issues, and then from a micro industry specific thing, is having lots of conversations. I mean, we we have a podcast called imagine a place, which, you know, so we’re interviewing thought leaders in an all around our, our industry, so we can kind of understand what, what what they’re seeing. And then we also participate, you know, international interior design just had a roundtable that we were on, and then just talking to clients, I mean, no one knows more about what they need. And the the than the people that are, you know, experiencing, you know, your products every single day, so we try to stay on the phone. I mean, I’m on the phone. I bet 60 70% of my week, just talking people in the market. I mean, nobody is buying furniture, why are we manufacture here in huntingburg, Indiana, that’s not where we’re selling, we’re selling all over the country, all over the world. So we want to be on the phone, understanding, you know, market movement, you know, where opportunities, what’s what, what needs aren’t being met, and then trying to, you know, weave that into those macro trends. So we filter everything through for filter sets, which is all things, digital, all things human, all things design, and all things sustainable. And so we bring all that information kind of together, and then try to redact that down or distill that down into market strategies. Obviously, as you said a minute ago, digital is COVID accelerated that by 10 years.

Tim
Oh, yeah, incredibly.

Ryan
Yeah, it’s a, it. So everything we’ve seen, because in COVID, were already things that were well underway. And it just, it just increased everything exponentially. So we pivoted very hard with our marketing efforts, we had to learn how to launch products, without a physical show to do it at which is traditional for our industry. And our team. I couldn’t commend them more. I mean, they got so just raw and vulnerable, and just tried new things. And we all had to learn how to get comfortable. And, you know, shooting videos, which is for most of us is not our thing. But you know, we did a lot of video, we found new venues to showcase products, we found a lot of new tools and technology for virtual showroom tours. And, you know, luckily for us, we had brought on some digital expertise about about two, two and a half years ago, and that that really helped us hit it even harder. In 2020.

Tim
Let’s talk about what you and the current generation are doing just a little bit about what you guys got going on what you’re how you’re trying to make your mark on. Oh, ffs right now. And you talked a little bit about, I love the four buckets, you’re talking about trying to figure out how to really work with people. But I also from our previous conversations, No, you did some work on your internal product categorization and segmenting to based a little bit off of what you know about the market. And also just kind of like taking the age of what’s happened throughout the years and reorganizing into a more appropriate, manageable thing to deal with. So if you could talk about that a little bit like what’s the mark that you guys are trying to make while you’re involved with this iteration of the company?

Ryan
Yeah, I don’t, you know, I don’t, I don’t know that we’re trying to leave a mark. What we’re trying to do is make sure that whenever we’re done we leave the company in the best possible position and all that and by company, we mean our people in the best possible position for sustained growth over time. So I think Businesses are a lot like tax code. They just keep adding layers and layers and layers and layers. And nobody ever goes back and said, Is this really the true essence that we set out to do? Or are we just kind of created? You know, this, this, this thing that we now have to deal with? It’s so complex and, and hard to understand. So we really went through a real soul searching effort of challenging norms. And you know, hey, now we’re up to six brands, do they all have? Do they all really have a value prop? Or are we just holding on to something near and dear and, or is there one element of risk that’s got us all just paralyzed to make a decision, and we made some pretty big moves. About three years ago, I guess now where we collapse six brands down to two. And we did we use an outside agency to test theories with who pushed us out of our comfort zone a lot. And that kind of helped us through that effort and to really find our voice and brand or so. So first was trying to simplify the offering. Somebody famously said that, you know, anybody can make something more complex, it takes no ingenuity to do that. But it takes you know, real effort to simplify and distill down something to its essence, we really tried to distill it down to make it easier to interact with this, make it easier to engage, find what you’re looking for, and not have to, you know, I would think it’s a gash, the guy that used to run marketing for Harley Davidson, and he his, his theory was simple, it’s brain equals pain, every time you make a customer think you’ve lost him. And so we tried to live that philosophy and, and distill it down, because we also knew that we’re going to grow, we’re going to grow. And so and we’ve been very acquisitive, in the way we’ve grown. So we bolt on companies through acquisition that fill in, you know, either product voids, or most of the time, it’s market voids. So, you know, 10 years ago, let’s see, 15 years ago, that’s now we were an office product only really only focused on wood casegoods. Since then, we’ve, you know, we acquired our way into healthcare, we expanded into pretty much full facility solutions and workplace, we acquired our way into education, we acquired our way into hospitality. So we knew that with that, we need to kind of narrow the narrow the brands because we knew we’d add some back over time, but we now have a very disciplined filter set for whether we’ll keep that brand name or not, as we acquire move on,

Tim
That’s good, that’s good for some future proofing to you on all that work that you did.

Ryan
That God knows we don’t want to go back through that again, cuz rebranding, I don’t recommend it to anybody more maybe once every 50 years, because it’s, it’s super expensive. It’s difficult. But it’s absolutely paramount to get the brand, right. Because that truly is, it’s it’s the manifestation of who you are.

Tim
And if you let it go too long, it will spin out of control, you’ll end up with sub brands that have, which is fine, to some extent, their own websites, but the websites are completely misrepresented. Or you’ll let one brand go. Just stale, both from a technology or messaging or a market approach value prop, your value prop is that you can support 12 phone books with your piece of furniture, it’s probably not a good value property. Like you know, stuff like that happens when you ignore crap for like, you know, 20 to 25 years. So the rebrand is, it’s painful, it’s time consuming, it can be costly, but it is, you know, 50 years might be overkill, but 3030 years or so you got to be thinking like have we either followed our path the way we intended to well enough that we’re in decent shape, and we’re looking at more strategic shifts or tactical shifts? Or do we have to actually just reorganize everything a little bit, and then set the foundation for the next 2030 years. So it is something that needs to happen, or you’ll just your salespeople be driven nuts, your customers won’t know who you are, your team might not have that thing to grab on to, to, to, like believe in, you know, you keep talking about this theme of family and values and supporting each other. It’s hard to do if you have a schizophrenic message all over the place.

Ryan
100% and, you know, and salespeople. I mean, as a sales guy, we want everything possible in our arsenal, right. But, you know, in that same period, we cut 100 product collections out of our portfolio and grew kind of that whole Apple, you know, they had five products on the table, that it would fit on a 42 inch table and did billions of dollars I kept playing that tape in my head, right? Just like we we can do more with less. If we can just clear up the messaging and when you acquire you get a lot of product overlap. So we had to clean all that up. But and the last element of that is you have to have the right team to execute that vision. So that was a big thing for us. 80% of my leadership team is different today than it was when I walked in the door and 2013 either some didn’t agree with the strategy or vision couldn’t get behind it, others just were unwilling to change. And, you know, some were just not equipped to go where we wanted to go and, and didn’t want to, to make that, you know, make that change. So we, we brought in a lot of folks into our organization to to get us where we are today. And, you know, I couldn’t be happier with with with them and their their level of tenacity.

Tim
There’s two levels of objectivity that you bring into this, which are great to just reinforce again, one is your internal leadership team is an internal diverse group of individuals that might share the same direction that they want to go with with their conversation, but all have different inputs and insights to help make it a stronger direction. And then to you are working with outside vendors in support role from sales, strategy, marketing, and all these other types of things to be able to have objective input and collaboration on to test what you’re you’re thinking about internally to and bring new ideas to the table. And those are very important things to avoid tunnel vision, and thinking, you know, just letting things go by you without noticing them because you’re just stuck in your ways.

Ryan
And so we we had a rule that we set going through all this is and if everybody agrees, then we’re absolutely not going to do it. Because that means somebody wasn’t being honest in the room. And so that we we actually use that a lot as we went through this transition, because there was passion behind these brands, right? I mean, some of these people are brand ambassadors for a brand has been around for a decade, of course, you’ve got passion around that brand. But if you’re gonna tell me that you can just nonchalantly move along, then you’re not being honest. So we really, you know, we really forced everybody to put it all on the table, in order to make sure that when we came out of that room, we were all on the same page, and nobody did get a chance day, you know, to air it out.

Tim
So let’s talk a little bit more generic, just in general, how do you see the building products industry shifting over the next couple of years? And you can relate this to anything you want short term or long term?

Ryan
Yeah, it’s a great question. I think Stan McChrystal, his book “Team of Teams” is going to be a predictor of the way work is done, the way education is delivered, the way healthcare is delivered. And therefore, the way of building products and the you know, just the entire built ecosystem will look, I think that we are going to be much more distributed, we there was some really positive things we saw on the pandemic, which were, you know, zero commute, zero, small, you know, less stress, you know, we have the opportunity to improve work life balance of it, we can set those boundaries appropriately. So I believe you’re going to see a more hub and spoke distributed model of buildings that get as close to where people live as possible. I mean, this, this experiment that Amazon’s got going on in DC is is a great example. I mean, it’s got everything for their employees to kind of never leave campus. So there’s some good and bad in there. I mean, you know, we’ve we’ve been really kicking around this idea of these, this micro economies, almost going kind of like way back to, you know, pre steam engineer, right, where you had everything you needed in your local community, and you kind of stayed isolated. And that’s a concept we really keep pressure testing. But you know, then you if you get take that from into the built environment, I think that the building itself, like traditional services that buildings provide will continue to get deconstructed. So we had plumbing at one point was all kind of came through the building and one set of infrastructure and it would come out into a water fountain now we got water coolers everywhere, we had that freshwater everywhere. We mean, we just got well Platinum certified, which I think is a whole nother movement, you’ll see but which requires water every 100 feet within every work zone. But then you and then you think about you know what happened to internet, right? It was cables. Now it’s wireless lighting, we’ve got a lighting solution, that decouples furniture from the grid, because everybody thinks that furnitures flexible and mobile what only is relative to the light grid.

Tim
True.

Ryan
So you know, well, actually right behind me, we’ve taken all the Light Grid out. And we use this direct and indirect lighting system on our furniture that allows that furniture to be a lot more flexible, mobile, you know, we have product called obey, that is kind of a room within a room actually means large room and Japanese and it it’s really this idea of soft architecture, architecture that can adapt with a client in a very iterative, fluid fluid nature as their needs change. So I think that you know, we’re not going to do linear work anymore. We’re not going to sit here and stamp checks and, and process paperwork, we’re going to be you know, what humans are great at and separates us from technology. And what we’re gonna do in this next economy, the creative economy is find innovative, new ideas that come from collaboration, so And that’s going to be very project centered. So I think the next thing probably is in ventilation and air purification, I think that if you look at what would have to, or what has to happen in order to create a cleaner environment, from an air quality standpoint, above and beyond even what well, or lead asked in, when you look at from, say, UVC, lighting or other things that help purify area for, you know, things like COVID virus, I think that may be the next thing. You know, we’re looking at it very hard in order to create not only actual physical safety from an air quality standpoint, but psychologically, I want to be able to see that the air going into that and coming out of it is clean, because you’re giving me a display that says, you know, that says that, and it gives me an actual readout. Because once it goes into building infrastructure, you could tell me, it’s good. I don’t, I don’t see it. And right now, people are so anxious about this. So I think you’re going to see that continue to pull apart. And I think that you’re going to see much more mixed use development. You know, I think that’s part of that whole community concept.

Tim
Yeah, definitely the commercial spaces are going to change, that’s for sure. And that will likely for some building owners to re repurpose parts of their properties to be able to adapt for what might be smaller offices, or whatever it might be, to making it more of a campus feel. We’re regarding brand itself, brand strategy, market strategy, what’s one thing you think everyone should be absolutely doing right now for their their own brand?

Ryan
Get vulnerable. Be human. I think that that’s probably the most important thing a brand can do right now is stand for something, you know, which is typically your purpose, promise values and, and just be human, be raw, be authentic, be transparent. Today’s buyer is can see right through a veneered facade, they know when you’re faking it, right. And so I think with digital, allowing what it allows, and that’s quick brand switching, I think you better be really vulnerable and human. And with that, you’ve got to have a great digital strategy. You said it earlier on the cold column with a desk versus you know, doing paid, you know, media today, I’m involved with a couple different startups, and it blows my mind, and makes me very anxious about our business, making sure that we don’t become that aircraft carrier. And upon trying to turn around, we want to get feisty little battleship. And so we’re trying to constantly look around us to make sure we can disrupt ourselves. And I think digital is going to be paramount to that strategy. But you know, I see, I see good and bad examples of it.

Tim
Yeah, it’s like if you try and take an old brand into digital without actually addressing the brand first. It’s like that meme of Steve Buscemi showing up with the skateboard be like, Hey, kids, what’s up? Right? Like, you can’t just like force it in there, you got to set it up. So it can be that adaptable battleship when you get in there. So that’s my joke for the episode. Is there anything I haven’t brought up that you want to reiterate? Or did we cover everything that you think is valuable for the audience? Now,

Ryan
I think you did a great job. And hopefully your audience finds a nugget or, you know, something of value in the conversation. I mean, it’s just sharing our experiences and what’s got us here and but we also know that’s not what’s going to get us there. So we’re trying to just keep pushing the envelope.

Tim
Yeah, thanks for sharing. Before we wrap up, why don’t you let people know where they can find out more about you and more about Oh, ffs?

Ryan
Yeah, you can find out about oh Fs www.fs.com or on any of the social platforms and active on LinkedIn at Ryan w Makey.

Tim
Awesome. Thanks for being on.

Ryan
Appreciate it, Tim. Thanks, buddy.

Tim
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