"Steelcase Dealer Sold! Was I Dreaming?"
05/22/24 Edition Stephen Says Column

Dear Stephen,

I currently work at a #Steelcase dealer. I’ve been here for about a year now. So far so good. I used to work for a #Knoll dealer that was sold to another #HermanMiller dealer, and it was very traumatic for me, I just didn’t like the new culture. It’s taking me longer than expected to bring over my MillerKnoll clients to Steelcase, but I know it will happen. I am having to adjust my income expectations because many of my existing accounts were covered by other senior salespeople at this Steelcase dealer. I came from a large Knoll dealer and both companies have been great places to work. So far, my main observation is that Steelcase, as a manufacturer, is a little easier to work with and more flexible with chargebacks and issues like that then when I worked at a Knoll dealer.

Recently all the Steelcase dealers are talking about the changes in sales leadership at headquarters in Grand Rapids. It seems to have made them nervous, changes in leadership can be a scary omen, as I learned working for a Knoll dealer.

The reason I’m writing today is because it was very traumatic for me to leave the Knoll world, and suddenly have to join the MillerKnoll world. That was tough, and it is the reason why I left and made the decision to join a Steelcase dealer. Just the other night I had a dream that the Steelcase dealer I’m working for was sold! I literally woke up in a cold sweat, like #PTSD. It was just a dream, but boy was I glad to wake up.

My question is, what kind of advice do you give people when they change jobs at a dealer from one major manufacturer’s product to another? After all, a dealer’s entire identity is generally centered on the major manufacturer they represent.  I’m now having to rediscover my new identity, having to now learn all about Steelcase after spending fifteen years of my life in Knoll world. Any advice?

Dealer Nightmare
Dear Nightmare,

I can totally relate to your concern, and although I’m not #SigmundFreud, I’m sure we can all figure out why you had that dream.

Many of the dealerships that were either Herman Miller or Knoll that were acquired have retained joint sales forces. However, just as many of those dealer salespeople have jumped out of the MillerKnoll family and joined a Steelcase dealer or a Haworth dealer. And I’m going to add a new slant to it for you to explain that the feedback I’m getting from the marketplace, from both candidates and dealer owners alike, is that the happiest salespeople that were at either a Knoll or Herman Miller dealer are the ones whose owners, instead of selling, flipped to #Haworth!

For example, I understand that in #NewYorkCity, former Herman Miller dealer #WBWood has been thriving as a Haworth dealer and business has been soaring, with practically no employee turnover. I’ve heard the same thing on the West Coast with #SystemsSource, which was a Knoll dealer and then became Haworth. There are many other scenarios just like these two. Both of those companies are now flourishing, while MillerKnoll dealers’ people are duking it out. And yes, I’ve heard, Steelcase has had some changes in sales leadership and above, but not all change is bad.

I think the reason why dealer owners who flip to Haworth do better is because Steelcase dealers tend to be so large that the new dealer salespeople who may join them suffer because there are so few accounts left that the original, more senior, people don’t already have. My advice for those of you in dealer sales who may also be suffering from PTSD relating to the Herman Miller acquisition of Knoll should be considering a new (and maybe better) option, going to a Haworth dealer.

In fact any other dealer, (Haworth, Teknion, or Global) will be a fresh start and you will be the person taking control here as opposed to having the ground swept out from underneath you as is the case with a big corporate merger, or feeling lost in the fray at a super big company like Steelcase. But let’s face it – a really good salesperson is going to do well no matter where they land. The sales confidence comes from within you, not the major brand you’re selling. Sweet dreams tonight!



#Steelcase #Knoll #HermanMiller #MillerKnoll #Haworth #NewYorkCity #WBWood #SystemsSource #NeoCon #Chicago #ICFF #GrandRapids