"Why Do the MillerKnoll Dealers Keep Hiring Each Other’s People?"
01/04/23 Edition Stephen Says Column

Dear Stephen,

A friend of mine worked for Creative Office Resources (COR) in New York City. A #MillerKnoll dealer. In case you cannot keep track this company was COP, which joined forces with Offices Resources to become Creative Office Resources (#COR). Are you still with me? 

OK, well keep following, because my friend told me one of the principals recently left COR, to join EvensonBest. EB = Another MillerKnoll dealer. 

This is the second senior manager that I’ve heard of that left COR for EB. MillerKnoll dealers. Someone else that I know, a while back, who worked at COR left to go to Empire, a Steelcase dealer, and another person I know left COR to join Henricksen’s, an HNI dealer. Big picture, it sure seems like there are a lot of people jumping ship from this prominent #MillerKnoll dealer, and although some of them are going to other MillerKnoll dealers, which I get, there are others who’ve signed-on with Allsteel, HON and Steelcase dealers. It makes you wonder, what’s going on?

There’s a pattern that I’ve noticed. Within months of the big-shots changing jobs, COR account managers, project managers, and sales assistants start to join them at their new employer. Of course, when you’re going from one MillerKnoll dealer to another, the manufacturer may act like the mediator and suggest to the dealer owners to let it happen peacefully. That may serve the best interests of the major line but at this dealership, they’re bleeding all over, with salespeople and support staff even going to competitive manufacturers’ dealers. I would think that eventually it has to affect MillerKnoll’s local market share.

I appreciate this is part of the natural evolution of the merger of two major manufacturers, Herman Miller and Knoll, but when the MillerKnoll dealer starts losing people to Steelcase and HNI dealers I hope leadership from MillerKnoll is working on a plan with their dealers to change this trend.

Here’s where I come in, without sharing too much personal information about where I work, just know that I’ve invested many years into selling for my dealership - I’m fine with a MillerKnoll merger and I’d like to stay put, but I have this nagging feeling that I should start interviewing around, like a lot of these other people are doing? What’s your advice?


Jump Ship or Smooth Sailing?

Dear Jump,

Stay put at your job and pick up the accounts of the people that left. More for you! I think you’re overreacting to the natural course of what happens in the business world and business cycle today. I also think you’re overemphasizing the drama of the Herman Miller/Knoll acquisition.  A manufacturer cannot control who leaves their dealers. You are not giving enough credit where it’s due, which is to dealers clever enough to poach from their fellow dealers. After all, dealers can be good recruiters on their own. Clearly in the scenario you name in NYC it seems to me that #EvensonBest has just kept it’s eye on the ball in terms of what it’s competitors are doing. Smart dealerships do that – they’re constantly passive recruiting, and when they see a window of opportunity open up, they jump proactively and recruit a good candidate from their competitor.

I also think that today the salesperson is controlling more of the end-user and A&D business than the major brand they represent. So, when someone leaves a #MillerKnoll dealer to go any other dealer, I get it. 

According to what you say and what I have heard on the street, there does seem to be a lot of employees leaving COR in NYC to go to other dealerships. As you may often read in this column, we find that when we exit interview people, many tell us they’re not quitting a company they’re quitting a boss. I do not know the specifics of the COR situation, but I do know when dealers merge, people leave for a number of reasons. There is often duplication of customer accounts and the seller who loses too many accounts moves on to another dealer, or a person who has left for a new dealer brings his friend along with him. With #COR, you may over think it and it’s as simple as one dealer merges with another dealer and some of the merged employees see a better opportunity elsewhere. It happens and will continue to happen as more dealers merge.

In general, some dealers that lose good people have uninvolved owners and weak managers who are just glorified salespeople. Not real managers at all. The hot button word today is a servant leader -  a leadership philosophy that says the most effective leaders strive to serve others rather than accrue power or take control.  Servant leaders are in short supply at furniture dealers. I’ll bet very few dealer owners even know what that term means.

And that brings us back to you.  Do you still like the clients you work with? Do you get to keep the same accounts? Do you like your boss? Is he or she a mentor and good leader? Your answers may tell you whether or not you should start to interview. No matter where you are working now - don’t be impulsive, stick around, but continue to be open to changes in 2023.


  #COP #CreativeOfficePavilion #CreativeOfficeResources #COR #EB #EvensonBest #MillerKnoll #HermanMiller #Knoll #Steelcase #Empire #HomeFurnishing #furniture #BIFMA