For nearly a half-century, Trendway has operated quietly and nimbly in the looming shadows of the West Michigan-based titans dominating the contract furniture industry.
But if Trendway’s new president has his way, the employee-owned company will continue on its course of growing sales revenue at twice the industry average — even better. He’s also determined to attract fresh attention from A&D specifiers and dealer sales leaders who are seeking to bolster their offerings with an increasingly broad and deep portfolio of furnishings produced at Trendway’s nearly 500,000-square-foot plant in Holland, Michigan, or through marketing alliances with elegant European manufacturers.
Mark Kinsler, who rose to senior vice president of sales at Herman Miller North America during his more than 25 years with the company, has been Trendway’s executive leader since late March of this year after a nearly two-year transition plan for him to succeed Bill Bundy, who led Trendway for nearly a decade.
“I had left Herman Miller and left the industry, and I was pretty happy in my role as vice president for business attraction and international business development at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation,” Kinsler says. “Then I got the call from Bill Bundy. It was one of the few calls I would have taken from someone in the industry.”
The two men, who had been colleagues during their overlapping years at Herman Miller, discussed the possibility of collaborating once again.
“Bill told me that things are changing at Trendway and that he had been tasked by the board to find his successor,” Kinsler recalled. “I knew a little about Trendway, but not that much. So I investigated and found that Bill had done a lot to bring new products forward — the Capture frame and tile system, Volo moveable wall system, Feek foam architectural products. So I put my sales hat on, and wondered if we could leverage those new products to significantly impact sales.”
The opportunity was intriguing enough to lure Kinsler back into the industry and to build on Bundy’s legacy of cultivating close-knit teams and down-to-earth leaders, making the working environment at Trendway both productive and enjoyable.
“Our average tenure in the manufacturing plant is a little north of 16 years,” Kinsler says. “People talk about how well they are treated here, and how they are encouraged to make a difference both through their work and in the community. I’m aware that this is something that Don Heeringa (the Trendway chairman and a member of the founding family) and his team have created and have sought to carry on, and I don’t want to do anything to change that very healthy and family-centered culture.”
Bundy, whose background at Herman Miller included leading the company’s Simple, Quick, Affordable division, brought his brand of operational discipline to Trendway and instituted an “On Time or On Trendway” promise to customers.
“When I worked with Mark prior to Trendway, we collaborated on several big opportunities with our complementary skill sets,” Bundy remembers. “Mark mastered sales and devised winning strategies to go along with my relatively good operations experience. So I knew him as a good teammate, and we won some big accounts together.
“I also was attracted to the global experiences he gained working for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation,” Bundy says. “Mark is a thinker. He carefully develops his thoughts into a strategy, which he then communicates. And he communicates over and over again to build clarity and understanding. Trendway needed sales and distribution development more than it needed the attributes for which my skills aligned over the nine years I was most privileged to lead Trendway. Mark Kinsler is quite clearly the right guy at the right time for a bright future.”
Kinsler grew up in Detroit and its suburbs as the son of a Detroit police officer and moved to Grand Rapids in 1983 to sell AT&T’s services to corporate clients, including Steelcase and Herman Miller. Not long after his arrival, Herman Miller began wooing him for the first of more than a dozen positions in sales for the Zeeland-based company.
“It was an awesome experience to be at Herman Miller in those years,” Kinsler says. “When I left AT&T and joined Miller, I talked to D.J. DePree at the orientation. He didn’t talk about Action Office. He talked about the company’s commitment to its people and its customers. I have that same sense about Trendway today.”
Kinsler says he is working hard to match Bundy’s ability to remember the names of every one of the nearly 400 members of the Trendway team.
“Bill knew every person on the manufacturing floor, and I think he knew the names of their spouses and kids, too,” Kinsler says.
In addition to maintaining a thoughtful human touch, Kinsler is striving to ensure Trendway will “deliver exceptional experiences for customers with unmatched speed and ease,” noting everything the company makes is designed to ship within two weeks of receiving the order.
“We still have the program called ‘On Time or On Trendway,’ and I can tell you we don’t give away much free furniture,” Kinsler says. “Shipping and logistics is an incredibly important part of the experience for our customers. And we have consistent feedback from our dealers and reps who say, ‘You do what you say you’re going to do.’ And they appreciate that.”
Kinsler says his team is working relentlessly to provide an ever-improving product line, working with designers like Joey Shimoda, who’s contributed a series of whimsical Shimoda Shapes to the Feek collection, and partnering with Danish company Magnus Oleson to distribute its sleek, museum-caliber seating pieces to the North American marketplace.
“The A&D community is sitting up and taking notice, and we need to continue to focus on developing our channels to grow the business,” Kinsler says. “We are a veteran-owned and small business entity. That’s one of the advantages we have, although my objective might be to grow out of the small-business status someday.”
Kinsler adds even if Trendway’s growth trends continue to outperform the industry, the company’s core culture must remain intact at all costs.
“At some point in your career, you decide what’s important and what makes you feel really great,” Kinsler says. “This place is endowed with such caring and commitment that you can see and feel in tangible ways. You observe it, and you can’t help saying, ‘I’ll have some of that.’ ”