BIFMA Gathers Industry Leaders in Miami for 360 Industry Conference

Listen more, talk less and don't pass judgement.

Marshall Goldsmith challenged those gathered for the annual BIFMA Leadership Conference, or 360° as it has become known, to do just that.

Goldsmith's keynote address marked the official opening of the 360°, held Monday through Wednesday at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel. The annual event gathers more than 200 of the industry's leaders for a casual, but serious event that stretches attendees' minds and challenges them to think and learn.

Highly successful people never stop pushing themselves to get even better, said Goldsmith, who is an executive coach and New York Times bestselling author. In a presentation that was as much about domestic life as it was business life, he told those gathered at the 360° to care as much for friends, family and spouses as they do for customers.

“It is easy to understand,” he said of his executive coaching methods that work in the office and at home, “but it is not easy to do.”

After coaching executives for decades, Goldsmith said he found several attributes that are holding them back: the win too much at all cost; the add too much value instead of listening to the ideas from employees; and they pass too much judgement. He also urged those gathered to spend time and energy with people who want to improve, not with those who have no interest in doing so themselves.

It was a challenging presentation; one that forced the audience to look within themselves. Goldsmith's keynote was also a good example of how BIFMA works hard to gather speakers who are often not in the office furniture industry, but have valuable — and often inspiring — information to pass on. The speakers BIFMA brings in for 360° give attendees a “macro view” of what's going on in the world. It is a conference about expanding the attendees' views, not an insider baseball look at the office furniture industry. That definitely shows in the slate of speakers who are more visionaries and futurists than furniture geeks.

Other speakers include: Ken Schmidt, the former director of communications for Harley-Davidson Motor Company who played an active role in one of the most celebrated turnarounds in corporate history; Gabor George Burt, an author and strategist behind Blue Ocean Strategy (BOS), the new millennium's most influential management concept; Laura Kane, chief communications officer, Public Relations Society of America, a master corporate strategist; Deborah Wince-Smith, president & CEO, Council on Competitiveness, a coalition of CEOs, university presidents, national laboratory directors and labor leaders committed to driving U.S. productivity and prosperity; Jane Hallinan, an interior designer at Perkins Eastman who works within the corporate interiors and senior living practice areas of the firm; Alissa Wehmueller, principal at Helix Architecture + Design and one of the foremost leaders in the Kansas City design community with projects that include the new $62 million University of Kansas Medical Center Health Education Building, a new Tours & Recreation Center for Boulevard Brewing Company and corporate headquarters for AMC Theatres; and Todd Simmons, vice president of brand experience and design at International Business Machines, the first “designer” to be an executive in the company's long history.

BIFMA Executive Director Tom Reardon opened the first day's session welcoming those gathered to “an event that is like no other in the industry.” He called the 360° a homecoming and example of how the industry is competitive, but collegial.

BIFMA Board President Sylvain Garneau of Groupe Lacasse said there is a record number of people attending the 360° this year. It is an event that continues to grow. “We not only grow closer together at an event like this, but stronger together,” he said, adding that if the industry in general does well, every individual company does well.

The them of this year's 360° is “You.” Issues tackled will include topics like creativity and leadership. Garneau said: “The question is: 'Who will take the lead, if not you?'”

And for those of you still sitting in the snowy Midwest, yes, your executives are enjoying a fabulous resort on South Beach in Miami. Though it truly is an educational event, it is also fun, one of the only weeks during the year where you can have casual conversations with executives in the industry over a glass of wine or beer.

Following Goldsmith's keynote address, attendees gathered outside for a welcome reception and a “speed dining” meal, a popular part of the 360° where diners switch tables between courses as a way of getting to know everyone at the event.