Nearly two years ago, commercial real estate company, CBRE, embarked on a yearlong journey to uncomplicate the process behind furniture buying. The question was simple: What can we do better? In November 2017, the CBRE Furniture Forum released a list of 15 recommendations designed to unravel the complicated web of the furniture-buying process. The high-level, process-improvement ideas include, among others, bringing a dealer designer in as a sub to the A&D firm and increasing process efficiency.
Fast-forward to spring 2018, when the owners of a Los Angeles furniture company read the results and recommendations of the CBRE study with great interest. The report’s results prompted husband-and-wife team Jeffrey and Lindsay Braun to make a dramatic decision: sell their 17-year-old company, Jeffrey Braun Furniture, to pioneer something new.
Lindsay Braun, founder and CEO of Emblem, explains what provoked the pivot: “There were problems and inefficiencies in the old model that drove Jeffrey and me nuts. We were frustrated with the multiple layers between our company and the end user. There were so many opportunities for incorrect interpretations and faulty assumptions,” she says. “It felt good to see the problems we were experiencing addressed in black and white by the Furniture Forum. Jeffrey and I were fully worn down by the current sales process, and we thought, Do we still want to do this? Is this solving the end users’ problem? How could we expand on this model?”
Addressing the Need for Enhanced Dealer-Designer Relationships
At the time, Lindsay and Jeffrey thought perhaps they could be a dedicated vendor for one of their strongest dealer clients, Unisource Solutions. But instead, Jeffrey was recruited by Unisource Solutions and now serves as executive vice president of Platform, its new, in-house design and manufacturing division—a direct result of the dealer-designer prediction from the Furniture Forum.
“We approached Unisource’s leadership with an idea and a feeling that we could all be doing a better job servicing customers,” Jeffrey explains. “I had designed furniture for several of Unisource’s clients over the years and worked with their team as a vendor. Rick and I started talking about the possibilities of doing away with the vendor layer altogether.”
Rick Bartlett, president of Unisource Solutions, says his team had already been discussing the best way to innovate new solutions and create greater efficiency for their clients. “The timing was perfect,” Bartlett says. “We knew that our clients and the A&D community were actively searching for residential-inspired, ancillary furniture for their workspaces. The demand for this type of furniture was increasing, and we needed a new approach. Jeffrey’s knowledge of furniture design and manufacturing enabled us to innovate an entirely different solution.”
As part of Platform, Jeffrey is now designing custom furniture for clients at Unisource Solutions. In less than a year, Jeffrey and his team have installed furniture for Google, Warner Brothers’ Music, and Aftershock Games, helping each of these companies reflect its brand, culture, and vision in its spaces with bespoke furniture solutions. By integrating the designer into the dealer model earlier in the process, the company can condense the timeline and provide an open line of communication between the designer and the account manager/dealer.