Be Enabled: The Future of the Office—Winning Large Projects as an Unaligned Dealer

Do large project bids exclude those office furniture dealers not aligned with a national distributor? Not according to Robert Cotton and Maurele Lehman. Cotton, the owner of Logical Office Furniture in Austin, Texas, and Maurele Lehman, President of Innerspace Systems in Valencia, California, dropped by Be Enabled to share their experiences as independent dealers. They offered insights and strategies that unaligned dealers could use when competing for those larger office furniture projects.

During the pandemic, both Cotton and Lehman remained busy working on projects for companies with essential workers. While Lehman said her company did not experience many changes resulting from the pandemic in terms of the types of projects they worked on, Cotton’s experience was a little different.

“In Austin, we saw a lot of different growth and change over the pandemic, especially with a lot of the labs that were coming in and what they wanted and needed,” Cotton said. “I saw a lot of growth in the R&D fields where it was more tech-based before.”

In terms of winning large office furniture projects, Lehman said her company’s approach was different from that of a typical large dealer.

“I’m part of a design-build team, which includes a general contractor, architect, and myself,” Lehman said. “I handle the interior design as well as the furniture. So, as much as we possibly can, based on the opportunities, we all try to travel together as a team.” Sometimes Maurele’s company takes the lead in the project opportunity, and other times the general contractor is the one pursuing the initial project request and bid.

Cotton said his approach to winning business is a little different. “I market like crazy. I try to be out in front of everybody that’s gone to the big dealer and got the big shock of how much office furniture is from the big dealer. And they want something that looks like the big dealer has but don’t want to pay quite as much money for it and don’t want to wait. They are looking for the alternative.”

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