I love to stroll around the neighborhood just west of my house. It’s a vibrant area with great restaurants, lovely wine bars, leading edge art galleries – and a furniture store. However, this is no stodgy “sofas from my parents’ basement” depot, nor is it a “build it yourself and hope you have all the parts” factory – it’s a world of beautiful, practical, unique pieces, and I love browsing there as I wander the area.
As it turns out, the company, Gus*, is much more than just an artsy armchair outlet. In fact, as with many Small/Medium Businesses, there’s a lot more than meets the eye. Gus* is actually a wholesale design house and manufacturer of fine furniture, creating inspired pieces and selling them through stores across North America and internationally. Moreover, if you can force yourself out of their super comfortable and eye-catching sofas, you soon see that there’s a lot of technology behind the scenes. I always pictured this industry as starving artists with sketchbooks arguing over the merits of fuchsia versus vermillion. But in reality, it’s a business like any other — a business that understands the value technology can bring to the work process, and a company that needs to get things done…fast!
Recently, Gus* was featured in a vignette about their use of BlackBerry® smartphones in their business. Curious to get a bit more background, I recently met with Dave Podsiadlo, the Partner/Head Designer from Gus*, who told me more about the company and how they are benefiting from a thoughtful mobile technology strategy.
Dave, how did you get into the furniture/design business – what inspired you?
I’ve always been interested in art and design. After high school I studied Industrial Design and worked at a number of firms before branching out to start Gus* with some like-minded friends. I’m inspired by many types of things – of course other furniture – but I’m also inspired by materials and processes. Not just finished products, but the steps along the way that result in the finished products.
Gus* has grown from operating out of the basement of a furniture store to a team of 60 employees who sell furniture to 150 retail stores. Can you tell me about that journey and how technology has helped you grow?
Technology has been a key component of our business from the beginning. Today, being able to communicate instantaneous information such as real-time inventory status, production changes, and new product launches has allowed us to build strong relationships with our retailers, suppliers, and customers. When we started Gus*, we realized that these relationships, and our timely communication of information to them, would be critical to our success.
You described your furniture as ‘Modern made simple’ – no bells and whistles. Why is this philosophy important to you?
In many ways, the design philosophy at Gus* reflects our own needs. Life can get very busy – often very complicated – and we feel that there’s something appealing about design that helps to simplify your life in some small way. We believe that furniture should be beautiful without being “fussy”. The simplicity of the design is actually just one part of it – we feel that furniture should also be simple and easy to find, easy to buy, easy to maintain, and it should adapt to changing needs. Gus* appeals to those that appreciate design and how good design can be a positive influence on your day-to-day routine.
You have partners, staff, and suppliers around the world in very different functional areas and demographics. How do you manage the diversity and volume of communication?
For Gus*, the key is to have tools that are versatile. BlackBerry® Messenger (BBM™) is perfect for communicating among our design and production team because we’re rarely all in the same place at the same time. We’ve found that most of our retailers and suppliers are on Facebook® and Twitter®, so social media can often be a more efficient way to reach them. It’s always good to have several different options.
Speaking of social media, this is a big part of your communication strategy. How do you keep up with the barrage of information and engage effectively?
The only way to keep up with social media is to stay involved and to be part of the conversation. Mobile devices play a huge role in that, because they let you bring the conversation with you. Being able to interact with customers, retailers, and other designers through social media is invaluable to us. We get feedback not only about which of our products people love, but also what they’d like to see in the future, or ways that we can improve our existing designs. It allows everyone to be part of the design process.
You mentioned you use a BlackBerry smartphone as part of your quality control process – how does that work?
There are so many details that go into producing a piece of furniture, and our goal is that each of those details is realized with high standards of quality and consistency for each design. Woodworkers, upholsterers, welders – everyone involved has to get the details perfect. If anyone notices something during production that isn’t just right, we can use our BlackBerry devices to communicate the concern and make necessary corrections before the design moves on to the next stage. Design is highly visual, and so we’ve found that the most effective way to communicate quality improvements is by taking pictures or video and forwarding to key people. They can immediately understand, respond, and react.
You’re very passionate about the creative process and you describe joy as coming from the moment when you finally “see your idea realized.” So I have to ask: What’s your next big idea?
Furniture that supports Adobe® Flash®. ;)
For more case studies like Gus*, be sure to check out our BlackBerry Customer Success stories!