Darla King founded King Business Interiors Inc. in 1998 on the principle of delivering customer service that exceeds clients’ expectations.
As a woman-owned commercial furnishings and flooring company serving Greater Central Ohio, King, the company’s president and CEO, is also a big believer in sustainability and developed an entire line of “green” workspace solutions for its clients. She also created an environmentally friendly program called “Connecting the Dots,” which collects reusable furniture from clients and distributes them to nonprofit and charitable organizations in need.
King was named one of 2010 Smart Leader honorees by Smart Business and Blue Technologies. We asked her how she overcomes challenges, innovates and gives back to the community.
Give us an example of a business challenge you and/or your organization faced, as well as how you overcame it.
Our big challenge was … getting rid of used furniture … how to sell it, move it or donate it so it will not take up space in our warehouse/distribution center. This is very common for furniture dealers, I have found, from our industry association friends. Do we start a separate retail operation? It did not fit our daily business model working business to business for our furniture sales.
We were dealing with bulk amounts — 50 used private offices, 100 stack chairs, 90 tables, 450 task chair, etc. … They take up space and don’t all stack well. When trying to sell them through an outlet store, it was time-consuming, personal expense waiting for traffic, and customers just needed one or two — not 50 or 100 units.
After having the opportunity to serve on a local nonprofit board, I realized the less than desirable office environments they were working within and saw a solution to both problems. We have an abundance of furnishings, and they need better furnishings. We started the ‘Connecting the Dots’ Program — we simply connect the needy organizations with the excess furnishings we have and make all parties happy. Our contribution is to understand their needs, design the space, deliver the product and make it happen. We have made so many organizations look more professional, become more productive and feel much better about their surroundings.
In what ways are you an innovative leader, and how does your organization employ innovation to be on the leading edge?
An innovative leader, for me, it is putting myself in our employees’ shoes and think what they would need and what can I offer. Sometimes I feel my role is the hostess or problem solver.
We have several young people starting families as they are a part of our company family, and this is so important to us and to them. Kids grow up fast, and we like to say, ‘Don’t miss a ballgame; … get out of work at whatever time you need to.’ They won’t rewind the tape. Our parents are very active with their kids including coaching their teams. Kids come first around here. … We love to watch them grow and are very family-focused. We are after all, a family business, our son, Chris, and our daughter, Chelsea, work with my husband and I here at King. Several of our kids come to work during breaks or if they are slightly ill and need to stay home. Most of our employees have access from their home computers as if they were sitting at their desk at work … so they can be present if they need to be for the children. Is that innovative? I don’t know — but it is part of our culture here.
The Smart Leaders class of 2010
In August, 2010, Smart Business and Blue Technologies recognized 14 business leaders for their commitment to business excellence and the impact their organizations make on the regional community. Treated to a keynote address by TechColumbus CEO Ted Ford, these 14 leaders comprised the honor roll:
- Michelle Adams, president, Prism Marketing
- Jeff Brock, general manager, Loth Inc.
- Tom Dailey, president, 2Checkout.com
- Jennifer Griffith, president, Commerce National Bank
- Darla King, owner, King Business Interiors
- Elizabeth Lessner, CEO, Betty’s Family of Restaurants
- Rick Milenthal, president, Engauge
- Michelle Mills, CEO, St. Stephen’s Community House
- Janis Mitchell, founder, Precise Resource
- Neil Mortine, president & CEO, Fahlgren Inc.
- Debra Penzone, president, Charles Penzone Family of Salons
- Joel Pizzuti, president, The Pizzuti Companies
- Bea Wolper, partner, Emens & Wolper
- Eric Zimmer, CEO, Tipping Point Renewable Energy
Nominate someone for the 2011 Smart Leaders today by contacting Dustin S. Klein at email@example.com. Honorees will be recognized during the summer 2011.