After a 40-year career at direct-selling giant Amway Corp., former Vice Chairman Bill Payne wanted to find a way to stay involved in the West Michigan business community.
That’s why Payne jumped at the opportunity to acquire three Herman Miller Inc. office furniture stores in West Michigan from Detroit-based dealer MarxModa Inc. Terms of the deal, which closed last month, were undisclosed.
The acquisition gave new company Trellis Partners LLC established locations in Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Traverse City, and affords Payne the chance to work alongside his son, Will, who has been with MarxModa for three years and will continue on as vice president of business development.
The Paynes sat down with MiBiz to discuss their vision for how Trellis can play a role in talent attraction in West Michigan.
Why are these MarxModa stores a good fit to form your new company?
Will Payne: Being in the sales role at MarxModa for three years, I got to see a lot of spaces start in concept and then go through our process and come to life. There is just this sense of creating a place that’s infectious. When you walk into a new space and you see people light up, it brings energy into that space and I’ve seen organizations prosper from that. I love that aspect of what we do and I want to do that more and more.
Bill Payne: I retired from Amway after 40 years but I didn’t want to totally retire. I’ve been active in the community for a number of years relative to business growth, economic growth, talent development, and when the opportunity to invest in the Herman Miller dealership came up, I saw it as an excellent opportunity. We’re looking at how and what ways we can continue to contribute to the region through providing work environments, office environments, health care environments that will be attractive not only to those working there but to future employees that are looking to come to this region. We know talent is a big issue. We hope that in some way we can have an impact on making this a very common, lucrative and talent-attractive region for the businesses in this area.
Do you consider the office space itself and the furniture that is in the workplace as playing a role in the region’s talent acquisition?
Bill Payne: Yes. Having been an employer for a number of years and knowing the importance of talent, the environment that you provide can certainly attract the new talent that is coming out today. How and where they work is very important. I think it’s one of the interesting dynamics in office furniture. The talent that we have here at Trellis, including my son Will, is in their 30s and early 40s. We’re very focused on being connected and relevant to that generation of office environments, health care environments, educational environments, and we want to be somewhat on the cutting edge of that with organizations.
Why did you choose to start with the Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Traverse City locations?
Bill Payne: West Michigan is very productive and growing. We know after multiple awards and recognitions for this region, you just have to look around to see that there is growth. We certainly feel that it’s a very lucrative market opportunity. Also, the fact that we’re from West Michigan and I’ve basically grown up here. We feel this is very much a relationship business, and I have a number of connections in the community. I think that coupled with the opportunity for growth in this region, it’s an ideal time to invest.
Will Payne: When MarxModa first started, they attracted some big customers like GM, Ford and Quicken — all on the east side of the state. Being owner-operated out of the east side, they were very focused there and were doing really well. I think what made this deal attractive to all parties is that maybe the west side wasn’t getting as much attention. That’s why Bill looked at this opportunity, as someone who lives and works in this region, as a chance to give it the love that it deserves.
Will the operations and staff remain much the same at each location during the transition?
Will Payne: That’s the goal. Any acquisition comes with a few hiccups, but we’re really committed to making this as easy for our customers as possible.
Bill Payne: Yes, but I also saw an opportunity for an increased focus on customer service and an opportunity for an increased focus on customer responsiveness. When you look at an acquisition, you look at where you may be able to enhance the opportunity. Given the experience of the team we have, I think there are some areas where we can really significantly make some improvements.
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