This interview began in a peculiar way – starting with a catch-up phone call about ‘what is happening in office moving’ - to which the answer was, "things are great!", and then quickly shifted into a very different discussion deserving a deeper dive - about office furniture, rapid growth of Premiere’s venture selling used furniture, adding new furniture and their website based marketing without a formal traditional showroom or salesforce – substantially the sole creation of/by Lance with the support of his employer. His mentors at Mount Royal’s Marketing Program ought to be proud … but I’m getting ahead of myself, so let’s begin at the beginning:
Lance was born in Winnipeg. His mother worked in office management with Imperial Tobacco. Dad, a high school shop teacher. One younger sister. The family moved to Calgary when his mother got a job transfer. His school days at St. Francis High were good but not stellar, he was a standout volleyball player; “I was easily distracted by sports and girls”. His move to MRU where he earned a B.A. while majoring in Marketing was a juggle of part-time study, full time work and becoming a better student. His job at Crowfoot Honda managing the detailing shop, his job at Best Buy in car audio presented full time opportunities, but he declined in favour of full-time study. A telephone interview after his final exam at MRU led to a job in marketing at Premiere Van Lines and he’s not looked backward. He got married last summer – his wife Kim is currently a student at MRU and they are focusing on travel and home renovations …
Before we went walking through warehouse bays full of furniture (with full trailers outside) where I saw a wide range of furniture (some never installed) that looked as good as new – I asked Lance to describe how the furniture division of their business ‘arrived’; he explained, “what I saw didn’t seem to be a solution – just disposing of furniture for businesses who were failed or downsizing – and believed we could move used furniture in a productive and profitable way. And we are in the storage business, so we had the space/capacity to do it. Perceptions of used furniture have changed, making us a better fit for many customers – not just start ups, home-based businesses or temporary users. As for finding us, our URL features those key words: used, office furniture and Calgary. And we are using social media tools as well”. Well, it sure looks like it’s working …
Why are you successful? “I wouldn’t want to be anything else. I remember my mom’s advice: as long as you keep working hard good things will happen.”
What has held you back? “Not thinking big enough, not setting my sights high enough to what I am capable of.” …[it seems that isn’t an obstacle for him anymore]
How do you see your business – buying and selling new and used furniture – going forward over the next quarter?
… business is extremely good right now! Nothing but growth since the inception of our furniture business in 2016 to today. We were riding the wave of the downturn – and it has levelled off but hasn’t declined. We do some space planning, but mostly just sales of furniture via our website: http://www.usedofficefurniturecalgary.ca/. An improved perception of used furniture is here to stay; customers, both buyers and sellers, are now used to it on a commercial scale.
And over the next five years?
… I expect most dealers who have been ‘doing both’ will shift back to ‘new only’. I see demand shifting to a balance of new and used – so we’ve added new furniture to our mix and we’ll be doing more ‘new’. I see us using Virtual Reality tools in space planning.
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… value and quality – in people as well as goods and services – both personally and at work.
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Lance/Premiere, and why do they do business with you, why have they hired you, over your competitors?
… the same values really – value and quality. Transparency, which is an overall good thing for everyone …
How would you describe your leadership/management style?
… demanding. I ask a lot of those who are around me. I expect quality and detail. I often find myself doing things myself that I should delegate …
… 90% work, 10% play.
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… a lot! I worry that I’m not doing enough – I don’t want to be in neutral, want to make the most of out life. What motivates me is moving forward. Calgary as a whole makes me nervous – the world as we’ve known it is changing rapidly.
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… moving from Winnipeg to Calgary when I was seven. Our parents saw Calgary as a far better city for their family – we had a large extended family in Winnipeg and none here; working at Crowfoot Village Honda part-time while going to MRU part-time and being offered a great full time opportunity in 2008 – I opted for school full-time; telephone interview with Kevin Phone – getting my job here in office moving sales and marketing and that leading to ‘furniture sales’. That’s been my creation and responsibility from the outset …
… snowboarding, travel – we’ve recently been to San Francisco and Cuba with a trip to Belize on our agenda …
What do you read?
… business books, on investing, on real estate – on being a residential landlord.
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