Embracing Imperfection

What strikes me about our Guiding Principles and our Priorities & Measures is that they in and of themselves are simply conversations. We talk and we listen, and then we talk some more. Through all of this, dialogue occurs. So often, with past jobs, the companies I worked for had well-worded, concise and imperative mission statements. But here’s the thing, as well intentioned as many of those were, my voice (or anyone else’s for that matter) was never asked to participate in the making of that statement. I was expected to adhere to its points (understandably), but in the end, it really amounted to a monologue — a response to someone else’s point of view.

If I allow myself to grow and be refined through my interactions and conversations with those around me, then the perfectionist in me has to be ok with not seeking perfection. If I’m going to give up the maddening pursuit of perfection, then what exactly does my goal become? How about authenticity?

There is no perfect mission statement or perfect Design Associate review meeting (what would that even look like, anyway?). So what is it like to let yourself be refined through your interactions with your peers? Humbling. Period. However, if I’m vulnerable enough to let my interactions and conversations with my peers bring to light my imperfections, my sometimes messy humanity, and those moments where I think to myself “um, really? get a grip,” then also the achievements, the celebrations and the “a-ha” moments also get brought out into the light. The process is by no means perfect, but I’m not sure I would have it any other way.

Seattle Showroom Design Challenge!

Seattle Design Challenge

Our team in Seattle recently did a Design Challenge exercise. This was a way for us to get some fresh ideas on how to combine pieces from our collection while also learning more about new additions to the Room & Board assortment. We drew slips of paper from three categories. The first would tell us if we had a “high” or “low” budget to work with. “High” could be any amount, but “low” meant that we needed to stay under $5,000. The second slip of paper told us what type of space (living, dining, bedroom) we were working with. The last gave us a style (Shaker, Arts & Crafts, Asian, Modern, etc.) to use as our inspiration.

There weren’t too many specifics beyond working within the parameters drawn: we had to use Icovia to build a floor plan in the computer, include treatments from our Custom Window assortment, and use at least one item that was new for 2014. I got “High Shaker Living” and ended up with a room filled with over $40,000 worth of Room & Board product. Amazingly enough, another Design Associate managed to get above $60,000 with her room! I found this to be a great way to famiarize myself with items that I hadn’t spent much time with yet and ended up using Camilla Sofas with Berkeley Cocktail and Console Tables.

Everyone put together a board of their ideas and we posted them on the wall in the break room (see photo). Exercises like this are a great way to keep busy during the occasional lulls in the showroom. It was really great to see how everyone collaborated with one another for ideas and advice as we planned out our rooms. I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to be surrounded by–we work hard every day here in the showroom, but we also like to have fun!

Open to Change

I think that I am going to choose to be open to change that can and will occur here at Room & Board if I allow it. For most of my working life, I have been in leadership positions. But, if I’m honest with myself, I’m not sure I ever once felt truly qualified. I always felt as if I was a bit of a sham. Smoke and mirrors so to speak. Perhaps the biggest challenge I face at Room & Board is allowing that fear and insecurity to be broken down and then rebuilt with the message of integrity that helps frame in our Priorities & Measures.

At Oak Brook, for our Priorities and Measures Action Plan, one of the final notes is that the measures listed out are not static. Here’s what I find fascinating and heartwarming. If those measures are truly not static, then we have to be honest enough to admit that they are then not perfect. But here’s the thing, (drum roll and huge reveal) neither am I. And it’s ok to let that be exactly what it is.

Summer educating in winter

It is no secret most of the country has experienced a colder than usual winter this year, and New York City is no exception. Still shivering in our cold-weather gear, the water cooler conversation at Room & Board SoHo frequently ends with an “Enough already!” or “I can’t take it anymore!” But, as with each year passed, spring will somehow manage to squeeze its way through winter’s frosty grasp; before we know it, we will eagerly, and gratefully, shed our puffy coats and shearling boots to take to the rooftops and terraces, backyards and front decks, to soak up some well-earned vitamin D. In preparation for the summer fun – and summer selling – the Outdoor Education Team, of which I am part, has been separating fact from fiction about all things outdoor, and over the course of a week, we will impart it all to our fellow Design Associates.

Now, I am no outdoor furniture expert. On the contrary, discussing outdoor furniture generally leaves me longing for a lounge chair, a mojito and an obscene amount of sunshine. Still, revisiting our collection after so many snowy months has been fun and wonderfully challenging. It is also a reminder that, as a Room & Board Design Associate, I am not just a singular entity solely responsible for selling and providing design advice to customers: I work as part of a collaborative team; a team within which I am asked to fulfill many roles for the betterment of the whole and, in turn, the elevation of our customer’s shopping experience.

It is an awesome thing to work for a company that challenges me to step outside my comfort zone to be a constant problem solver, collaborator and communicator. A day at work is never a mindless venture: It is an opportunity to develop, stay engaged and interact with co-workers and customers alike, even when the freezing rain is falling outside.

Stop on by…

Last week I had an opportunity to meet one of the new Design Associates recently hired to start in our Boston showroom, set to open this summer. C was visiting a college friend in San Francisco and had never been in a Room & Board showroom prior to his visit last week. He was blown away with how our showroom presents our furniture to our customers. I could see the excitement building in him for his new position.

I strongly recommend visiting a showroom near you if you are considering a job with Room & Board. The entire experience that we strive to wow our customers with is very evident and you will gain further insight into what Room & Board’s showroom standards are like.

I would also recommend visiting other furniture retailers’ locations as well so you can speak to the differences in presentation and information displayed. I recently stopped by the new DWR showroom in San Francisco’s design district and it really struck me that not a lot of information was accompanying their furniture. You can look at a Room & Board price tag for a sofa and find out its exterior and interior dimensions, seat and arm height, what’s in the cushioning, what the fabric is made of, where the sofa is made and of course, its cost! In addition to all that information, there’s a tag beneath that top tag that lets the customer know the pricing of the piece in another group fabric and whether or not it can be ordered in leather.

The Big Time

I haven’t had many opportunities to dive into a large-scale project since joining Room & Board, and it’s something I’ve really wanted to do. Close collaboration with my clients to design an entire room — or better yet, an entire home — is what I daydreamed about when I imagined working here. But the past 2 years here has seen me winding my way down a long learning curve, and the thought of taking on anything bigger than, say, a couple of sofas and a cocktail table, filled me with apprehension.

I brought this up in my recent Priorities and Measures conversation with my manager (see here: http://rnbdesignassociate.wordpress.com/2013/03/29/finding-your-place/) and within days — WHAM! I was hit with two very big, very exciting projects! Careful what you wish for! I tackled them both head-on, and I can’t tell you what a transformative experience it’s been. I realized I’m ready to do this and I LOVE it. I find myself thinking about these projects at dinner, on my way to and from work, when I’m lying in bed at night — and not in an anxiety-dream sort of way. It’s so fulfilling to be able to completely immerse yourself in something. And I’m lucky to have the support of my colleagues — there’s nothing more fun than brainstorming a solution to a tricky entryway with a bunch of design nerds!

Spring is Here

Today is the first day of spring. The sun is shining; it’s 43 degrees and the monstrous mounds of snow are disappearing and the grass is exposed! Wow! We are definitely helping customers with their outdoor furniture. It’s exciting. We are so fortunate to have a 50,000 square foot store, which means we have excellent space to display Outdoor furniture.

The area we’ve chosen is sunny and open [facing south] and serves to cheer us up when the weather can shift back toward winter. We have umbrellas in colors set up with lovely furniture choices to help our customer imagine what they may want. The Sunbrella fabric choices are set up on a wall complementing the colorful pillows not far away. The planters are filled with plants and flowers to mimic the “out of doors.”

In this land of changing weather from day to day, we are great appreciators of indoor beauty, which will eventually manifest outside. Very soon we will be set up outside as well, starting with the durable Loll line of furniture, which is currently buried under snow. Change is around the corner and we are ready.