Sparking Change and Keeping the Course

With just four months under her belt as our new president of Kimball, Phyllis Goetz is making some great waves. Her tremendous energy, foresight, passion, and wealth of experience were evident from her first day on the job and have sparked some exciting new changes. Most important to her though, the essence of Kimball has not changed, and she doesn’t want it to.

“We have a spirit – we have a sense of caring about each other that is so important, and we’re not going to let that change,” Phyllis expressed.

Change always seems to create rumors. Right off the bat, she has heard that people think she is going to turn Kimball into a health company. Just to be clear, that is not the direction we are taking.

“Our plan is growth. In fact, I would like to see health sales triple. BUT I would like to see it stay the SAME PERCENTAGE of our business overall. So, by health tripling, we have to grow our non-health business. And we are rocking it right now – Education is rocking it, Commercial is rocking it, and our co-creation teams are creating some spectacular products and spaces. I am so proud of them.”

Throughout her 38-year career, Phyllis has served in almost every role in the furniture industry. She has made some incredible contributions in health, but people may be surprised to know that more than half of her career was not in health, but rather in commercial furniture.

Her career began in 1981. She had just graduated with a degree in special education for the physically and otherwise health impaired, but there weren’t a lot of jobs back then. So, she got her start as a Merchandising Manager of Women’s Shoes at Hush Puppy Shoes. When a ski accident left her recovering at home for a while, she asked her father to bring home the BIFMA list. She started sending out resumes and got her first furniture job at American Seating, and that really launched her career.
“I found the furniture industry to be fascinating. My father had been in it and I loved the design aspect. I’ve always admired beauty. Whether that’s beauty in nature or beauty in manmade design.”

From there, she led a customer service team, a marketing team, was one of the founders of Nurture, within the Steelcase organization, and was the Chair of the Visionary Design Network for Planetree. She also co-authored the first study guide for evidence-based design – without a design degree, but with a passion around using research to help make better decisions relative to the design of space.

“I’ve always tried, throughout my entire career, to be the model of the behavior I hope to see,” Phyllis shared. “I don’t think I’ve ever asked anybody to do something that I wasn’t willing to do myself or hadn’t done before. People throw around the expression of servant leadership, but it truly is my focus. My leadership style is vulnerable. It’s having the vulnerability to know that I am not the smartest person in the room, but also being confident in my ability to build and lead high-performing teams.”

Phyllis went on to add, “As a team builder, I seek to identify people’s strengths and I’m often asked why I don’t focus on where they are not strong. My answer is that I don’t focus on weaknesses. Of course, I will always help my team develop, but what I am going to do is maximize what you’re brilliant in – your core genius – because that’s how you feed the team. We’re all different and making the most of that is what serves a company well.”

As she reflects on her time here so far and thinks about where we’re headed in the future, she wants people to know we have an amazing organization with incredibly talented people. Our customers can have their visions realized when working with Kimball.

“One of the things that we do, that I don’t even think most people in the organization understand how special it is, is this ability to transfer what somebody says are their needs, goals and vision into a product  solution that didn’t even exist before they asked,” she explained.

“We have the ability to compete with the big guys day to day, but then also stand outside of them because our desire and ability to listen and design a modern maker solution that’s customized and bespoke in its specialization. Nobody does that well out there, not at the level of quality and scale that we can. That’s such a differentiator. Now, we’re not ready to do it for every customer all the time – YET. But we’re going to build the capabilities. We are thinking about a vision and we are building the capability so that we do it profitably, successfully and without people working 24/7 to get it done. That’s amazing.”

As we close out the year with strength and stamina, we know that 2020 will be a year of continued change, excitement and further growth for Kimball. It’s going to be fantastic!