It feels so good to be back on the road again! Zoom calls are great, and they fill a purpose; however, there is no better way to get to know our members than to visit their stores. Honoring our HFA retailers of the year winners, meeting their teams, and seeing how they do business has been inspiring. It is quite an eclectic group.
I spent time at Beiter’s Furniture in Williamsport, PA, Room to Room Furniture in Tupelo, MS, and then Nebraska Furniture Mart in Omaha, NE. You could not find three more unique and different home furnishing retailers, yet what I find striking are their commonalities.
One of the criteria for a retailer of the year award revolves around community and social responsibility. These three are exemplary in both categories in very different ways. Beiter Furniture, which sits in the shadow of the Little League World Series Stadium, is all about civic action. Like most businesses, they’re involved in the Chamber of Commerce and business associations; however, Eric Beiter, our emerging star this year, has taken it a step further and is a City Councilman. He ran for office and won. That is one surefire way of making sure you’re aware of everything going on in your community! It is not for everyone; still, it indicates how immersed Beiter is in greater Williamsport.
Room to Room is about being involved in any entity that helps the residents of Tupelo. One of the unique aspects of what they do is to give second and third chances to people who have had a rough go of it. This includes those with addictions. Giving them the ability to turn their lives around as they work for a caring employer, like Room to Room, is incredible. Like Eric Beiter running for office, this approach is not for everyone, and there are some risks. However, Lisa Hawkins and her family are committed to helping the people in their community who need a boost.
Nebraska Furniture Mart, one of the largest retailers in our country, what highlights their approach is how they listen to their team members. Chairman Irv Blumkin, our Trailblazer winner, touts their “Just One Change” program that gathers, assesses, and implements new ideas. This policy improves their retail business through suggestions from team members about better ways to serve customers. They also have a steering team with representation across the workforce, including staff from each location, department, gender, race, and position. The approach gives a voice to team members who identify projects in the community worthy of support. That has given NFM leadership the ability to impact their community, not just in Omaha but in all their locations, in meaningful ways that benefit those communities and, at the same time, engage their team in unique and powerful ways.
I don’t think anybody is surprised that HFA members are aware of their communities and the need to be a part of them. Yet, what I’ve seen shows that each can find unique ways to serve and to be connected. Is it a coincidence that our award winners employ a unique, impactful approach to community? I don’t think so.