RJE Business Interiors is based in Indianapolis but its influence is felt throughout the region, with branches in Fort Wayne, Indiana; Louisville and Lexington, Kentucky; Columbus, Ohio; and Cincinnati. As workspaces have evolved, RJE has evolved along with them and today offers a more holistic approach to workspace environment solutions.
Achieving that end requires a focused approach, which demands client research and preparation in anticipation of workplace needs. “We focus on the requirements of organizations versus a one-solution-fits-all approach,” says Denny Sponsel, CEO and owner.
Customers want more than product solutions, Sponsel suggests. “Clients expect us to bring them design thinking and research to help them understand their organization inside out and provide the best solution for their culture,” he adds. Furniture supports the goals and aspirations of the organization but the real winner is the improved connection between workers and management that a new environment makes possible.
One factor having an indirect impact on all this is what is commonly referred to as the Amazon Effect. As Amazon is not in the contract furniture business—at least not yet—Sponsel refers to this as the “Experience Effect.” It’s the purchasing mantra that Amazon has imposed on consumers, he says. “Give it to me at a fair price and get it to me tomorrow.”
He suggests that while the majority of buyers don’t always choose the least expensive option, they do like to buy from an organization that handles any project with alacrity and makes them feel good about their purchase. “If you’re working on a significant project, it is never going to happen overnight, but we can drive a better experience,” says Sponsel. “And I do believe that will be a differentiator going forward.”
Although a wide variety of furniture options, including office layouts and more, can be purchased today online from name-brand manufacturers, Sponsel is not threatened by this competition. Whatever furniture gets ordered still has to get installed in the space and if it doesn’t fit the recourse gets complicated. “Most people don’t have the time to figure out all the details themselves, they want someone to do that for them,” adds Sponsel.
Following strong sales last year, 2019 is looking to be the best year ever for RJE, Sponsel reports. “It’s actually a record year in all of our markets except one,” he says. Key vertical markets include corporate, higher education, hospitality, health care and government.
“It’s not just large projects,” says Sponsel. RJE has booked significant activity in renovations, upgrades and even clients redoing single offices. “That’s really the true measure of health, when you’re feeling it on all levels in all markets,” he says.
Currently, 2020 looks to be as promising. More than one major project is already booked for next year and barring any outside economic influences, the year should continue strong, though it won’t be easy.
“It takes more people and talent to produce what customers want today,” says Sponsel. With near full employment, finding the best people, while never easy, is a particularly thorny challenge in today’s world.
“If we can continue to innovate our offerings and deliver a leading-edge experience, that will take us to the next level and bring a different experience to market, says Sponsel.”
Key management team members: Denny Sponsel, CEO & owner; Shelly Langona, president of Indiana market; Kevin McKiernan, president of Cincinnati market; John Duffy, president of Kentucky market; Tarra Aufderheide, president of Columbus (OH) market
Products carried: furniture, acoustical solutions, meeting room technologies, interior construction
Year founded: 1991
Sales volume: $70M for the RJE enterprise (Indiana, Ohio & Kentucky)
Number of employees: 110
Key business partners: Knoll, Falkbuilt