Hickory Chair is like very few organizations I have ever experienced. At the 100th anniversary party I told Jay: "Hickory Chair is not an institution--it is a movement!" That is true for so many reasons. Trying to articulate this phenomena, I found two books on opposite sides of the spectrum which express this dichotomy as a universal best practices for teams that attract a community of raving fans: Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks: One CEO's Quest for Meaning and Authenticity and Marketing Lessons of the Grateful Dead: What Every Business Can Learn from the Most Iconic Band in History.
Bear with me, but what do the Trappist Monks, the Grateful Dead and Hickory Chair have in common? Quite a bit actually! All three work with complete reverence to produce the highest quality product while creating a work environment that nurtures their communities. Counter intuitively, Hickory Chair has survived and created a broad designer driven line that can be completely customized while building 90% of their product in the U.S.A! They have accomplished this with only three price increases in the last decade. Hickory Chair management sees themselves as facilitators and communicators at every level of the organization, from the artisans who build the product to the designers who conceive the product. Everyone is encouraged to share improvements and ideas in a constant dynamic process with concrete systems in place to execute these changes.
Dedicated to the premise that this company will be different tomorrow than it is today and creating a process called EDGE (Employees Dedicated to Growth and Excellence), Hickory Chair thrives in a notoriously difficult industry. Constantly seeking errors and communicating concrete solutions forms an enabled and accountable team that works together smartly as a unit. August Turak shared in his book this interesting point: "Louis Mobely of the famed IBM Executive School discovered what great executives share are not skills or knowledge, but values and attitudes. Great leaders thrive on ambiguity." Respect, empowerment and trust at all levels cultivate a work place where the human spirit thrives. Jay was not going to be the guy that padlocked the factory doors and fired his workers. He did not know the answers to his dilemna so he assembled his artisans to devise solutions.
When a competitor exactly replicated (knocked off) one of their products, Hickory Chair investigated and made a side by side comparison. The competitor's chair (on the left) was made more cheaply with a higher retail price. Consumers get respect too!. When market opens in High Point, Hickory Chair's showrooms are universally lauded as the most exciting experience at market. Like the Grateful Dead and the Trappist Monks, Hickory Chair creates an experience that translates into community and culture. The scene is shored up with complete authenticity.
We all love bantering with Alexa Hampton, Thomas O'Brien, Suzanne Kasler and Mariette Himes Gomez--all Architectural Digest top 100 designers. There's no micromanaging their showrooms--the designers "do their thing." Like a Grateful Dead show, they never play the same song the same way.
Because the furniture is bespoke, followers and designers love to see the infinite possibilities at each market. Here are some spectacular room arrangements of Alexa's line over the years.
We love to see the mood boards throughout the showrooms. It is fascinating watch the disparate visual cues that inspire the designers from conception to final product.
*Quality Products--Trappist Beers are the only beers that improve with age.
*All disperate products united by the will to create an innovative culture and community of raving fans!!
See Jay Reardon on the Daily Show
For an in-depth discussion of the unique approach of Hickory Chair's management and production innovations: