Competing with the business basics of price, quality and relationships
She knows the old adage that big business likes to do business with other big businesses, but from the success of Lauri A. Weissenburger’s small business, she knows that isn’t true when budgets are tight.
Weissenburger had worked in sales in the office furniture and design industry for several years prior to starting her company, Business Furnishings and Design, in January of 1989. She said that when she started selling about 25 years ago, she was the only female outside sales person in her industry in Des Moines. By working for herself, she feels more in control of her destiny.
“The number of office furniture dealerships for the size of Des Moines is incredibly high,” she said. “A lot of them have been around for quite a while. It can be a hard business to make a living in, but if you build a good reputation and have good products and services, you will do fine.”
She says she has devoted a lot of time to establishing herself and building relationships with clients and design firms. She attends trade shows regularly to stay on abreast of trends, and she puts in bids for work wherever she sees an opportunity, which has resulted in her working with large enterprises such as Principal Financial Group Inc., Maytag Corp. and the state of Iowa.
“I have to be smart,” Weissenburger said. “I’m a small, woman-owned company, and compared to some of these other guys who work for the big manufacturers, I have to work pretty hard and be creative to get my foot in the door.”
Weisesenburger is careful not to give too many details about some of the biggest projects she has worked on, mainly because she wants to retain her advantage of being able “to slip under the competitors’ radar.” She says what also works in her favor is that the office furniture and design industry has been very competitive in recent years as a result of the economy.
“Because dollars are tight, the buyer is in a position to be more savvy and get the best quality for their investment, which is good for companies like myself,” Weissenburger said. “Now, they’re more likely to look at more options and consider someone else who can save them money and bring a better product into their company.”
The tightening of corporate budgets hasn’t been all positive for the industry she works in, but with the worst economic times seemingly over, she is excited about the opportunities she sees with the high number of major construction projects in Greater Des Moines, such as the Iowa Events Center and the new science center and public library.
“It has been a rough couple of years for our industry, but I really look at that changing,” she said. “The good news of a recession is that it cleans out the playing field. Those that have good quality and take care of their clients will be O.K. Those who haven’t kept up already are or will soon be gone.”