The better the question
What is the right path to accelerate growth?
The most direct line goes straight to the customer.
Just a few years ago, businesses relied on traditional supply channels for office furniture. Desks, lamps and workstations were fairly standardized in function with limited options. That changed when the Vari co-founder was suffering from sciatic nerve back pain at his desk and had an idea. He elevated his laptop using a cardboard box on his desk so he could stand and work. This led him to design a product that would let him stand at his existing desk – that was functional, streamlined and alleviated his pain.
The first Vari variable height desktop product, and its subsequent introduction to the market, started a new chapter for the industry.
“Back pain is the second leading cause of absenteeism at work,” according to Vari CFO Craig Storey. “The idea was born out of back pain but led to a company that creates products and office solutions that change the way people work around the world.”
The original desktop converter was just the start. Company co-founders Dan Flaherty and Jason McCann are on a path to simplify how businesses buy office furniture by turning the dealer distribution model upside-down by selling direct to consumers online. “What’s best for the customer?” became the focus for future product development and improvements. The answers came from the customers themselves, forging a strong identity centered on transparency and a model for continual customer feedback as Vari grew into an office furniture company with a full suite of simple, agile products – from electric standing desks and storage, to moveable walls and lighting.
From “back pains” to “growing pains”
The EY Growth Barometer Survey indicates that US companies lead the world in innovation through customer centricity – a finding mirrored by Vari’s rapid growth trajectory. Quality, innovation and customer collaboration were significant drivers as the company expanded its product line to include additional versions of the quick-to-assemble conference room furniture, seating solutions and lighting accessories. The transition from desk-on-top-of-desk products to a suite of full-office solutions, including movable walls, demonstrate Vari’s mission to make the workplace a happier, healthier and more productive place.
As Vari’s fan base grew beyond the U.S., and the company began to scale globally, complex business issues arose. Keeping up, and ahead of, rapid growth required a trusted business advisor.
“EY has been recognizing, supporting and guiding high-growth entrepreneurs for more than 30 years,” said Partner, Ernst & Young LLP, and EY Americas Entrepreneur Of The Year Leader Debra von Storch. “It’s my job to help accelerate a company’s growth; to help them achieve their strategy and purpose.”
With Vari’s impressive trajectory and ensuing business needs, von Storch and her team stepped in to help align the company’s organizational structure with its growth strategies.
“When we first met, we had pressing needs related to tax structure in the global market,” said Storey. “We needed to manage risk and avoid unnecessary exposure,” he said. “Everyone on the EY team was very responsive and helped us navigate what is normally a painstaking process.”
Defining growth goals, setting up the right corporate structure, developing supportive capital strategies and outlining the best talent acquisition methods were additional priorities addressed by the EY team.
According to Storey, in addition to providing exceptional service on these complex projects, the EY team was very proactive in keeping Vari ahead of potential issues as their growth continued at a break-neck pace.
The better the answer
A trusted business advisor is a collaborator for growth
The value lies in speed and connections.
As Vari expanded its product line and market share and looked to its next growth phase, von Storch’s team brought additional value to the relationship.
“When you work with EY, they provide value over and beyond what’s in the engagement letter,” said Storey. “Debra brought more keys to more doors than I ever could have expected. We look for nimble collaborators, and for customer-focused partners that understand a real sense of urgency and match our speed. The EY team was always willing to make an introduction, provide a piece of research or grind through strategy with us. Their work is evident in our accelerated growth over the past two years.”
In 2017, McCann and Flaherty won the U.S. Emerging Entrepreneur Of The Year award. This opened more doors, connecting them to a new community of the most impressive leaders in business. The EY team continues to play a vital role in making introductions and creating connections that result in breakthrough go-to-market strategies.
The better the world works
What exponential growth looks like
Vari’s approach is transforming office furniture, commercial real estate and the active work environment.
With a laser focus on transforming the office furniture and design industry, Vari continues to innovate. “We’re enabling flexible, nimble, active offices that can be assembled in less than five minutes – with no tools – to meet any company’s changing needs,” said Storey. Vari’s nearly 300 employees have sold more than two million units in 130 countries and to 98 percent of the Fortune 500 companies. With the right growth plan in place, the company is in a strong position to continue its path to success.
As Vari’s trusted business advisor, von Storch keeps the question, “What is the best path to accelerate growth?” front and center. “Successful hyper-growth companies should consider questions about their business advisors, too,” said von Storch. “Are you culturally aligned to build something together? Are you getting canned or out of the box answers? Are services created in the context of where you are headed?”
With the right trusted business advisor, the path to growth is clear.