Providing The Perfect Fit For Your Space!
Larner’s Office Furniture is a family owned business with years of experience in the office furniture marketplace. We serve the entire country from our Charlotte, North Carolina headquarters.
Our reputation for excellence has been built over years by focusing on our personalized service and quality products at great prices.
We pride ourselves in beating our customer’s budget while providing products that look good, are well built and serve their purpose. Our goal is to help find the customer what best fits their needs in a relaxed atmosphere with no pressure sales.
As an approved dealership for many of the top national manufacturers in the office furniture industry, we are able to transform your office environment vision into reality. For those on a limited budget or to fill an immediate need, our large inventory of pre-owned office furniture can be a wonderful solution.
The following are articles published by the Greater Charlotte Biz Magazine and highlights some of our company history, as well as what working with Larner’s Office Furniture is all about:
Building Business on Relationships
By Barbara Fagan
Relationships factor heavily in the business of Larner’s Office Furniture, and not just because the successful office furniture company is owned and run by brothers.
When Dan and Daryl Larner talk about their company, relationships are mentioned often: relationships with customers, with manufacturers and with the wide network of vendors that complement their business.
“It takes years and years to develop contacts and relationships,” says Dan Larner, who manages the project scheduling, finance and other internal nuts and bolts needed to run a company. “Our goal is to take care of our customer and build trust and confidence with them and with our vendors.”
The sales, marketing and purchasing responsibilities are handled by younger brother Daryl, who credits some of his most recent sales successes to the relationships he’s built in local networking groups such as the Hood Hargett Breakfast Club and Midweek Business Connections (MBC).
“Joining the Hood Hargett Breakfast Club last year was a big step for us,” Daryl Larner explains. “Now we’re meeting all the right people.”
Projects Big and Small
And the current bottom line supports this. Larner’s Office Furniture is enjoying their best year yet. Revenue for the first eight months of 2011 already exceeds revenues for any calendar year they’ve had since opening in 2005.
“US Airways is redoing their executive offices here in Charlotte,” says Daryl, “and we’re supplying all the new product. Also, we were just awarded a project with MacLean Power Systems. The main job starts in October, but they’ve already added to it.”
Dan mentions other large past projects: Radiator Specialty Company when they moved their offices from Wilkinson Boulevard to Indian Trail, and Senior Living Communities, one of their first customers which has become a continual customer, with projects in their corporate office, other offices and senior living facilities all over the country.
“Our biggest customers keep coming back to us,” Dan adds. “We’re not the type of company that just wants a big grand slam with a customer. We want them to come back again and again and again.”
And while the Larners are proud of their large projects, they are equally enthusiastic about their smaller jobs. Many of their customers are small businesses: law firms, mortgage companies and even home offices.
“The person setting up a home office should thinks of us,” says Daryl. “It would save them money. We have better quality than the box stores.”
Executive Looks. Exceptional Prices.
“When we first opened we offered only two product lines,” Daryl explains, “but because so many furniture manufacturers struggled in the recession we had to reach out to other suppliers in order to be able take care of our customers.”
Larner’s Office Furniture now represents 37 manufacturers giving customers an extensive and varied selection from which to choose. A generous sampling of new product, spanning a broad range of styles and budgets, is on display at their showroom on Freedom Drive.
In addition, the Larners have applied their extensive experience and contacts in the industry to acquire a large selection of high-end used furniture. Around a thousand used items that could easily be mistaken for new occupy their 10,000-square-foot outlet showroom, which is also part of their Freedom Drive location.
“There’s significant savings in buying our refurbished used furniture,” Daryl advises. “On average, customers pay 15 to 20 percent of what they’d pay for new and they can get a higher quality product for their dollar.”
Jim Abbott, chairman of American Security Mortgage, agrees on the cost savings. He purchased 50 work cubes from Larner’s Office Furniture. “They were all reupholstered and looked great,” he says, “and the price was incredibly good. I’ve been impressed with the selection of high quality, gently-used furniture they offer.”
Talking about their used furniture inventory, Dan says, “We set ourselves apart from the competition in our attention to detail. We touch up the wood, reupholster or shampoo upholstered items and make sure everything is clean, has all its parts and functions properly.”
“We’ve had customers who’ve bought a file cabinet from somewhere else,” adds Daryl, “and when they get it back to their office they realize it doesn’t have a key or rails. So they come to us to buy the missing parts and we’re happy to help them but they end up paying more for the item. They should have just come here first.”
But anyone who has purchased office furniture knows that the good product alone is only part of the story.
Lenita Woodruff, of Fleetnet America, Inc., has worked with Larner’s for the past five years and says that Larner’s emphasis on communication is one of the qualities that makes them exceptional.
“They follow up when the order has been placed and again about delivery dates,” she says. “I usually work with Mary Kegley at Larner’s and I was very impressed when Mary interrupted her vacation to call and take care of an issue for us.”
Jim Abbott mentions timely delivery and prompt installation as a few of the qualities he most values in his dealings with the company.
“We had a 50-cubicle project to set up but didn’t want to interrupt our business,” he remembers. “The installers arrived on Friday night, worked late and came in all day Saturday and part of Sunday to finish. Not only was it ready and functional for our employees on Monday at 8 a.m., it was available for workers Sunday afternoon.”
Abbott has also used Larner’s Office Furniture to furnish American Security Mortgage offices in Wilmington, Virginia Beach and Fayetteville.
“I can’t imagine doing business with anyone else,” he says.
It seems other customers feel that way as well. Daryl tells of how Central Piedmont Community College pulled strings to go outside of their contract and purchase from Larner’s Office Furniture. Daryl was told doing so saved almost half of the college’s allotted budget which could then be used for other pressing school needs.
Lenita Woodruff is so loyal to Larner’s Office Furniture that in anticipation of her retirement this December, she has already passed on Larner’s information to her successor with explicit instructions that all future business be booked with them.
“Charlotte is very lucky to have them,” says Woodruff. “They are ‘top of the line.’”
Local with a National Network
“We’re here for the long term,” says Dan, when speaking of Charlotte. “We are investing in this community. Our labor is the people who live here. We outsource to quality local companies.”
But even with an emphasis on the local, Dan is quick to add that the network of vendor relationships they’ve carefully developed over the years allows them to assist a customer anywhere in the country.
“It’s not cost effective to service everything from Charlotte,” he explains, “but we have partnerships with installers, brokers and delivery people nationwide. This way we can keep costs down.”
Daryl mentions their membership in the OFR Clubhouse, an exclusive interactive online marketplace for the office furniture industry.
“We have good confidence in OFR members,” he says. “I know most of them, so I have exactly who I need in the right area. We’ve handled projects in Minnesota, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia and Pennsylvania and we have particularly strong partnerships and presence in the D.C. area and Virginia.”
“We can service anywhere,” Dan adds.
A glance at their sales brochure or a click on their website reveals another reason why Larner’s Office Furniture is having a record year. In addition to furniture sales, the company offers 12 other complementary products and services that include furniture rentals, brokering and repair, as well as space planning and design.
“Both of us can help with office design,” says Dan. “We’re happy to give our input. For larger projects we have a designer who can assist the customer. Sometimes even a manufacturer can help with the layout.”
“We had a customer,” Daryl remembers, “who wanted to put two workstations in what was basically a closet. So I asked her what her goals were and she said she wanted to grow the office to 10 people. That’s when I suggested she talk to the design person that works with us. The designer came in and now they have space for 13 more people, and it’s good space.”
When asked about advice on setting up a home office, Dan notes space, budget and visibility as key factors.
“It’s a very personal thing, but if your home office is say, right across from the dining room and one of the first rooms someone sees when they walk in the door, you’ll need to furnish it very differently than if it were in your basement.”
Custom furniture is another service offered and can be handled two ways.
“We have a woodworker who can custom build what a customer wants,” explains Dan. “We also represent a manufacturer named Colecraft that makes furniture to order.” “We have a pending order now for a judges’ bench for the Charlotte School of Law,” Daryl says. “We’re hoping our new website will help people know that we do everything having to do with offices,” says Dan.
Common Sense Approach
When asked about the success of the business and his customers’ loyalty, Dan is quick to respond: “The biggest thing is serving the customer.”
But it’s obvious that any company which has survived and thrived in the recent economic climate must have a smart business strategy.
“Our plans have changed some since we first opened,” Dan shares, “but the basic way our business works is the same. We keep overhead low. We don’t sit on an excessive amount of inventory. We want to go long term. We’re not going to pop into someplace, make some money and then disappear. I say, let’s do it right.”
Dan credits this strategy with how Larner’s, a fairly new company when the recession began, made it financially through difficult times.
“The end of 2008 to 2009 were tight for us,” Dan says, “but during that time we didn’t cut back; we invested. We started work on our website, increased marketing, hired an outside sales person and increased our product lines. We were trying to build so that when we came of the recession we were ready.”
And Daryl believes that as companies come out of the recession their mindsets will be very different. “They will be much more budget-minded in their future purchases,” he says. “The companies that can give the customer the most for their money will be the winners. We’re positioned perfectly for that.”
When asked about the future, Dan answers simply, “More people. We just offered a job to a sales and marketing person this morning. The focus is on more people to go out and build relationships.”
“And of course, as they succeed, we’ll need more people internally to support those new relationships,” adds Daryl.
An emphasis on relationships; it’s key to the ongoing success of Larner’s Office Furniture.
The following is another article published by the Greater Charlotte Biz Magazine and highlights some of our company history, as well as what working with Larner’s Office Furniture is all about:
Listening to Dan and Daryl Larner describe the months leading up to their opening day, it’s easy to forget that they’re the owners of a thriving retail office furniture outlet. Tales of long days stripping and resealing the concrete floor and painting exposed beams in their 10,000-square-foot showroom are more likely to have you guessing handyman or construction worker. Are they gluttons for punishment? No, just two smart, hard-working guys with a sharply focused vision.
Wisdom of Experience
Dan and Daryl Larner grew up watching their businessman father, Dennis, work his way to the top. Dennis Larner was the president of a succession of companies, and stepping up the corporate ladder required family moves almost every year for a while. Their mother, Patricia, an energetic stay-at-home mom, was supportive of them all as they crisscrossed the country.
“The only school I went to two years in a row was the one I was in for my junior and senior years in high school,” laughs Dan Larner, the eldest son. “But I didn’t mind. Looking back, I see that moving around a lot taught me how to relate quickly to people, something that has proven to be extremely valuable.”
Growing up listening to their father tell stories around the dinner table about the trials and tribulations of running a business, Dan and Daryl Larner felt destined for the business world themselves. After college, they both began their careers in the restaurant industry. Dan Larner spent more than ten years working in management positions for Pizza Hut and Daryl Larner managed a Chili’s Grill & Bar. The men agree they gained crucial insights from their experiences.
“The most important thing you learn in the restaurant business is what it takes to satisfy customers,” Dan Larner says. “It’s very simple: People want a quality product, good value and excellent service.”
In January, 2002, Daryl Larner began managing the Office Environments furniture outlet store. Since he regularly purchased product for the store, Office Environments secured him a membership to the OFR Clubhouse, an online interactive office furniture marketplace that facilitates easy communication between brokers and dealers across the country.
“Buying wasn’t my main focus as manager, but there was a lot of information sharing going on between brokers and I started getting more and more involved,” Daryl Larner says. “I learned that many of the brokers I was dealing with were in business for themselves, and that interested me.”
In January, 2005, Office Environments told Daryl Larner they planned to close the outlet store and his position would be dissolved effective that April. “They thought I was going to be upset about the store closing but I saw it as an opportunity to start brokering by myself,” he says. “I knew the client base was there.”
Once Office Environments made their decision on the outlet store, Daryl Larner joined the OFR Clubhouse on his own and began networking. “I figured I’d start out brokering and save enough money to open my own store in a few years,” he says. “Office Environments gave me plenty of notice and a nice severance package so I felt pretty secure.”
Two years prior, with almost two decades of experience in mid- and upper-level management to stand on, Dan Larner had become operations manager at Office Environments’ Charlotte headquarters. The company had changed hands in September, 2004, and he suspected that closing the outlet store wasn’t the only company modification in the works. In February, 2005, he learned that he, too, would soon be out of a job.
The brothers began formulating a business plan for a retail office furniture store complemented by brokering services. Dan would oversee the nitty-gritty of the business end and Daryl would handle brokering and product acquisition. They agreed to avoid debt by starting small and doing as much as they could by themselves.
“We put the whole thing together on sweat equity,” Dan Larner says. “Everything from day one has come from our personal finances and sales.”
To feed the pipeline, they served customers before the store even opened. Jordan Cain, owner of AmeriFirst Direct, based in Crawfordville, Fla., was their first customer.
“We moved up here from Florida thinking we’d find a great selection and low prices in the ‘furniture capital of the country,’” Cain explains. “Boy, were we wrong. We went from store to store and just couldn’t believe the prices. Then I met Daryl Larner. I gave him our floor plan and he made excellent recommendations for filling the space. And the best part is that we got gorgeous furniture for about 50 percent of what we would have spent at the other places. Since then, they’ve furnished three of our offices. We plan to open about 20 offices over the next three years and we’ll be calling on the Larner’s to furnish them all.”
Years of restaurant experience taught the brothers how to treat customers. Years in the Charlotte furniture business illustrated the need for an office furniture store catering to small and mid-sized businesses. None of it prepared them for how long it would take to find the right location, though.
“We went out looking at places almost every day for more than two months, inspecting close to 100 buildings,” Daryl Larner recalls. “We knew we wanted to keep our overhead low to stay true to the outlet ideal.”
Weighing size, location and visibility against cost, they finally settled on leasing a 14,000-square-foot brick building off Freedom Drive. It was big enough, accessible and the price was right. Although it’s not right on the street, a large lighted sign serves to increase visibility.
Once the location was set, they rolled up their sleeves and got to work installing drywall, painting walls, laying carpet, cleaning and decorating. “We even got our wives involved to make suggestions about the ladies’ room,” Dan Larner explains. “We both know it’s important that people feel comfortable here.
With the showroom ready, Daryl Larner leveraged his brokering experience to stock inventory. He ordered ten trailer loads of liquidated furniture, all of which the brothers unloaded themselves under the blistering August sun. The delivery company parked one or two trailers at the store’s loading dock each morning and the Larners had the day to unload everything. The next morning, the company would collect the empty trailers and return with more furniture. This went on for about a week.
Knowing all that hard work was putting them closer to opening day made it well worth the effort. “We were tired and hurting every morning but it was a good kind of tired,” Dan Larner explains. “We stayed energized the whole time, thinking about what we were working toward.”
Larner’s Office Furniture Outlet opened its doors in September 2005, just nine months after Daryl Larner had first learned the store he managed was closing.
The Larner’s showroom looks a lot like any office furniture store. Matched sets of new and pre-owned furniture sit neatly together on one side and rows of sturdy file cabinets and bookcases line the back. Orderly rows of desk, break room, lobby, meeting room and task chairs and a variety of tables take up most of the other side. Some of the items look used, but nothing looks anywhere near used up. And many of the pre-owned pieces seem brand new. Well-known brands such as Steelcase, Herman Miller, Haworth and Knoll figure prominently in the mix.
“We have Steelcase file cabinets in here that are just a few years old. They still have decades left in them,” Dan Larner says. “Our customers save about 60 percent by buying them from us, getting excellent durability for the same price they’d pay for a new, but far flimsier, product.”
Daryl Larner only deals with brokers he’s learned he can trust. His enviable reputation among office furniture brokers positions him to locate prime product. And he doesn’t mind sharing.
“Dealing with Daryl is like working with a friend,” says Brian Jacobs, owner of Top of the Line Furniture in Greenville, S.C. “He never misrepresents his product and always does what he says he’s going to do. We’ve partnered together on shipments and I don’t think twice about letting him supervise load-outs. He’s found inventory and offered it to me when I know he could have used it himself. That’s just the kind of businessman he is. Both Dan and Daryl are honest guys who know how to take care of the customer.”
The Larners carefully inspect every item they receive. Anything too damaged to sell is stripped for parts and discarded. They don’t buy damaged goods directly from distributors because they watched a competitor disappoint too many customers with furniture purchased that way. Desks, tables, cabinets and bookcases are cleaned and touched up, drawers are tested and fixed, and they test drive every chair.
“We sit in the chair, try the lift cylinder, roll it around and make sure everything works,” Dan Larner says. “We clean all the upholstery and can have chairs reupholstered if the customer prefers. We don’t ever want anything to come back to us because the customer isn’t happy.”
Their vast furniture selection and price range allows them to cater to a wide range of tastes, needs and pocketbooks. The choices can be a little overwhelming, especially for the business owner on a budget. “We recognize that $1,000 is a lot for some customers and that moving or setting up a new business can be very stressful,” Daryl Larner says. “Once they realize what we can do for them, they start to relax.”
When customers enter Larner’s Office Furniture looking to furnish a home office or 3,000 square feet of space, they may not expect to receive planning and layout advice, personalized recommendations, myriad reupholstering and refurbishing options and trusted referrals for related services. But that’s exactly what they get, and at considerable savings. “We offer everyone the same level of customer service whether they’re buying one table or an entire office set-up,” Daryl Larner says.
“Dan and Daryl are all about relationships and customer service,” says Terry Cox, executive director of the Business Innovation & Growth Council of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce. “They were a tremendous help when I moved from South End into the Chamber.”
-taken from www.greatercharlottebiz.com, written by Lisa Hoffmann, a Charlotte-based freelance writer.