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Meet DeLinda Forsythe of Innovative Commercial Environments in Carmel Valley

Today we’d like to introduce you to DeLinda Forsythe.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
It wasn’t that I had set out to help people build environments that they love. After all, my education was as a Dance major from UC Irvine.

My first career was dance, theatre and acting. For 8 years, I worked in dance. When I injured myself in my late 20s, I realized I had to change my career. My initial passions – developed in the arts – led me to seek a way to make people’s lives better. I found this in commercial furniture, which like most of the arts helps people to make their world more harmonious and in-touch with their inner condition. A friend had a contact, so that was my inroad into the industry.

I’ve worked in the furniture field for nearly thirty years now. Eleven of those years have been as the owner of my own business – Innovative Commercial Environments (ICE). Our company has grown in bursts. Five years ago, we extended our product lines to include hospitality. One thing that we’re doing differently now is incorporating less impersonal office furniture. This is often inspired by styles and pieces that in a previous era were considered ‘residential’. A result of our insights was that we established a division called WorkShop (www.workshop.furniture). WorkShop uses reclaimed wood from urban forestry. Just last month, our WorkShop product took home the Gold as the Best in NeoConnect, an important industry acknowledgement of our accomplishments. Many consider ICE to be San Diego’s most creative dealership because we don’t just focus on the cubicle. We value collaboration, teamwork and openness in our company, so it makes sense that we view office furniture as a product that can enable that collaboration and creativity.

Over the last 30 years, I’ve worked in 3 markets for small to mega dealerships. This breadth of experience has been very educational and I learned firsthand what makes a furniture dealership successful and equally important, what makes a furniture dealership fail. I learned the importance of working as a team on every project, no matter the size of the project. This approach leads to a higher level of service and with furniture being so similar, it’s the service in addition to our highly creative, consultative approach to every project which makes our projects stand out and builds customer loyalty.

In a service-based industry like commercial furniture dealerships, it’s no mystery what makes a great company. It’s supporting your customers and making their experience smooth. We’ve been on the Inc. 5000 for four years in a row, making us among the fastest growing companies nationally. It’s very difficult to make this list year after year. We’ve been able to build an impressive client list by using our creativity and customer service skills to maintain strong relationships with our customers.

We also have an extensive outreach and social media component to keep our clients engaged. Our website, blog Facebook, and LinkedIn page contain information not just about our company, but think pieces on current trends in furniture. Ultimately, like most companies in the modern economy, our true value is in our people. Our employees have the creative talent, management skills and experience to get our clients to their destination. Our team works well together. We communicate, we double-check details and we deal with urgency. The culture we’ve built is one of open and honest communication, every process and every person has an opportunity to improve and grow.

When I was a dancer, I learned that the only way to improve was by using honest and critical yet kind feedback. That honesty has built a great team. It’s not just business – it’s also camaraderie and trust.

We have employed mostly Millennial women, I naturally tend towards hiring those that our society has historically marginalized because I felt that so often in my career. This has and will continue to have an unexpected and wonderful positive long-term effect because instinctively we’ve planned for succession. 10 years ago, I hired Alysse Cooper, now 30 and our current President. She was the daughter of a friend and needed a full time flexible job while she attended CSUSM, also a client of ours. While she attended CSUSM she learned the industry and learned sales. She went from receptionist to president. It was personally gratifying to see the mentorship and training develop her skills and open up opportunities for such a talented young person. It’s a case study in how building a culture of empowerment, kindness and opportunity is the key to a great company. Alysse has repeated this same training process twice now and again not only is it a successful model, it’s incredibly gratifying. Along the way we’ve built quite a loyal staff and another really wonderful outcome is that we now have a young company which has the potential to work together in a safe environment for 20 years, flourishing in this wonderful culture of gratitude and inclusion.

Earlier this month we finalized our greatest accomplishment yet by signing a partnership with www.teknion.com. Teknion is one of the most progressive, respected furniture manufacturers in the world. We are now their exclusive San Diego representative. We did not have a “major” line previously which hindered our growth. Though we have grown annually 20-40% over the last 5 years, we anticipate that the addition of the Teknion line will allow us to sustain this level of growth. In an industry with historical growth rates under 10%, what we have accomplished without a manufacturer like Teknion is exceptional. Partnering with Teknion cements our legacy as one of San Diego’s best dealerships.,

Closing out this list of accomplishments, ICE is relocating to a new showroom in 2018. This new space will double our current one. It will give our clients an expanded sense of the possibilities that they can have, the kinds of environments that they can inhabit with our help.

For me, being able to create and build such a respected and stable company has been an extension of my passion for creativity, art and empowerment. We have built a company that opens new possibilities, provides opportunities to our team members, and fulfillment to our clients. When you combine your passion with your talent and keep your focus on how you can benefit the lives of others, you can achieve what society views as “success”. In the process, however, you may find that how you define success is not always how society does. You may be surprised what gives you a sense of pride and satisfaction. Pay it forward. Care deeply. Do what you love.

Has it been a smooth road?
Ah yeah – no. I think you can fill in the blanks from my “brief” history that I was never given any breaks at all, quite the opposite. But what doesn’t kill you makes you smarter. I prefer not to dwell on the past negatives and only say I appreciate the challenges and the lack of assistance because it made me who I am which is what is making my company so unique and inclusive. Only one employer, Vince Mudd with sdoi, ever gave me breaks or helped me in my career. And to this day he’s very supportive.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Hopefully I covered that in my history but in summary, it’s our creative integration of live edge local artisan made furniture along with more traditional furniture. Our websites and pictures really help bring this design message home! www.icesd.com and www.workshop.furniture.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Oh yes, our city is a wonderful place to build a business! The community has been so incredible to me, I love our business climate as much as I love my company. We are a very inclusive community, we love helping others. If you have short term goals and you are focused on just money, probably not a good place to do business, LA a better city for that kind of company. In San Diego, you have to take the time to build your network, get involved, give back and be a true member of our community to be successful. My values work here because this city shares those values. I adore San Diego and our SD EDC has really helped me dial into the network and get involved. Love San Diego!

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