15 Minutes with Gina DeWittAuthor:Lindsey Shook
Longevity in any design business not only requires vision, creativity and intelligence but also compassion. At the heart of one of the industry’s most iconic showrooms, Kneedler Fauchere, is Chief Operating Officer Gina DeWitt, who is known and widely respected for her vast knowledge but more importantly for her gracious and kind spirit. Here, we share our conversation with the unstoppable force that is changing the industry through connection.
-How was your career path different prior to joining the Kneedler Fauchere team? Unlike most of my colleagues, I did not attend art or design school. Rather, I got my MBA and started working in media for a small publicly traded company. We were all in our twenties and the founders exposed me to every facet of running a business. It was a rapid-fire education.
-How did that experience contribute to your success at the showroom? It really gave me the architecture necessary to run a business of Kneedler Fauchere’s size. We have 55 team members between our three showrooms and that requires solid systems and processes to be in place. A proper foundation allows the creativity that fuels our business to run free. And that’s when the magic happens.
-What has been the most significant shift in the process of running the showroom over the past few years? Everyone says technology, but the real shift has been caring for our teams. The level of business we’ve experienced as an industry during the past few years has been overwhelming. We are grateful for every single order. At the same time, we’ve had to keep an eye on our teams to make sure no one is getting burned out. Team outings, retreats, special events, shared meals, time away and simply saying “thank you” regularly has never been more important. Recognition is one of our core values, and arguably the most important.
Business will inevitably slow down and then we shift our focus to old-school prospecting. We’ve had a hard time keeping up the past few years and now we have to reinvent ourselves and become expert prospectors again. I think everyone at Kneedler Fauchere is tired of me saying this by now, but I believe our prospecting muscles have atrophied and it’s going to take focus and dedication to get them back.
–What inspired you to launch the American Party in Paris and how has this benefited the business? You know, the honest truth is that Rocky LaFleur and I were depressed due to the 2008 market crash and its impact on our business. We heard that Patrick Frey and other industry luminaries were starting something called Paris Deco Off to run concurrently with Maison & Objet. We decided to attend
as a way to cheer ourselves up. We hosted the first iteration of the event in our small apartment. Following that we teamed up with the late David Webster and other multiline showrooms and together we created what is today known as the American Party in Paris, with a guest list of 900 and a wait list of 500 this year. Tickets sold out in three minutes! The benefit to our business is clear: relationships, relationships, relationships, with our fellow multiline showroom hosts, clients, suppliers, press and industry colleagues.
–What is one change you would most like to see in the design industry? Greater efficiency in communication between designers, manufacturers and showrooms. The biggest surprise for me coming from another industry was the level of redundancy occurring in every direction I looked.
–If you could work with any designer on the design of your home, who would that be? My husband, Erik Lindstrom, and I are currently renovating a home in Crestwood Hills. We are working with Oonagh Ryan Architects, and Jamie Bush has been kind enough to informally provide creative input along the way. If we were going to hire a designer, he would be my choice due to his incredible eye and unmatched dedication to clients. For the exterior we hope to work with our dear friend and creative genius—I don’t use that word lightly—Scott Shrader.
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