Leadership Profile: Aminy Audi, CEO, Stickley Furniture

MANILUS, NY – The story of Aminy Audi, president and CEO of the famed L.&J.G. Stickley Furniture Co., is definitely worth telling.

Audi bought Stickley, 25 struggling employees, with her late husband Alfred in 1974. At the time, Stickley had annual sales that barely exceeded $200,000 and was rapidly losing what customers it had left.

Today, some 48 years later, the company employs 1,600 people and operates three manufacturing plants and 15 showrooms.

Audi oversees the staffing and operations of each company-owned store. She has also served on the boards of the American Home Furnishings Alliance, Fine Furnishings International and the American Home Furnishings Hall of Fame Foundation. She led seven expansions of the company’s flagship facility in Manlius, NY, which now spans over 400,000 square feet.

Furniture Today asked Audi to tell us more about its work-life balance, the biggest risks it took, the mistakes it made, and more.

Where do your best ideas come from?

My ideas come from many sources, both professional and non-professional. they come from friends, community leaders, working in my garden, reading a book, listening to a podcast, or taking a walk. If an idea inspires me, I write it down for future reference.

A few years ago, I served on a 19-member commission on modernizing government in our riding. The commission included elected officials, educators, lawyers and businessmen. Everyone came up with several great ideas, some more controversial than others, and many applicable to business as well as government.

I learned that no one has a monopoly on good ideas and that it is vital to be open and receptive to approving ideas that may originally be different from the ones we have, if they are turn out better and lead to positive change.

Who opened doors for you?

Throughout my life, many people have done this. But the most important person is my father, who very early underlined the value of education and the thirst for lifelong learning. He encouraged my siblings and me to be independent and self-reliant, to aim high and not be afraid to take on challenges. He also instilled in us defining values ​​that guide each of my decisions. These include living with integrity, working hard, taking risks without fear of failure, respecting differences and giving back to the community.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken?

The biggest risk my late husband Alfred and I took was buying Stickley in 1974.

By then Stickley, a once large and well-respected company, was way off with annual sales of $235,000 and just 25 employees, most of whom were of retirement age. There was a good chance that one in 10 people would achieve it.

Revitalizing Stickley, creating jobs for thousands of employees of 38 different nationalities and giving back to the community has been a most rewarding, exhausting and exhilarating journey.

What is the most interesting place your work has taken you?

I have had the great pleasure of visiting so many of our dealers across the country. I appreciate these visits and these interactions. Perhaps the most interesting place was my visit to Japan. I was very impressed with the beauty of the land, as well as the cultural treasures and work ethic.

How do you balance work and family life?

I am guided by my personal mission statement, which I wrote in 1997 when Alfred and I attended the National Entrepreneur of the Year Winners Conference. The keynote speaker asked those present if they had personal mission statements. Very few hands went up. I worked on mine at the time, and it reads, “I want to live a balanced life and a grateful life.”

My balance is equally between my family, my demanding professional background and my meaningful community service. I start each day by writing a list of all the things I am grateful for and another of all the things I ask (pray) for. I do my best to focus on maintaining that balance, knowing full well that sometimes I don’t quite get there.

What questions related to your business or the industry have you been asking yourself lately?

I’m still trying to imagine the future and what Stickley and the industry would be like then. Since we purchased Stickley, we have purchased five other companies and added to our portfolio good high-end upholstery manufacturing, a contract division and 15 company-owned retail showrooms.

We now have three manufacturing plants in the United States and Vietnam. So I always ask if there are other opportunities that complement what we have and will add value to our employees and dealers.

I also often think about the balance and connectivity of physical stores and e-commerce. I am very pleased that my son, Edward, Chairman of Stickley, is very savvy and enterprising and a champion of diversification and positive change.

What was your biggest business mistake and what did you learn from it?

My biggest mistake was hiring the wrong person for a key position at Stickley. I am very aware that the members of our leadership team will help determine our destiny.

I’ve learned to be very careful and take the time to make sure that the people we hire are not only competent and have the skills to do their job, but also that they understand and appreciate our culture and are team players working collaboratively. to achieve our common goals.

When you get together with other industry players these days, what is the main topic of discussion?

Without a doubt, the most pressing issue everyone is talking about in our industry is labor shortages and supply chain disruption. Both are contributing to long delivery delays at a time when furniture orders are at an all-time high.

If you could change one thing in this industry, what would it be?

Can I change two things??

I would like to see more women in leadership positions, since the decision maker when it comes to buying furniture is often a woman.

The other change I would make would be to de-emphasize discounts. The main question always becomes ‘When is the next best sale?’ Instead, I’d like our industry to promote the intrinsic value of surrounding ourselves with beautiful furniture and artwork that enhances quality of life and helps create beautiful, lasting memories. Beautiful homes where families come together to celebrate life’s most important milestones.

What is the best advice you have received and from whom?

“You have to keep moving; otherwise someone will come from behind and crush you. –Alfred Audi

This applies to all aspects of the business, from having a fresh and current product that resonates with the customer, to diversifying their portfolio, using the latest technology and constantly reinventing their business. while remaining firmly anchored in the fundamental values ​​that are the basis of the company.

What three things would people be surprised to learn about you?

I am very transparent so there are not many surprises. However, given my relatively serious nature, people would be surprised to know that:

  • April Fool’s Day is my favorite national holiday.
  • I can easily go from chairing a board meeting to preparing a meal and delivering it to my grandchildren, earning me the title “Meals on Wheels.”
  • I tear up easily when it comes to family matters or human suffering.

About Oscar L. Smith

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