The Kitchener headquarters of the McIntyre Group is a quiet, calm workspace… but it’s anything but boring. It’s quiet, because the company practices what it preaches, using its own products to produce optimum acoustics throughout the facility. But it is definitely not boring, because Dean McIntyre continues to lead his team through exciting and challenging growth.
It’s not that the company has abandoned its heritage – McIntyre Group continues to offer the office installation services that launched the company, in 1984. But in recent years, unique and innovative products – including ezoBord acoustical panels, Swiftspace flexible office furniture, and Starwall demountable walls – have expanded the company’s profile, have increased McIntyre’s employee roster, and brought a high level of excitement and engagement to a company that, Dean McIntyre admits, could have become complacent after two decades in the same field.
And now, McIntyre Group has launched another new initiative – the company will carry out sales and marketing on its own behalf under the Vertical Interiors by McIntyre banner in its two key regions – southern Ontario, served from its new Kitchener headquarters, and southern Alberta, from McIntyre’s offices in Calgary. Darrin Snider joined the company a year ago, as Business Development Manager, to lead that effort.
Until very recently, the McIntyre Group used external agents as marketing representatives, and that is still the case outside their “local” markets. But Dean McIntyre and his team found that they were not capturing the share of those local markets that their unique products deserved. McIntyre says, “We decided we needed to represent our own products in our home markets.”
A move from their original location in Ayr to a new, much larger building in Kitchener, provided the opportunity for the new headquarters to be a working showroom, with the company’s products incorporated into every part of the facility. There is no doubt that the entire McIntyre team sees their workspace as a living, functioning showroom. Visitors are welcomed by any team member they encounter – first of all, by Dean’s wife, Leanne McIntyre, at the reception desk.
Making their workspace a showcase destination was the first step in creating their own marketing initiative. Now, the company is hiring new members of our sales and marketing teams, both in Kitchener and in Calgary, where a new office has also just been opened as a working showroom.
Snider says the opening of working showrooms has meant a “huge” upturn in interest and sales.
The story of McIntyre Group is a story of innovation and creativity. Dean McIntyre launched a building maintenance company in 1984; services including office cleaning, maintenance and landscaping. Four years later, the company morphed into McIntyre Group Office Services, and the focus shifted from maintenance to office furniture installations. Dean was not only the owner – in the beginning, he was the entire staff. “I self-taught myself to install furniture,” he says.
The venture succeeded, serving the southern Ontario market, including Toronto. In 1990, McIntyre opened its Calgary office; by 1997, when the business relocated from its original facility in Cambridge to Ayr, it employed 50 staff members.
McIntyre says that the installation business – which continues to be the foundation of McIntyre Group – was the entire focus of the company until 2008.
But in that year, Calgary General Manager Jerry O’Brien had an epiphany. After decades of installing piecey complicated office furniture, he had a vision of mobile workstations – much more flexible, adaptable, and easy to install and to move. “Jerry came up with the concept of Swiftspace,” says McIntyre. “We prototyped it and had it patented. This was our first foray into product creation.”
Swiftspace changed the world for McIntyre Group. “It is a revolutionary product,” says McIntyre. “It’s significantly different from anything else on the market.” The essential concept of Swiftspace, from the beginning and as the product line has expanded, is office furniture that can be collapsed and wheeled into another room, ready for use again in minutes with no professional installation or tools required. McIntyre says, “It was innovative and it was exciting,” and that excitement was contagious.
“We were ahead of our time,” he adds, “but we could envision that office environments were going to be changing.” They have, and Swiftspace has become a huge success story.
McIntyre and his colleagues admit their invention goes against their core business – furniture installation – because Swiftspace units don’t require complex installation. That’s another key to their success – not only the ease of use, but also, the cost savings every time offices are reconfigured, a common occurrence in today’s workspace. “We feel we have the only product on the market that pays for itself over time.”
This initial move into creating and distributing product lines led to the creation of a separate company – Swiftspace – a pattern that has continued for the McIntyre Group with each new product line.
The fact that Swiftspace doesn’t require complicated installation doesn’t mean people get an office-in-a-box with DIY instructions. Every product a McIntyre Group company sells includes installation. That is the service end of a truly vertically integrated business – McIntyre creates, develops, manufacturers and fabricates under its various banners and then sells and markets under the Vertical Interiors banner. McIntyre also supplies expert installation services for any product and office installation need.
ezoBord is a highly innovative product – sound-dampening architectural features that produce significant noise reduction, but add attractive décor to the space. It’s a Canadian product. It’s also a very green product – although it can be manufactured to take on a variety of looks and design ideas, it feels like felt, but is made of plastic (50% from recycled water bottles) and is entirely recyclable if taken out of use.
Dean McIntyre says that customer interest in the product has been “Explosive”. As office interiors have changed and walls have come down, it has changed the office environment significantly. Acoustic issues in the workplace have become a real challenge.” EzoBord answers that challenge very effectively – as all visitors to the McIntyre working showroom quickly realize. Snider points out that companies and organizations enjoy the open concept but face significant health risks such as hearing impairment, interference with spoken communication, impaired task performance and negative social behaviours. Companies that have installed ezoBord say their staff enjoy “the ability to hear and to be heard… to concentrate.” He cites a study that proved that with ezoBord mitigating sound features, “productivity goes up, wasted time is cut in half and absenteeism goes down.”
Says Dean McIntyre, “We’re the first company in Canada with a product like this. We are a Canadian manufacturer; we sell in Canadian dollars. The reception to us has been huge.”
Two years ago, Starwall was added to the McIntyre product mix. The product is a demountable wall – walls that are not fixed into the building’s superstructure, so they can be moved… even to another building, if the client moves or expands.
McIntyre General Manager Steve Shepard notes that customers can get whatever configuration they need – all Starwall installations are completely “customizable,” including cut glass elements. Like the other McIntyre lines, Starwall products are installed by the McIntyre Group. Dean McIntyre says that is a key element when they are researching potential products: “We look at products that will require our specialty installation teams.”
“A fourth product line under our corporate umbrella, Kitchen Visions, is the company’s cabinetry and custom millworking arm, located in Cambridge,” adds McIntyre/
The McIntyre Group of companies, which now has about 175 employees, is also a distributor for other manufacturers – mostly Canadian companies.
McIntyre products are sold internationally – Canada, the US and more recently Europe. But there is no doubt that the current focus is very much on the local markets here and in Alberta.
“We really push the local feel,” says Dean. “Leanne and I feel the culture of our business is very important. We are employing locally, manufacturing locally, selling locally.”
There’s an added plus for customers – the companies that make up McIntyre Group also keep a lot of inventory locally, so “the lead time on our own products is approximately four weeks,” compared to competitors who are typically 2-3 times that.
Our group of companies has an international vision, coupled with a sharp local focus. They are committed to being a significant contributor to the local economy – the company is officially a “living wage employer”, a fact proudly stated on a prominent sign (made from ezoBord, of course).
“We are part of our local communities,” says Dean McIntyre. “That’s a key factor in who we are. We are committed to making a difference here – economically and socially. And we truly believe we have innovative products that are going to meet the needs of the local corporate community. And so… everyone is welcome to come and see us, right here, on Trillium Drive.”