From The CEO’s Desk


What are “The Dog Days of Summer”?

August 1, 2017

Ever wonder where this term came from? Nope, not from Major League Baseball, although they use it. It actually falls from July 3 to August 11, the 20 days before and after the “dog” star Sirius rises and falls in conjunction with the sun. The Romans used to think Sirius threw off some extra heat which is why that was the hottest time of the year.
In the business-to-business (B2B) world, it’s a time when things typically slow down (depending on your industry, of course) with vacation time, factory shutdowns, and generally slower decision-making.

One of our Core Values at Office Interiors is “Our People.” We have dedicated, smart, hard-working professionals who try to do great work for our customers every day. And I’m proud of them. As a direct result, they deserve a restful, fun and great break from it all when they take a vacation, whatever time of year.

I encourage our team to do everything possible to ‘detach’ from work while on vacation. Have a professional ‘out of office message’ with backup contacts for urgent matters, be as well organized as possible before leaving, and plan a great vacation, even if it’s a ‘staycation! It’s chill time!

We have found that this approach helps to ensure Our People come back refreshed and energized to get back at it! It’s a very productive discipline. It’s also part of a holistic approach to job satisfaction.

In today’s business world, we all have lots of stress and ‘screen time,’ in fact, too much. Wouldn’t it be better if we all enjoyed the Dog Days of August a little bit more?
I think it would.

Jim Mills
Office Interiors

Proud of my “Team”

May 2, 2017

Is the word “Team” overused? We hear it all the time; this team, that team, teamwork, our team, your team. The question is, when is a team truly a “Team”?
One of the measures indeed is performance, specifically high performance. In the business world, a high-performance “Team” counts when it is measurable such as being in the top 10% of your industry from a financial benchmark perspective.

Another is when your “Team” is ranked high by independent 3rd party measures, such as the Net Promoter Score (NPS) system. NPS is measured by what your customers say about you, not what you say about yourself (have you ever heard a company say they deliver bad service?). What can be more important than what your customers think? At Office Interiors, our NPS year to date in 2017 is almost 87%, which is pretty unique, and it says a ton about what our customers think about our “Team.”

And yet another measure is when unexpected moments occur, like one this past weekend in Fredericton, NB. Our VP of Sales and long-time team member Shawn Lean was recognized for his many significant efforts over the 8 year history of the Office Interiors Junior Caps, the local Junior B men’s hockey team. He helped create the league in NB and created and owned the team.

His “Team” won many games and medals of all colours over that period; but what Shawn is most proud of is the ‘how’ he did it. 107 young men played for him and his trusted partner in that venture, Rob MacGregor (also a member of Office Interiors); most of them went to school simultaneously. It was run professionally, all the bills got paid, and the players learned lots about “Team” and life, and giving back too. 3 of them actually work with us now, which is pretty cool, and many others have succeeded elsewhere. Many returned to Fredericton and the tournament last weekend just to be there to help honour Shawn. That alone says a lot.

Shawn is a key member of our Leadership Team and a high performer in business. But equally important, he is a true community-minded person who understands the importance of giving back. The Office Interiors Junior Caps chapter has ended, but with Shawn, you know another will soon begin.

That is why I am proud of him, proud of Rob, and why I am also proud of my “Team” at Office Interiors.

Jim Mills
Office Interiors

For Chanie… and the Secret Path

November 30, 2016

Before I start, I’m proudly Canadian; I always have been. I see Canada as a land of opportunity, a country that cares, a beautiful place that embraces diversity, and a safe place to live, work and play. I am proud that we accelerated bringing over 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada earlier this year. It was the right thing to do.

Tonight I had the profound privilege and experience (with my wife Leilany) to see and hear the incredible Gord Downie perform his Secret Path concert in Halifax. I had listened to some of the stories but had not paid that close attention to them.


This amazing true story is about a young aboriginal boy named Chanie Wenjack who left his “residential” home in Kenora, Ontario, to walk 400 miles to his true home. He was just 12 years old, and it was 1966. He never made it, dying alone, as many other Aboriginal children did through various other circumstances. All equally tragic and sad.

And this happened in Canada, our Canada. The last “residential” school only closed in 1996. Over the previous 100 years, over 150,000 Aboriginal children were taken from their homes and families!

Chanie’s sisters Pearl and Daisy were in attendance at the show. Pearl spoke with sincerity and heart and sang a beautiful song in her native language about forgiveness for people of all colours. That was also amazing. Such courage, such power to forgive.

I’m still proudly Canadian, but tonight taught me we need to be better, much better. The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund is designed to help us do just that, and we can all participate. I hope you check out the Secret Path website.

Most Canadians know that Gord Downie is battling terminal cancer. His courageous effort to share Chanie’s story and the stories of all Aboriginal children sent to residential schools, those no longer here and the survivors, is simply a testament to a great man and a truly great Canadian.

I hope you take the time to learn more about the Secret Path and share this story with others. We are Canadian. And we can do better. As Gord said, “We are all connected in some way.”

Thanks to Gord, brother Mike Downie, illustrator Jeff Lemire and the entire team for sharing this story. Every Canadian should see it.

Jim Mills
Office Interiors

Be a Connector

November 18, 2016

I had the greatest compliment from a good friend and fellow CEO recently. He basically said “I really want to thank you for inviting me to some of your small ‘connector’ events over the past few years. As a direct result of meeting some great people, a few of them have become good business associates and personal friends. It really means a lot to me and I want to say thanks!”

Being a connector is something I have always done, but without really thinking about it. But the benefit of some reflection is that I love connecting with great people and watching new business and/or personal relationships develop from that. The power of “we” is so great that if we all did a little “connecting” with each of our networks, who knows what could happen?

New relationships develop, new ideas get spurned, new solutions to challenges emerge, new businesses get started, and so many possible positive outcomes can flow from that simple effort.

So my advice would be this… be a “connector” yourself.

Jim Mills
Office Interiors

Our People… the Key Ingredient

June 10, 2016

I’ve been writing recently about some of our Core Values at Office Interiors, and of course, “Our People” is one of them. We state simply that “Our People are our most important Resource; we will treat everyone with respect & dignity, hire the best, and reward based on performance. We will also encourage the pursuit of personal growth.”

All good, right? A couple of weeks back, as part of our 25th-year celebrations, we held a company retreat for all our team members. We engaged in team building, had a business session, did some activities, and celebrated some of our successes. And, of course, we had some fun (you can’t have ‘Love the Way You Work’ as a motto and not have fun!). It was hands down our best retreat to date (we hold them every 5 years), outstanding in all regards.

It’s all about caring for our people who care greatly for our customers. I am always impressed by our team’s passion, talent, commitment and hard work. And I hear that often from our customers.

Sadly, we lost a key team member about a month ago in a battle against cancer, Mr. Ken Hayter. Ken was an original member of our team and an outstanding individual. He lived our values daily, took great care of our customers, and was one of the most positive guys I know. 

We did a special tribute to Ken on Saturday night at the retreat. It was very emotional for all of us. The standing ovation he received was truly thunderous and very long. I’m pretty sure wherever he is, he heard it all with his contagious smile. We made Ken the Honorary 1st Member of our 25 Year Club, and we are starting a scholarship in his name for our members’ kids pursuing their education.

As one of our senior members stated, “Our team is a family.”

Ken would be very proud of that because he was a giver, like the rest of our team. And we are very proud of him. I will miss him dearly, but his memory will live with our people!

Best regards,

Jim Mills
Office Interiors

Energized by a New Year

January 2, 2015

The terrific thing about January 1 and the New Year is that it’s an opportunity for all of us to get “energized.” A fresh new start for all of us! While I’m not a big fan of ‘resolutions’ because they typically end up not being sustainable, I am a big fan of having a “plan.” Without a plan, we all leave ourselves too exposed to external factors that impact our lives daily, too much ‘noise,’ the result of which is more of the same. We all have heard of Einstein’s definition of insanity… ‘doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results.’ Research has shown that those who plan to achieve much better results. If that is true, what is your plan for 2015?

We are all familiar with both the global economic challenges and the ones we face right here in the Maritimes. Stagnant economies, declining and aging population, public debt that is way too high, rural migration to urban (yes this global trend is happening here too), and some of the highest taxation levels in all of Canada. It’s a pretty steep hill from that perspective. But with a great attitude, a solid plan, and lots of hard work, we can collectively change this trajectory. We can encourage new entrepreneurs to succeed, hire an immigrant and make them feel welcome, work smarter to improve productivity, volunteer to improve our communities and embrace change to create economic opportunities.

Hence, our young people have a future they can see here, and we can turn this situation around together.
It will not happen overnight, and it will only happen with a plan. I also like this Einstein quote: “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”
For 2015 I’m going to imagine a better future for the Maritimes, and I’m going to work on my plan too!

Jim Mills
President & CEO
Office Interiors

The “Final Four”

March 31, 2014

What does the “Final Four” Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament have to do with an Office Equipment and Office Furniture Dealership based in the Maritimes of Canada? Admittedly not much. Having said that, I anticipate this event each year and take in as many games on TV as possible. These young men go out each game with such vigour and intensity, and it is such an inspiring play. I am reminded of our tagline “Love the Way You Work”. These young men absolutely “Love the Way They Play”.

Imagine working hard all season for a chance to make it to the “Final Four.” Each game is a single knockout. You win, you advance, you lose, you’re out. It epitomizes the expression “the agony of defeat, the thrill of victory.” UConn (#7), Wisconsin (#2), Florida (#1), and Kentucky (#8), have achieved their dream of reaching the “Final Four”. Next weekend (actually next Monday), one of them will be National Champs.

Now for a moment, think about yourself and your workplace. What dream do you have for that part of your life, which for most of us is a significant (in fact, most) portion of our “awake” hours? While there is no direct correlation between the “Final Four” and our work lives, it does provide a chance or perhaps a moment to reflect on what each of us has as our objectives and goals in our working careers. Or if, in fact, we have any at all? Sadly, too few people spend the amount of time and effort in “planning” their careers, so they don’t have to fulfil (by their measure) outcomes.

If you are a manager or a business owner, what are you doing to help your people succeed in this regard? Let’s face it, people who love what they do and have a plan in place perform the best.Happy Spring!

Jim Mills
President & CEO
Office Interiors

Trust & Leadership

November 5, 2013

I recently attended a Best Practices conference and enjoyed a “Trust and Leadership” session. It was a very interesting insight into an aspect of leaders rarely discussed: trust. The premise of the discussion and the research behind it are quite fascinating. Organizations with high “trust” factors outperform others by a high margin. How can this be? Further, high-trust organizations only become that way if their CEO and senior leaders lead with trust. As you might expect, these organizations have higher work satisfaction and lower turnover.

What kind of organization do you work in? Would you rate it “high” in trust or not so high? If you rate it as high, do you consider your organization highly performing? I believe I have a high trust factor in people generally and our team specifically. And I also think that is how we operate at Office Interiors. Having said that, there is a lot more that I can and plan to learn on this topic. It’s very interesting.

In terms of being a high-performance organization, we do pretty well by most measures: market share, sales, customer satisfaction, and quality measure. And yes, I am very proud of the work done by our team every day. Again, we can continuously improve and work at that too. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this topic. Feel free to send me a note.

Thanks, and I hope you get to “Love the Way You Work!”

Jim Mills
Office Interiors