GL Seaman & Company has been an influencer in the North Texas design and office furniture industry for over 30 years. A long-standing member of the design community in Fort Worth, they chose to make The Foundry District their home after spending 21 years in their previous office on Forest Park Blvd.
With a culture predicated on delivering the highest-quality service in their industry, an offering that surpasses the in-house capabilities of their competition, and a leadership team led by women, GL Seaman is a trendsetter in ways far beyond design.
We had the pleasure of hearing from Mary Edwards, the President of their Fort Worth location. She’s a powerhouse with a passion for leadership and a heart for community service. She’s also a devout believer in the magic of Fort Worth and The Foundry District. Check out what Mary had to say about what sets GL Seaman apart, how they’ve adapted to COVID, and how being a woman-led business has impacted their growth.
Simply put, in making this old warehouse our own, we achieved the accessibility and versatility we needed out of a space and got to work in an area of the city that inspires and excites us.GL SEAMAN
What is GL Seaman’s story and how has it grown since 1984?
Gary Seaman, our founder, fell in love with Knoll furniture and sought to become their first aligned dealer. To this point, they’d never had an aligned dealer, so it immediately put GL Seaman on the map.
We were founded with a commitment to maintaining the highest standards in the industry, which is something we still strive to do today. One of the things separating us from the crowd is that we have our own fully in-house installation team. This allows us to achieve the highest levels of quality after the sale when other businesses traditionally hand the customer experience off to contractors.
This promise to maintain the industry’s highest standards has been put on display during COVID, where we’re proud to say we haven’t missed a deadline. We were deemed an essential business, as many of our clientele are banks, financial firms, government entities, and other businesses who needed safe, trusted delivery and installation.
One of GL Seaman’s differentiators is that it’s “one of the largest in-house, full-service dealers in the region?” What does that mean and how does it impact customers?
A big part of it is our in-house installation team I mentioned a moment ago. The average time with the company for the members of our installation team, which is made up of 45 full-time installers, is 15 years. They’re drug tested, background checked, and with COVID, they pass routine healthcare checks as well.
We employ 4 full-time interior designers in Fort Worth and another 12 in our Dallas office. That’s another area where ‘full-service’ comes into play. We take on the responsibility of making sure our team includes NCIDQ licensed members ensuring our projects meet ADA, as well as other code compliance, for our customers. We trust our team that much and value the peace of mind this gives our customers. We also have our own project management, accounting and customer service teams in Fort Worth.
Beyond our local team talent, we have a 75,000 square foot office, warehouse and storage facility in Dallas and dispatch the installation teams from this single location. That allows us to operate efficiently, reduce mistakes across the board, and serve our North Texas clientele swiftly.
Can you walk us through the transformation of your space in The Foundry District from an automotive warehouse to a beautiful, expansive showroom?
Well, we had been in Fort Worth since 1998 and had spent 21 years in an aging space that didn’t allow our business to expand. As we looked for our next Fort Worth space, we were drawn to The Foundry District and were shown this bright yellow and purple, ugly automotive warehouse and just fell in love with it and the possibilities we saw there.
There were a few things that were important to us as we considered this move. We wanted to be a resource to the design community in Fort Worth. Many manufacturers in our industry and others view Fort Worth as a suburb of Dallas, based purely on volume, but this overlooks how incredibly different the culture is here. The business that’s done here is relational, not transactional. So we wanted to reach out to the design community in Fort Worth and use our space as a hub where the community could work together and grow.
In practice, that means holding events (under non-COVID circumstances) where 40+ designers come together to gain new certifications, network, and become resources to one-another.
In addition to these community-focused needs, we also needed a space that would be easy for customers to get in and out of that afforded us the ability to stage rooms and mockup furniture on a regular basis.
Simply put, in making this old warehouse our own, we achieved the accessibility and versatility we needed out of a space and got to work in an area of the city that inspires and excites us.
What is it about The Foundry District that made it the ideal home for GL Seaman?
To us, The Foundry District is an extension of The Cultural District. The difference is that it’s taking the art out of the museum and displaying it across walls for all to see. And it does all of this while being just a few minutes from the core business district of the city.
It’s a place that is authentically Fort Worth. We’ve been here for two decades and one of the first projects GL Seaman carried out was selecting the furniture for The Modern when it opened. Between our reputation and Knoll’s iconic reputation, we attract a clientele that runs the gamut from West Texas bankers to modern art aficionados, and this district allows us to put our best foot forward to them all.
It’s the part of North Texas that is the cultural lifeblood of Fort Worth. To put our commitment into years, we signed a 10-year lease with two 5-year extensions. We’re in this for the long haul because we believe in this district.
How has GL Seaman adapted and continued to serve customers during COVID?
As we discussed, ‘full-service’ at GL Seaman means our own team providing expertise, like ADA compliance, space planning, installation, project management, etc. Well, during COVID, the definition has expanded further.
We’ve been on panels discussing how COVID is affecting the real estate industry, we’ve begun helping customers understand contact tracing, and we’re ultimately helping them learn how to accommodate in-office work during COVID. Businesses are learning that while remote work is great for some things, it negatively affects company culture and it eliminates the casual conversations that lead to a great deal of innovation.
We’re helping our customers understand that we actually have the tools to come back into the office safely, with masks, and continue company culture. Through space planning, product curation, and thoughtful traffic direction, work can start happening in person again. We’ve started offering new products, including acrylic and fabric screens, pods, and more to further create safe environments. Check out our social media channels to learn more about this.
One product, in particular, that’s been generating a lot of buzz is Silent Silo by Knoll, which is this hyper-modern pod that allows people to work in their offices while maintaining distance and safe separation.
GL Seaman is a woman-led business with a largely female leadership team. How has this shaped your company’s culture and what trends do you see among female entrepreneurs in Fort Worth?
I love talking about Florence Knoll, who founded the Knoll brand. I have photos of her on my wall here in the office, and she is so clearly one woman in a room full of men. That’s how it was when I started in this industry too. But thankfully, through a lot of hard work, that dynamic has shifted. In fact, if you look at our leadership team, it’s almost the inverse of that photo!
You have to be careful when you talk about this because it’s not binary, but women, in general, have brought a greater focus on relationships into the boardroom. They understand that each person isn’t just the job they perform, they have an entire life beyond that job. That the idea of work/life separation doesn’t exist that clearly. This perspective is even more important now, and COVID is forcing people around the world to reconsider their professional relationships and their relationships with companies.
It runs parallel to what I said about business in Fort Worth being relational, compared to it being a bit more transactional in some other markets. Fort Worth is a city that culturally plays to the strengths of female entrepreneurs, and I believe that’s why you’re seeing so many businesses led by women finding success. M2G Ventures is a great example!
In terms of trends, the one that makes me the happiest is the growing sense of cooperation. In times past you, unfortunately, saw women sometimes keep other women down, because there were so few opportunities. But today, there is an ever-growing willingness to reach down and lift one another up. That there is enough room at the table for all the women who want a seat. Even if you have to bring your own chair.
To learn more about GL Seaman & Company, visit their website at GLSC.com.
Mary was also happy to share that they just embarked on the process of redesigning their website, so stay tuned for some exciting updates! We’d also like to direct attention to their blog, where they’re sharing all kinds of valuable information related to working safely during COVID and maintaining company culture during these circumstances. You can read more here. Lastly, be sure to follow them on Instagram at @GLSeamanCompany.