SPACE, Inc. Brings Vision and Renewal Into Work Environments
January 19, 2022
By Bona Van Dis, originally featured in SBAM’s FOCUS magazine
Along with a keen wisdom of what it takes to be a leader, Kathie Fuce-Hobohm knows how to create, reinvent and renew spaces, making them into environments that foster healthy work and learning. SPACE, Inc. is all about “design for the future of work,” whether that be at home, in the office, classroom or in meeting spaces. They base their core foundation on “people and culture, sustainability, innovation, and creativity of design.”
SPACE, Inc., with its 25 full-time employees and three interior design subcontractors, has been named a 2020 Haworth Best in Class Dealership, the Midland Area Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year, a Michigan 50 Companies to Watch, the SBDC Region 5 Top Company, and for the past five years, has been one of the Best and Brightest Companies to Work for in the nation.
SPACE, Inc. was recently awarded two task orders by the Department of State, Foreign Service Institute (FSI) totaling over $2 million. The FSI is furnishing a new four-story educational building being constructed on its campus in Arlington, Virginia. The building will house classroom spaces, meeting spaces, a large multi-purpose room and a café. SPACE, Inc. will be responsible for completing all the workstations, carrels and private offices, as well as all the support spaces for the new FSI building, which is set for completion in Summer 2022.
We caught up with Fuce-Hobohm to ask her about their SPACE anew program, how they meet the specific needs of each client, how she works through challenges and what it was like to serve on the SBAM board:
Focus: Give us the details about how you got SPACE, Inc. off the ground.
Fuce-Hobohm: In 1994 the company I was working for decided to close its Midland branch. Instead of going to work for someone else, my former business partner, Lisa Hulbert, and I became “accidental entrepreneurs” and opened SPACE three months later in February of 1995. I would love to say that it was a planned and purposeful decision, but it wasn’t! But I will say it was the right decision.
Focus: What is your exact title and role?
Fuce-Hobohm: Currently, my title is Dealer Principal. In the workplace interiors industry, a Dealer Principal provides strong leadership and strategic vision for the company on a daily and long-term basis. The position establishes the dealership as a highly desirable place to work, with a strong culture of engagement and creates an environment where employees willingly produce at their maximum ability.
It’s important to note, though, that I’m in the process of transitioning out of this role. SPACE will continue to be in very capable hands with two strong “Gen2” leaders–my son Paddy Hobohm as President and Jenni Bush as Senior VP. This succession plan has been in the works for the past five years and at the end of 2021, I will be involved as their support.
Focus: Congratulations on being recognized as a “Best and Brightest Company to Work For” for the fifth consecutive year! What internal practices/processes have you focused on to achieve this?
Fuce-Hobohm: Firstly a company can’t win without an incredible team—that’s the real key. How we nurture the team has been a continuous evolution. Currently, we’re highly invested in transparency and open book management through our financial literacy program called EZ Beans.
Plus, we’ve implemented a communication training program using the format based on Our Community Listens. I’m very pleased with the conversations that this program has evoked. As part of this program, SPACE pays for one-on-one coaching sessions for anyone who wants to work on their communication skills. Everyone who’s participated in this coaching has benefited personally and professionally.
Focus: Working with a wide range of industries, what do you do to meet the individual and specific needs of each client?
Fuce-Hobohm: Each client and project are based on the client’s mission so we start with that mindset and focus. Our goal isn’t to sell a product or service—we’re looking to create the right solution. Our purpose is to impact the work lives of everyone we touch, and we can only do that if we stay true to the vision of each individual client.
Focus: SPACE, Inc.’s mission statement talks about being “nimble” and utilizing “disruptive innovation.” How do these things set you apart from your competitors?
Fuce-Hobohm: We think our SPACE anew™ and SPACE Facility Armor programs are great examples of being nimble and having disruptive innovation. We have SPACE anew to provide a sustainable solution to address the volume of existing office furniture that is currently in the marketplace without having it end up in a landfill.
And SPACE Facility Armor is a proven, long-term solution that prevents microbial transfer and growth in the workplace, healthcare environments, senior living, government buildings, daycares, etc. The product we use was invented over 30 years ago at the Dow Corning Corporation and we’ve adapted it to address the health and safety issues that COVID-19 brought to light.
Focus: SPACE anew™ is a brilliant concept. Tell us about it.
Fuce-Hobohm: I LOVE SPACE anew! Most people think their old office furniture “goes to heaven” when they update their workplace, and they don’t even consider a plan to upcycle and purposefully recycle those items. Statistically, over 9,000,000 pounds of office furniture end up in the landfill on an annual basis. Isn’t that a shame?
SPACE anew was first used for one of our federal government clients who needed to shrink the size of their offices, consolidate five buildings of leased space and move over 500 people into a new building. One of our designers came up with a way to re-utilize their existing assets, keeping over 93 percent of their existing furniture out of the landfill. We were able to save them over 52 percent of the cost of new furniture!
Since then, we’ve added upcycling so we can make the products look virtually brand new, along with a proprietary inventory system that lets our clients know the disposition of their assets and whether they can be upcycled, repurposed, purposefully recycled or as a last resort, put in the landfill.
Focus: What are some challenges you’ve faced, and how did you work through them successfully?
Fuce-Hobohm: Most of the biggest challenges I’ve faced have been self-inflicted and are usually a direct result of poor leadership. Someone once told me that anyone could own a small business, but not everyone could lead one. So true! Therefore, when I’m experiencing challenges, the first thing I look at is my leadership and what I need to improve.
Focus: Using your board member insight, how is SBAM working to create a thriving small business environment
Fuce-Hobohm: I wish every small business owner had a chance to participate on the SBAM board to see all the work that goes on behind the scenes to help Michigan small businesses succeed. That said, the sheer knowledge that Rob Fowler and Brian Calley have brought to the table, and their ability to navigate the legislative process, brings the SBAM advocacy program to a new level.
Their twice-weekly Facebook conversations (The Small Business Briefing) are an outstanding source of information on the issues that impact our livelihood. My personal favorite is the Owner-to-Owner (O2O) program. O2O provides a conduit for small business owners throughout the state to meet and discuss problems and solutions with their peers. Sharing knowledge is a critical component to building a strong business, and SBAM has the most robust program for this learning opportunity.
Focus: As we begin a new year, what are some words of hope or wisdom you can share with your fellow small business owners?
Fuce-Hobohm: Make a purposeful decision to lead your business in 2022, then look in the mirror, roll up your sleeves and smile. You’ve got this.
Bona Van Dis is Editor of Focus.