For Joe Gammons, election time is prime networking season.
Gammons, the president of Office Furniture and Design Concepts in Fort Myers, says attending political fundraisers is a great way to meet entrepreneurs and top corporate executives.
“It's one of the most untapped markets for networking,” says Gammons, a winner of the Business Observer's 40 under 40 awards in 2010.
For $250 to $500 in contributions, sometimes less than the cost of a crowded corporate or philanthropic event, you can network with several dozen decision makers in an intimate setting. “Business owners don't send staffs to political fundraisers,” says Gammons, 40.
The aura of exclusivity surrounding political fundraisers isn't accurate, Gammons says. He compares it to the Ritz-Carlton: “A lot of people think they can't afford it, but you can.”
Gammons says politicians like to network just as business owners do. Besides, he's never lost a business deal because of the appearance of siding with one candidate or another. “The goal is to support business-friendly candidates,” Gammons says.
A former Michigan Republican political staffer before he moved to Fort Myers in 2003, Gammons took over a struggling office furniture store in Fort Myers. This year, he expects revenues to hit $18 million, a 20% increase over 2014. Gammons says 2016 could see another 20% increase in sales.
The economy is recovering and companies need furniture to expand their offices in Southwest Florida. “The used furniture surplus is gone, so the pendulum has shifted,” says Gammons.
Companies are eager to design new and efficient offices with open floor plans that encourage collaboration. “Attraction and retention is huge right now,” says Gammons. “The millennial generation is coming to work.”
During the downturn, Gammons expanded the company's offerings to include flooring, and that is now 50% of sales. The diversification was a crucial step. “We wouldn't be in business if we didn't,” Gammons says.
Gammons has landed some big projects recently, including designing and furnishing the executive suite in the new Hertz global headquarters in Estero. “I really appreciate the Hertz guys buying locally,” he says.
The Internet has driven about 15% of sales, though Gammons says buyers still prefer to buy in person at the showroom in Fort Myers. “I thought we were actually going to sell furniture online,” he says. Instead, Gammons says, “it's become a great marketing tool for us.”
Blast from the Past
Here are some of Joe Gammons' answers to a questionnaire he answered when he was a 40 under 40 recipient in 2010:
Education: BA in Political Science
Best place to network: Political events
Business person you admire most: Jack Welch
I can't live without: 24/7 news
Best way to relax and let off steam: Working out at the gym
Book on your nightstand: “Rich Dad Poor Dad”