Leading with Design
For more than 60 years, Daubman Corporate Interiors makes commercial workspaces beautiful
In 1962, Andrew Daubman and his father invested $500 to start an office machine repair shop in the basement of their home in Poughkeepsie, New York. Today, their business has evolved into a fourth-generation, family-owned business that is meeting the office furniture needs of commercial customers across the U.S. and into Canada.
Daubman Corporate Interiors is an independent office furniture dealership that specializes in project management, specifying and procuring furniture, handling technology integration and installations for commercial customers, including banks, educational institutions, auto dealerships and office complexes. With its own storage warehouses and delivery trucks, Daubman Corporate Interiors has a full-service team to handle its commercial clients’ needs.
From Equipment Repair to Furniture
As the self-described “old man around here,” Andrew, now 80, shares the story about the company’s founding. Fresh out of college and working as an engineer for the New York State Department of Public Works, he decided he wanted something more in a job. “I wanted to do something where I could control things. I’m the oldest of seven children, and there were a lot of mouths to feed.”
He and his dad bought tools and started an equipment repair shop in their home, repairing office machines such as typewriters, calculators and adding machines. “Pretty soon, customers would ask if they could buy machines from us, so we started selling office equipment, and our customer base grew,” he recalls. “Our clients appreciated the work we did and the diligence we took to meet their needs, so they wanted to buy other products from us, including office furniture.”
Sixty years later, Daubman Corporate Interiors is located in that same original homestead, now showroom, but has two additional warehouses and a fleet of delivery trucks to meet the demand. Andrew’s brothers, Joe and Paul Sr., nephew, Paul Jr., and Paul Jr.’s wife, Sandy, are all partners in the business.
Making Clients Happy
As an independent contract furniture dealer, Daubman Corporate Interiors has numerous furniture manufacturers to choose from in providing solutions for a work environment. “We have a library of different options, so we listen to the client’s needs and pick and choose products from different manufacturers to come up with the best solution,” Sandy says. “We don’t work on commission. Our goal is to make the client happy. We put their needs first. We’re project based,” she adds. “It could be a small classroom or a conference room to an entire multiple-floor building.”
A project begins with measuring the space and designing the furniture layout. As New York state-licensed and board-certified interior designers, the team at Daubman Corporate Interiors not only assists with furniture design, procurement and installation, but also it can help clients with flooring and paint selections. “We meet with the client and discuss what they are looking to accomplish, the aesthetics they prefer and if they have a budget in mind. Then we’ll walk around the showroom to review some of the furniture options,” Sandy says. “The most important part of the whole process is listening,” notes Paul Jr. “We spend time with the client to understand the culture of the end user. After we listen, we educate. We explain what is available.”
A Family Affair
The Daubman Corporate Interiors team has 10 to 12 employees, depending on the time of the year, ranging in age from 21 to 80. “Our employees come from different backgrounds,” Paul Jr. says. “Because for many years it was just our family, we have continued the same quality of work life for our employees as well,” Paul Sr. says. “We rarely work on Saturdays, and Sundays are always reserved for family."
As a third-generation partner in the business, Paul Jr. followed his dad and uncles in working at the company from the early age of 13. At age 21, he married Sandy, who studied architecture in college. “We asked her to join the firm, first part-time, then full time. She was made a partner several years ago,” says Paul Jr. Their son and daughter are the fourth generation of Daubmans to work at the company throughout high school and on college breaks.
Although the five partners don’t have specific job titles, they have certain areas of responsibility. Founding Partner Andrew oversees the financial end of the operation. His brother, Joe, a Licensed Interior Designer and LEED Green Associate, handles field verifications. Described as very hands-on, he can be found in the field doing design and service work. Their brother, Paul Sr., is involved with business development, staying in touch with current clients and expanding the business into new geographic regions. Paul Jr.’s job covers specifications, inside sales and project management, while Sandy, as Lead Designer, is involved in furniture layout and overseeing the finish selection.
“Everyone brings their own unique personality, their wisdom and various strengths to the team,” Sandy says. “It’s magical how we all come together for a common goal of a successful project and a successful business. We treat everyone here as family.” That includes accommodating the schedules of college students so they can attend classes during the day. “We’ve done that for a lot of past employees,” Paul Jr. says. “They all learn good fundamental skills and values here, and that helps them be successful and unique,” he adds.
Design has been a driving force for the company. The firm’s professional staff members belong to the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) and the International Interior Design Association (IIDA). “My uncle, Joe, was the third interior designer licensed by the state of New York,” Paul Jr. recalls.
Valued Community Members
The Daubmans are particularly proud of providing services to local businesses in Poughkeepsie. “If you go to our local colleges and universities, auto dealerships and financial institutions, our furniture is there, and it’s really nice to see that,” Sandy says. “It shows how much people in our community value us.”
One of the firm’s current projects involves furnishing a student center for a local university. The multipurpose building includes a dining hall for students and four unique spaces, called “neighborhoods,” for student activities. Sandy and her design team had to make the four neighborhoods all unique, as well as coordinated, since they are all visible in the open-concept-designed building. “What makes this space special is not only that it is the first thing prospective students and their parents see during campus orientation, but also it is where they finish their college life because career services is located there as well,” Paul Jr. notes.
Since the company constantly changes things in the showroom and builds mockups for various projects, it often donates display furniture to local charities. Employees donate time to local churches, and the company has supported food drives and recovery programs, as well as provided scholarships for local college students.
Staying Current with Industry Trends
Both Sandy and Paul Jr. agree that the peaks and valleys in project workload pose their biggest challenge. In between large projects, the Daubmans take the opportunity to visit manufacturers, showrooms and tradeshows to stay abreast of trends or changes in the industry. They also serve on advisory councils for manufacturers. “It’s an honor as there are very few dealerships that do this,” Paul Jr. says. “Dad and I have been flown out to the manufacturer to help resolve issues. I’m starting my second term of service on the advisory council of the largest seating manufacturer in the country. It’s nice to be able to influence what is going to happen in the industry, but it’s also an honor to see advances in furniture design coming out two to three years before even manufacturing reps are aware of them.”
Word-of-mouth referrals have been the best form of advertising for the firm. “If you do a good job, people will remember and refer you,” Paul Sr. says.
There is a quote from Henry Ford on the company website that sums up the partners’ philosophy in business. “Ford said, ‘Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.’ That’s what we always strive for,” Paul Jr. says. “We get a tremendous amount of cards, letters and emails of appreciation.”
Over the next few years, Paul Jr. says the plan is to slowly and carefully continue to grow. “I’m not talking so much in physical size, but in terms of the value proposition we give our clients,” he says.
“As we continue to grow, we also want to look at how we share the continuity of our company. We may eventually run out of Daubmans,” Andrew jokes. “Leadership roles and ownership will go to our trusted employees.”
Sandy sums up the firm’s future outlook best: “Business for us is all about relationships. We see everybody as family, whether it’s our employees or clients. We’ve been here for 60 years and have survived several recessions and this pandemic. We’re not going anywhere. We’re going to be here for years to come to serve our clients’ furniture and design needs.”