Born and raised in Minnesota, Doug Mintz, Owner of Cubicles Plus Office Furnishings, has spent the better part of two and a half decades in the office furniture business. In 2002, after working for a family-owned furniture business for almost seven years – an experience that taught Mintz the ins and outs of the industry – he launched his own business. From unexpected challenges to an evolving growth strategy, Mintz shared the story behind his entrepreneurial journey and offered some great advice for those interested in starting their own business.
“The company I was with before I launched my own business was having financial difficulty,” Mintz said. “They were growing too fast and needed an infusion of cash. When the .com bubble burst, they were too leveraged. By the time 9/11 happened, they were in dire straits.”
Mintz continued, “Around this time, I met someone on the service side of the business and it made a lot of sense for us to simply open our own place. My previous employer was very amicable to the split. I was even able to take my customers with me.”
Mintz quickly secured a location and a showroom to display furniture. The scary part, as he shared, was signing a personal guarantee on a five year lease. Nevertheless, Mintz took the leap and it paid off. The business grew at a substantial clip and Mintz found a niche in servicing the mid-market demographic. He, along with his partner at the time, offered services for transitional companies – from 10 to 100 employees – that most small furniture dealers wouldn’t offer. This included flooring, voice & data cabling, project management, sound masking, and construction services. However, during the 2008 stock market crash, Mintz decided to pivot away from the original distribution model.
“At that point, we made the decision to subcontract everything out,” he said. “We let our employees go and focused more on procurement and marketing. The process with our vendors became seamless and allowed us to expand our services to provide cubicles and office furniture anywhere in the lower 48 states. By doing away with the brick and mortar location, we were also able to relocate to Florida.”
Mintz had relatives in The Villages and knew Florida was where he and his wife wanted to go. He relocated in 2014 and opened a small showroom in Leesburg. Since moving to Florida, Mintz has narrowed his focus on a very specific vertical market.
“Our target audience is small medical clinics with waiting rooms in the front and furniture needed in the back of house,” he said. “In Central Florida alone, there are 14,000 medical clinics. The market potential is tremendous. Our core focus is product lines for this industry to support ergonomic needs, general administrative areas, and patient waiting rooms.”
Mintz still maintains a small business condo in St. Paul, MN, and travels up there every six to seven weeks. According to Mintz, the decision to maintain two locations is strategically driven, but also gives him the opportunity to interact with his clients and maintain existing relationships.
“I really do enjoy the service aspect of this business,” he said. “I also enjoy the problem-solving piece and helping my clients work through the stress of furnishing an office. I still network, market, and sell, but piecing things together like a puzzle is by far my favorite part.”
Looking ahead, Mintz was candid about his future goals for the business. “I want to work less and smarter,” he said. “I’m on a five-year plan to roll off this business and pursue local opportunities in the entertainment industry. In the meantime, I’ll continue to provide quality office furnishings and services competitively in any market across the country. No one – even the big box stores – can touch us when it comes to total value.”
What advice does Mintz have for aspiring entrepreneurs? “Read a book called Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days by Chris Guillebeau,” he said. “It’s perfect for someone stuck in the daily grind that has a bug about starting a business but they’re afraid to get started. It also teaches you how to easily test the viability of your business idea. Another great book is Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive by Harvey Mackay. It focuses on tracking and developing customer relationships.”
Mintz added, “Other advice I have is to avoid a partner if possible. If not, make sure you have a 51% share of everything. In terms of tools for running a business, Quickbooks has been essential. If you’re going to use it, take the time to set it up correctly and do it early. It’s a great piece of software for the price. Lastly, get involved in your community. I discovered a local Rotary Club three years ago. If you have a notion to give back and you want to make good connections with like-minded professionals, Rotary is the way to go.”