The Home Furnishings Leadership Institute returns with new classes, but the same mission

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To help you grow your business.

Some of the Home Furnishings Association’s most popular member benefits can’t be measured on your store’s bottom line. Well, not immediately at least. The HFA provides dozens of education opportunities – from one-hour webinars to week-long workshops – to help retailers and their staff grow their businesses over time.

One of our most popular learning programs is also one of the HFA’s newest. The Home Furnishings Leadership Institute at Louisiana State University returns May 6-9 with new classes and professors. For four days, retailers will work with and learn from some of the best and brightest in the retail furniture industry.

The institute will be offered at LSU’s Baton Rouge campus in an interactive environment to maximize participation and collaboration among participants. Topics of study include: Understanding Business Financials and Financial Stability; Strategic Planning and Decision Making; Human Resources/Employee Relations; Technology and Retail Sales and Marketing; Negotiations; and Succession Planning.

The institute is adding a Solutions Room debriefing on the final day – 2 hours to meet and talk with university and industry professors about anything on your mind over lunch.

“The newly added Solution Room will be an opportunity for attendees to take a deep dive into the specific areas you came to discuss,” said Kaprice Crawford, education director for the HFA. “You will join your peers, industry experts and LSU professors to explore high-level strategy and creative approaches to your issues and create solutions.”

The program costs $3,775 for HFA members and $4,770 for non-members. The fee includes tuition, education materials, breakfasts, and lunches for all four days. The first 20 HFA members to be accepted into the program will receive a $1,000 scholarship.

HFA member Tom Olinde, one of the guest instructors last year, believes the institute is the most unique learning program in the country for furniture retailers. “We’ve all been to our share of education sessions within the industry, but these kinds of executive education programs come from an outside perspective,” said Olinde of Olinde’s Mattress Superstores in Baton Rouge, La. “I really think whoever goes will come back to their store motivated, with a higher level of morale and confidence. And they’re going to put what they learned to work.”

HFA member Erin Donaghy wasn’t sure what to expect when she enrolled in last year’s Home Furnishings Leadership Institute. After all, it had been 14 years since she last set foot in a college classroom, but she was willing to give the program the old college try.

Looking back, enrolling in the Home Furnishings Leadership Institute was the single best move Donaghy says she’s ever made in her career. She left inspired and fired up to take what she learned back to her store, Dunk & Bright Furniture, in Syracuse, N.Y.

“It was by far the most rewarding learning experience of my career so far,” said Donaghy. “It brought so much insight into, not just home furnishings, but business as a whole. Leadership is key in this business, and now I feel so much more empowered to be a true leader at our organization.”

Donaghy isn’t alone in her excitement. She and 17 other HFA members took part in last year’s inaugural program. Topics ranged from succession planning, human resources and employee relations to strategic sales and marketing and a host of other issues.

HFA member Lael Thompson of Broyhill Home Collections, Aurora, Colo., no stranger to attending educational seminars during markets or conferences, said the Home Furnishings Leadership Institute was the most concentrated period of education he’s been a part of in the furniture industry.

“It was a beautiful way to look up and see what can be done better versus always looking down on things that our industry is challenged by,” said Thompson. “The program allowed me to assess what I know and revealed what I didn’t know so I can do better moving forward.”

Thompson said holding the program in a traditional campus setting allows for deeper learning by retailers. “You’re more focused,” he said. “It is a true business school setting. You’re not confused with a ton of social distractions and time constraints that can accompany conferences and trade shows.”

Want to learn more about the Home Furnishings Leadership Institute? For more information, visit or contact Kaprice Crawford at or (916) 960-0346.

About the Author

Robert Bell
Robert Bell is Content Editor for the Home Furnishings Association. Email or call him with any news about your store, including expansion, personnel, successful initiatives—anything of interest to HFA members. He can be reached at or 916-757-1169.