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The Only Constant is Change

As I prepared to blog about our recent visit from Greg Dekker – Teknion Workplace Strategy Director, who presented a CEU on, “Change Management,” I googled “Change Management,” as to best define the popular conversation topic; in this case, Wiki says it best.

Change Management – Globalization and the constant innovation of technology result in a constantly evolving business environment. Phenomena such as social media and mobile adaptability have revolutionized business and the effect of this is an ever increasing need for change, and therefore change management. The growth in technology also has a secondary effect of increasing the availability and therefore accountability of knowledge. Easily accessible information has resulted in unprecedented scrutiny from stockholders and the media and pressure on management.
With the business environment experiencing so much change, organizations must then learn to become comfortable with change as well. Therefore, the ability to manage and adapt to organizational change is an essential ability required in the workplace today. Yet, major and rapid organizational change is profoundly difficult because the structure, culture, and routines of organizations often reflect a persistent and difficult-to-remove “imprint” of past periods, which are resistant to radical change even as the current environment of the organization changes rapidly.[10]
Due to the growth of technology, modern organizational change is largely motivated by exterior innovations rather than internal moves. When these developments occur, the organizations that adapt quickest create a competitive advantage for themselves, while the companies that refuse to change get left behind.[11] This can result in drastic profit and/or market share losses.
Organizational change directly affects all departments from the entry level employee to senior management. The entire company must learn how to handle changes to the organization.
So, yeah, what Wiki said. Change is the only constant in life; change or become obsolete…and recognize that when change occurs, it directly effects all aspects of an organization; internal and external.

Greg’s approach to change management could largely be summed up as, “Listen, teach, promote.” In fact, that’s exactly the exercise he uses to close his CEU.

Greg Dekker KC

change quoteWithin the framework of Listen -Teach- Promote, keep these tips in mind:
Pushback to change is based in FEAR. Help your teams identify and address those fears. (see Blog Part 2 for some ideas shared on how to engage your team in activities to uncover those fears. How’s that for a cliffhanger?)
Be consistent with your message – tell the WHY for the change, WHAT they GET with the change, WHAT stays the SAME, WHAT they get MORE of, WHAT they get LESS of, and WHAT is being TRADED (this for that).
The messages on change should come from two sources CEO – or highest level and that team’s/employee’s Direct Supervisor. Do this face to face preferably!
Plan for opposition; address the “elephant in the room.” If there is a known topic of opposition, acknowledge it from the get go of the conversations.

Stay tuned for our next blog on some tools and resources on how to engage conversations unveiling fears and opposition regarding change in our upcoming blog!

OJ, Rachel, & Windows….welcome to 1995!

We drove Ford Escorts, gathered with FRIENDS weekly at “Central Perk” and “Windows ‘95” had us all abuzz. The year was 1995. “The Rachel” hairstyle was all the rage, the “OJ scandal” had nothing to do with a Citrus Beverage shortage and cell phones hardly fit in your briefcase, let alone pocket.
1995…where were you? 1995 was a pivotal year for one entrepreneurial spirited Designer, it was the year Beth Anne Branden started BA Designs in Topeka, KS. More specifically, her humble beginnings were in the Engine Department of her family’s Caterpillar dealership. The story goes that Beth Anne had “a” desk in the unoccupied corner of the department. She quickly expanded to a team of 2, then 3 as her business and success grew. Beth Anne still credits her 20 years of success as a small business owner to the practices and work ethic she learned in the halls of Martin Tractor: To provide your customers with impeccable service, invest in your most valuable asset – your people, and pay it forward.
Next month BA Designs will launch the first of many celebrations regarding this milestone- as it was February 1995 that the “BA Designs” sign was hung on the wall of that corner desk in the Engine Department of Martin Tractor.
For the past 7,300 days BA Designs has navigated the ever-changing economical and organizational shifts required to not only survive, but thrive as a small business owner. ..we hope you’ll celebrate this milestone with us. Be sure to “like” us on Facebook and follow us on LinkedIn to be a part of our year long tribute!
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20 years ago Friends

20 years ago Microsoft

20 years ago OJ

20 years phone

A 2015 Vision Board/Implementation of Intentions/New Year’s Resolution (chose one) Revelation


Implimentation of Intentions Vision Board

And so it goes, 2014 and a host of things it ushered with it, in mere hours at this point.  A time of reflection, a time of getting “back on the wagon,” a time of refocusing on what we say we want in life. More quality time with family? Better health?  More sales?  A bigger, better _________________. Or perhaps your reflecting has you looking for less?  Less around your middle, less debt, less stress, fewer health issues….the list goes on and on.

Each year millions of us face the first of a new year with a litany of wants & desires. Typically this time of year finds us fresh off the overindulgence binge of the year. Whether that be, Aunt Mary’s Peanut Butter Fudge,  imbibing with the local craft brew of choice a bit too often,  marathon  “Bowl” watching, or spending  an obscene amount of money (or not so obscene, but well outside your own budget) on gifts that will soon enough be forgotten, consumed or deflated.  Side bar:  Gift Fail of 2014 – The Wubble Bubble.  Epic fail. Epic. What was just days ago getting ripped off store endcaps by manic Grandma’s and parents alike,  and children thought of as a magical, mystical, oversized bubble of fun and excitement for at least one 10 year old, has now ushered in the harsh reality of “bigger isn’t always better,” and that no, everything you see advertised on TV is the truth.  Overindulgence, we buy into it in every sense of the word.

But wait, there is redemption…it comes with all the hopes & dreams of hitting the “restart” button,  of doing better this time, getting it right,  it’s the NEW YEAR! That’s why we make “resolutions” – to know better, do better,  and BE BETTER, right? At least, that’s the fairy tale dream we share. In truth, something like 8% of resolutions come to fruition, 8%.  That’s it.  Not exactly impressive.  Knowing that,  should we just embrace our sloth like, slacker natural tendencies and not even bother trying to “know better, do better and BE BETTER?” Some may say, “Yes”, but we all know that good things take hard work, dedication and sacrifice. So, how do you turn those “resolutions” into something that takes you well beyond February 1st (and that’s being generous) and truly helps you achieve your goals?

Enter the “Implementation of Intentions” theory, essentially it is taking resolutions and giving them some weight. It’s taking a goal and framing it in a,  “If….then” scenario.  In my mind it’s the realistic way of goal-setting, recognizing your humanity and that the universe will not make achieving these tasks easy-breezy. Trying to lose weight or eat healthier? Here is an example of this type of goal-framing,  “If I feel like I need to eat that chocolate, then I will eat an apple instead” Because OF COURSE you will WANT to eat the chocolate! Statistically, Implementation of Intentions yields far more desirable ratios of achieving the goals you’ve set forth.  Set yourself up for success this 2015 and draft your “If…then” Intentions and let me know how you’re doing with those come Spring; “If” you spell out your goals, “Then” they will come into being.”  At least that’s my “Implementation of Intention” statement for this piece.

Happy 2015, may it be meaningful and prosperous for us all!

Imitation is the highest form of flattery they say…..

If imitation is indeed the highest form of flattery, then after 3.8 Billion years of perfecting something, why wouldn’t it be imitated? That’s precisely how the study and practice of biomimicry came to fruition.




1. the design and production of materials, structures, and systems that are modeled on biological entities and processes.

Put another way, “biomimicry is an innovation method that seeks sustainable solutions by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies, e.g., a solar cell inspired by a leaf. The goal is to create products, processes, and policies—new ways of living—that are well-adapted to life on earth over the long haul” (

Practitioners of Biomimicry subscribe to the idea of capitalizing on what we have already studied and know and implementing it into our world as a sustainable solution to our  21st Century problems.

Drones that are designed based on the structure and qualities of a honeybee, owls fly without creating turbulence or noise, schools of fishes swim using less energy…these are just some of the examples of how nature is inspiring technology. Biomimicry influences innovation at its core; from engineering, to technology, to architecture to all aspects of design.

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For centuries nature has influenced design, especially recognized in architecture and technology. This fairly new paradigm raises the bar on not only design, but integrates a  compelling green story as we push the envelope of innovative solutions for our growing, ever-more complex world.


Beth Anne Branden; Small business owner, Interior Designer, and self proclaimed, “Dog Grandma”


Beth Anne Branden started BA Designs 19 years ago.  The first BA Designs office was actually housed on the 2nd floor, within the “Engine Division” of Martin Tractor Company , which Beth Anne’s family owned. The story goes her first, “desk,” was actually a folding table; ironic, for someone that quickly expanded from design services to… furniture dealer.

Beth Anne hasn’t always worked in the Interiors/Commercial Furniture industry; in college she could be found at Johnny’s Bar in North Lawrence.  And no, we don’t mean as a typical college student, she worked there, as a bartender! Upon completing her degree from KU,  Beth Anne accepted a role with a Kansas City furniture dealer as an Interior Designer.

Being a small business owner certainly has it’s share of ups & downs. Beth Anne says one of her most memorable “ups” moments came when the annual sales for the year were targeted at 3 million dollars and BA Designs was awarded a military project eclipsing 3.3 million dollars that same year.  If only annual sales goals were routinely met in one single job!!

The wonderful mentors, such as Beth Anne’s Dad, Harry Craig, Jr., and other Martin Tractor Company employees is who Beth Anne credits as her early influencers/teachers; as well as her design colleagues at BA Designs who she learns from every day.

When not space planning, meeting with clients, networking, or overseeing the daily nuisances of being a business owner, Beth Anne enjoys being “Grandma” to her two “Granddogs,”  Zoe  & Bailey and relaxing with her very handy husband and work colleague, Russ.

Meet our spirited Senior Interior Designer : Janie Bartee

janie mexicoJanie  1998

janie-bartee1  janie royals

And by,  “spirited,” we mean that in both personality and as a passionate sports & NASCAR fan kind of way!  She’s got the team/favorite driver bling, swag wear and feverishly follows and supports her KC Royals, KSU Wildcats, Denver Broncos and her favorite NASCAR drivers!

Janie has been at BA Designs for the past 16 years, she obtained her NCIDQ certification in 2008 and considers her knack for space –planning a byproduct of her years committed to the health, safety and well being of occupants within any space.

She says a favorite Sales Award trip sponsored by National Office, to Rivera Maya, Mexico in 2011 was amazing for a couple of reasons:   top-notch service, hospitality, the resort itself…and that National Office really knows how to throw a party to make you feel appreciated!

Her “creepiest” professional experience was when called upon to inventory a clients existing furniture in the basement of a funeral home. Ever the professional, Janie dismissed the dimly lit basement, cobwebs, dead rodents and started the task. However, as she worked she couldn’t help but notice the surrounding “funeral equipment” and other paraphernalia; she was quickly distracted and found herself sprinting to the nearest exit to escape, er, leave. She never did complete the inventory.

Being that Janie is so impassioned about NASCAR and her sports teams, it’s no surprise that her favorite junk food is corn dogs. Janie says “a) they are AWESOME, b) it brings back memories of my childhood and c) it’s the perfect concession meal at any fair, game or race!”


Tank Retriever, a professional precursor to the role of Director of Business Development: Meet Dwight Zwiener

Dwight KS Army National Guard dwight-zwiener1 Dwight Photo At MTC Desk

Dwight Zwiener was in the Kansas Army National Guard as a Tank Retriever, his job was to remove the tanks embedded in the muck and mud and tow back to the Armory. Often times, the soldiers themselves were all but emerged in the mud and muck attaching the tow line to the tank; if a tank got stuck in the morning, you were in for a long, wet, mud dried all over you kinda day.  Somehow getting muddy later in the day, made the job more palatable, I’m told.

After his service in the Kansas Army National Guard, and his first civilian job, Dwight found his way to Martin Tractor, a Caterpillar Dealer in Topeka, where he worked for almost 25 years, most recently as VP of Corporate Interaction. Martin Tractor was a family business, one with ties to BA Designs, through familial ownership, so Dwight was quite knowledgeable about BA Designs when he took on the role 4 ½ years ago of Director of Business Development.

Dwight points to all his various roles contributing to his strength in forecasting and strategic planning, as well as marketing skills and credit’s his year of teaching Imagine 21 (a personal development course) classes at Martin Tractor as one of his best professional endeavors.

When not cheering on his Pitt State Gorillas (which is quite often, he’s a diehard Gorilla), honing his Photoshop skills, or indulging in his guilty pleasure of eating Lays Potato chips and endlessly channel surfing, Dwight can be found spending time with his wife of 45 years, Nancy.

Say What??????

No really, what did you say?  I didn’t hear you.   Sound.  If you aren’t talking about it in your home regarding earbuds/volume, you’re bound to be talking about it at work.  From exterior noise pollution (that construction going on next door, traffic, etc…) to the coworker that is far too loud on the phone in your open office workspace.  There are some serious conversations going on in the world about sound and noise pollution; along with those conversations, some staggering statistics are being dropped regarding youth with hearing damage and how our threshold of, “what is loud?” has changed.

Have you heard of the “Lombard Effect?”  It’s the phenomena similar to that of speaking to a foreign language speaker, in your native tongue, only LOUDER (and typically  s l o w e r, for that matter),           “H I,   W  H A T  I S   Y O U R

N A M E?”  The “Lombard Effect”  is how we raise our voice to be heard in a noisy environment.   Noise distractions account for a multitude of issues and aliments related to our concentration, state of mind, stress level, and physical auditory health.

Julian Treasure with, The Sound Agency, talks about noise pollution and ways to combat it frequently in his TED talks.  One way to combat noise pollution is one of the perpetrators of hearing damage itself, earphones.  But covering up noise with more or louder, “noise” isn’t the fix. Sound is a pretty complex topic;  one must consider frequency and decibels, as well as content when exploring non-polluting noise.  For instance, listening to music at an appropriate decibel and via quality earphones, can help reduce stress levels, measurable reductions in blood pressure, etc… In fact, if you really want to de-stress and do your ears and concentration a favor, listen to bird calls, or so the data says.

What if you don’t work in a role or place that you can don earbuds most of your day for heads-down concentration?  If you are in an office space, and certainly an OPEN office concept, there is a solution to noise pollution, both exterior and internally produced – it’s sound masking. Sound masking in one study was found to increase employee concentration up to 46% more and increase short term accuracy by 10% to their non-sound masked counterparts.  Sound masking isn’t the same as, “white noise” – there is a science behind it,  a vocal range and calibrating that is adjusted based on the space, the users preference,  and the type of business establishment. Sound masking can be as progressive / tech forward or as fundamental as the end user deems appropriate.  In an age of competitive recruitment and “selling” company culture as part of the package,  as well as HIPAA and other mandated standards/practices, conversations about sound masking and the benefits it brings with it, is something every company should be listening to.


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The Black List-addict and our Director of Design: Meet Stacey Utech

BA Designs has been in business almost 20 years and Stacey Utech, Director of Design, has been working here almost the entire time. Stacey graduated from KSU with a degree in Interior Design and started working for a Topeka furniture dealer, about 27 years ago (quite amazing considering she is only 29!) It was there that she met her future employer, Beth Ann Branden – BA Designs owner, and coworker, Janie Bartee. (That’s right, this trio has been working together and building a friendship for some 27 years, imagine the stories they could tell (and tell they do – the ones from our annual “roast” being most entertaining!)

Stacey credits that first job for the steep learning curve to the nuances’ and attention to detail required to successfully and accurately specify furniture and finishes that she continues to use daily in her space planning and interior projects. She has seen a lot of trends come and go, and return again in the industry, as well as had many opportunities to celebrate her Design and Sales successes! Her favorite celebration to date was a one week, trip for two to Prague that she earned through Kimball Office last year. It was her first time to Europe and she proclaims Prague to be, “the most romantic and beautiful city I’ve ever seen!”

When Stacey isn’t traveling Europe, catching the latest episode of, The Voice or The Black List, or planning spaces & specifying furniture, she likes to create jewelry and décor items out of fused glass and copper, her wares can be found at, check it out!

stacey-utech1 Janie Beth Anne Stacey 1998 Photo Stacey Prague SU - Copper Snob



If You Build It…

If you build it they will come… that’s the infamous line from, “Field of Dreams,” referencing the manic like actions of Ray Kinsella, who mowed down part of his family’s corn field and built a baseball diamond for “Ghostly players” of the past to haunt, by way of a good ole’ game of baseball.  Much like the tooth fairy, Santa & others akin to the, “you must believe to receive” philosophy; if you had the love of the game, you could see the players and enjoy watching them play.  If you didn’t, you saw the abyss of lost profits from his once corn rich field & questioned the sanity of Ray and his family.

If you build it they will come…It’s hard not be a baseball fan in Kansas City. We have the Negro Baseball League Hall of Fame, a rich baseball history, numerous sought-after Architecture firms that specialize in stadium design (Populous, HOK, Crawford, to name a few) and of course our beloved Boys in Blue, the Kansas City Royals.  Beloved especially this year (Go Royals!)

Baseball has hit a fever pitch in Kansas City, it may have waned a bit with recent (ok, the last 30 years or so) team performance, but it is alive & well today! What makes baseball so beloved? Is it the strategy involved? The memories of, “I was here when….” that generations share with the next? The sights, the sounds? I’d say, it’s the experience of it all.  What’s interesting to watch is how the EXPERIENCE has changed over the years. Without going into the ins & outs of player contracts, team ownership, recruitment, etc… you cannot deny how the stadiums themselves dictate a large portion of how the ball park is experienced. In the age of Jumbotrons playing live feeds of selected, “tweets,” from fans & paperless tickets by way of your smart phone; how these firms design the space is quite a feat! The evolution of the “experience” is one of the preeminent factors. The aforementioned Kansas City A & D firms have an impressive  portfolio of work. They are some of the players in the niche market of creating not only beautiful, aesthetic and architecturally savvy new stadium designs and remodels. That goes without saying, they are also charged with equipping the space with what the fans want and expect from the experience.  That’s got to be tricky – what do fans want?  I’d say, every fan wants something different, (except the uniform desire for their team to prevail, give a good show and perhaps for the cost of parking and beer to be capped, and soon!) Giving the fans the experience they want means different things to different people. I’m old school & funny enough, a very recent baseball fan, by way of being a recent baseball Mom.  I don’t need the bells and whistles. I need a little leg room, a semi decent view of the field (or Jumbrotron to follow along) and some good baseball to watch, learn from, and enjoy.

While I know the latest and greatest concourse amenities are a sizeable ‘want,’ I prefer the not-so simple game of baseball in a simpler environment (caveat: an app that allows ease of concession use- where you order and charge your order from the comfort of your seat, would be welcomed.) Housing tens of thousands of fans at a time, and appealing to the masses, seems overwhelming, as not everyone shares my “old school” preference. I recently went to Wrigley Field for the first time, for both a game and a non-game day tour. From the moment we left the concourse, I felt it. I felt a part of the game. Not just “the experience”, but the game. No Jumbotron, the infamous hand-turned score board, incredibly limited advertising, the size and scope of the stadium itself. It was…..awesome. I can’t lie, but that’s me, it’s what I like.

Imagine all that the Designers and Architects who create these stadiums have to consider while conceptualizing these mammoth projects. It has to be many different things to many different people, who come together for the love of the game.

Aside from a winning team to cheer on, what do you need at a ball field to make your “experience” all that it can be?

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