May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and we’re sharing the stories of two Asian-owned Business Enterprises part of MillerKnoll’s procurement process and dealer distribution network.
Inclusive design is a part of who we are. Through partnerships with diverse suppliers, we’re fostering opportunities for minority (Black, Asian, Indian, Asian Pacific, Hispanic, and Native-American), women, veteran, service-disabled veterans, hub zone, and LGBTQ+-owned business enterprises to contribute to the support and achievement of our purpose – design for the good of humankind. These businesses play a vital role in our success, and we’re equally committed to theirs – helping them grow, develop, and create economic vibrancy within their communities.
Meet Sang Kang, Owner and CEO, of Global Concepts – a certified Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) and Amanda Chevalier, President, Corporate Facilities of NJ – a certified dealer, MBE and WBE (Woman Business Enterprise).
Sang Kang, Owner and CEO, Global Concepts
Q: Tell us about your journey and how you became the owner of Global Concepts
A: Before Global Concepts, I worked in different industries and countries. I started my career in investment banking, worked in strategy consulting for 10 years in the United States and Korea, and managed construction materials businesses in Shanghai and Beijing for another 10 years covering all of Asia. When my brother and his partners were preparing for retirement, they approached me about Global Concepts. I thought owning and running my own business was a natural last step for my career because it has operating companies in Michigan, Korea, and China. I was excited about working with teams in multiple geographies with a common vision as one team.
Q: How have your personal and professional experiences shaped your role today in leading a company?
A: I learned that a few things do matter to me. First, I learned that the most important role I can and must play as a leader is making the company safe. Secondly, I learned the importance of keeping a company competitive. Sustaining it requires a leader to stay alert and carefully manage growth while avoiding unnecessary high risk to the company. Thirdly, I learned a good work culture matters. We all spend significant hours at work. At Global Concepts, I want our teams to be motivated by performance, teamwork, and their own development.
These ideas are captured in Global Concept’s vision: a safe company, competitive in respective markets, selective growth, and people motivated by performance, teamwork, and development.
Q: Given that MillerKnoll requests our suppliers to also promote diversity and inclusion, how do you promote inclusion and diversity at your organization?
A: We have a Diversity and Inclusion policy which is reviewed during new-hire orientation. It outlines “the company’s commitment to creating and maintaining a diverse and inclusive workforce and doing business with diverse suppliers.” It states, “Diversity embodies all the differences…inclusion entails building an environment where employee differences are valued, employees are empowered, and diverse communities are connected across the enterprise.”
We engage in actions to promote our values in the policy. We seek to recruit, retain, and develop employees of diverse backgrounds. We provide relevant company-wide training such as Implicit Bias training. Whenever feasible, we seek to work with minority and women-owned businesses. We make financial donations, and our employees do volunteer work to assist nonprofit organizations supporting underserved populations in our community.
Q: Why is it important for you to work with businesses like MillerKnoll that value diverse-owned companies within its ecosystem?
A: It is important to us because diversity and inclusion are an important part of our company’s vision and values. Our people come from diverse backgrounds and cultures and work together as a team. It gives us encouragement and conviction to have a big customer like MillerKnoll share our values. It also provides us with learning opportunities and helps us to not be stagnant in our efforts.
The more companies engaged in diversity and inclusion, the greater the difference we can all make. We try to promote diversity and inclusion in our own operations. We try to engage our communities where feasible. When companies such as MillerKnoll show leadership in this space, the impact is big.
Q: How does your company drive savings and innovation within the supply chain?
A: MillerKnoll provides key drivers to our cost savings and innovation: uncompromising quality, demand for cost competitiveness, and new challenges.
When a combination of uncompromising quality and cost competitiveness is demanded, we must find new ways to achieve both. Working in this way drives efficiency and continuous improvement which is built into our company culture. One important element to note in our journey is investing in developing our people. If outsourced, even automation for efficiency becomes expensive. More importantly, automation know-how does not accumulate. The key is to invest in in-house talent, or guardians of uncompromising quality and competitiveness, who always look for and find new ways to perform.
Amanda Chevalier, President and Owner, Corporate Facilities of NJ (CFI-NJ)
Q: Tell us about your career journey and how you became the owner of CFI.
A: I started my career in the hospitality industry after graduating from Cornell University and enjoyed my time in NYC working alongside people from all over the world. In 2001, I started working in the furniture industry because of a family connection and founded CFI-NJ in 2004. The company started with just two of us, my business partner Peggy Kelly and me. We were full of enthusiasm, and it was great being able to make our own decisions without having to go through layers of red tape.
Q: How have your professional and personal experiences intersected? How have they shaped your role today in leading a company?
A: I grew up in a very homogenous town and was always aware of my differences as an Asian American. Inclusivity is a subject near and dear to me because in a lot of ways, I didn’t have it growing up. It's always been really important to me to make people feel welcome and valued - both before and after I was in a leadership position. We are a nation of immigrants. Learning about each other helps us look at our own cognitive biases and see how we can grow as tolerant empathetic humans.
I also have a responsibility to respect the legacy of the company my father, Robert Chevalier, started, and to continue the values that he's always held to be so important – such as respecting the integrity of individuals and treating people with dignity and fairness.
Q: Why is it important for you to work with businesses like MillerKnoll that value diverse-owned companies within their ecosystem?
A: As a board member of the Asian American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia, I see firsthand how valuable it is when larger, more established corporations help smaller, diverse companies trying to get their foothold. It's especially impactful when those allies and advocates outside of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community use their voices on behalf of those smaller businesses. This industry is not the most diverse, so I appreciate any action on the part of large manufacturers helping to rectify this imbalance.
Q: How do you promote inclusion and diversity at your organization?
A: We continue to seek diverse applicants even with the lack of diversity in the talent pool. Additionally, when seeking out vendors, we look for companies owned by minorities and women. Finally, our team members are constantly in communication and providing resources and education to expand their understanding of the diverse fabric of our community, in all aspects of diversity. We are members of the Eastern Minority Supplier Development Council, Women's Business Enterprise Center-East, The Asian American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia, The African American Chamber of Commerce, and Independence Business Alliance (LGBTQ+ chamber).
Both Global Concepts and Corporate Facilities of NJ are certified MBEs by the third-party certifying council: the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC). Corporate Facilities of NJ is also certified by the third-party certifying council: Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). These two national councils hold the standard to ensure our diverse-owned business partners are at least 51% owned, controlled, and operated by the MBEs or WBEs certified within their affiliate regional councils. MillerKnoll relies on these third-party certifying agencies to ensure our supply base is truly inclusive with certified diverse-owned businesses.