CEO After Hours with Jeff Keener & Larry Levine, Red Thread

Oct 13, 2015

On Thursday, HYPE members attended an After Hours event with Red Thread CEO Jeff Keener and Red Thread President Larry Levine. Red Thread is a leader in creating innovative work environments, with everything from office furniture, to flooring, to technology and audio visual needs. Their mission is to “demonstrate our value through our comprehensive understanding of workplace trends, through a focus on seamlessly integrating architecture, furniture, and technology, as well as by providing comprehensive services with agility and responsiveness.”

Both Jeff and Larry remarked that no young man grows up wanting to be in the office furniture business, but each agreed that they have enjoyed their careers. Jeff began working for Steelcase, Red Thread’s parent company, right after college and enjoyed 30 years there. Working his way up from sales, to management, to corporate, Jeff was thrilled to take over as CEO of Red Thread a year ago. Larry grew up in West Hartford, and briefly worked in insurance after college. Deciding he wanted to pursue design, he enrolled in Parsons School of Design in New York City. After a year he realized that although he still was passionate about design, it was not his ultimate career desire. Larry began working for a small office furniture company shortly thereafter that grew to one of the largest in the country, with large financial firms making up a bulk of the clientele. After 30 years with the company, Larry wanted to leave New York and return to his home in Connecticut. He happily accepted the role of President of Red Thread, right as the company was involved with a merger and finding its current identity. 

Jeff explained that during this merger, staff was heavily involved in the process. The name itself, Red Thread, comes from a Chinese proverb about an invisible red thread that brings people who are meant to be together, together. It’s this sentiment that makes up the core values of Red Thread; bringing people together to collaborate, work, and innovate. These values can be seen not only in the space they create for clients, but in their own workspace as well. HYPE members were given tours of the facility and all of the science and research behind the designs. Flexibility is a major theme in all of the spaces, with multi use furniture and mobile technology. The Red Thread office is an open environment, but employees have access to other areas for privacy or collaboration. As leaders in innovative technology distribution, Red Thread is focused not only on how to share information within the facility, but outside of it as well. Before a recent redesign, the space invoked an “isolated, heads down culture” Larry remarked. With the redesigned space, the office became a living testament to Red Thread’s mission.

When asked about how the “work from home” trend has impacted business, both Larry and Jeff agreed that it has shifted the way companies are viewing corporate real estate. They have seen an increase in a desire for open floor plans and less of a demand for closed off spaces. Collaborative spaces are in demand, as well as technological solutions to connect those working in two different spaces, both of which Red Thread excel at providing. They were also asked about opportunities for expansion, and while both Jeff and Larry agreed that technology is their big focus, they also mentioned an opportunity to expand their work in laboratories. Again, as work styles are changing, so are the needs within work spaces. Laboratories no longer house one scientist with their respective research, but are more open, shared environments with multiple people working and collaborating at once. While this would require a level of expertise, both agreed it’s an option for expansion.

Jeff explained that you have to understand the client and their needs, from the bottom up, knowing who will influence the companies choices in product and space. This allows them to fully design the most collaborative and innovative work environment tailored to each clients needs. Jeff finds his clients care about their staff, and really embrace what Red Thread does in terms of creating unique work spaces. As Red Thread focuses on the future, Jeff is thinking “how am I going to attract the next generation of workers”, wanting to continue to bring fresh, innovated ideas and people into the company. Larry’s focus on clients is simple; “can we help them make a difference”, a true testament to Red Threads values and mission. 

Thank you Jeff Keener, Larry Levine, and the Red Thread staff for an amazing after hours and tours! Check out all of the event photos here!

                   

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