Powerful Partnerships: Women Business Enterprises
In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating and sharing stories of two Women Business Enterprises (WBEs) that MillerKnoll has partnered with for more than 30 years as part of the company’s procurement and sales process. Mary Waring, CEO of Western Logistics, is our featured supplier, and Dannine Sheridan and Terri Bianco of the Sheridan Group, are our featured dealer partners for this inspirational story of women building powerful partnerships and strong companies.
Inclusive design is a part of who we are at MillerKnoll. Through partnerships with diverse suppliers and business owners, we’re fostering opportunities for minority (Black, Asian, Indian, Asian Pacific, Hispanic, and Native-American)-owned companies, women business enterprises (WBEs), veterans, service-disabled veterans, Hub Zone businesses, and LGBTQ+-owned business enterprises, to contribute to the support and achievement of our purpose, which is to design for the good of humankind. These businesses play a vital role in our success, and we are equally committed to theirs – helping them grow, develop, and create economic vitality within their communities.
“We are proud of the relationships we have built with Western Logistics and the Sheridan Group, who are both part of our commitment to completing the economic cycle. As part of MillerKnoll’s supplier base and dealer network, they are responsible for getting our products to our clients. They do this by employing people within their communities, adding to the U.S. and global economy, while creating jobs across the globe,” said Adriene Bruce, Senior Supplier Diversity Manager at MillerKnoll. “In our commitment to create a better world, while continuing to delight our customers, we rely on our partnerships with like-minded companies, such as the Sheridan Group and Western Logistics, who are aligned in this end-to-end process.”
Read on to learn more about Mary of Western Logistics, and Dannine and Terri, from the Sheridan Group.
CEO, Western Logistics
2016 – Winner, Enterprising Women of the Year
2021 – Finalist, EY Entrepreneur of the Year
Q: Can you tell us a little about the path you took to become CEO of Western Logistics?
MW: After leaving university, my very first interview and job offer was in the transportation industry. This provided me with opportunities to progress in the freight business through many departments, including marketing and sales, and later various operations. In the 1980’s, I managed a trucking terminal in Saskatchewan, and one later in British Columbia in the air freight division. In an era that was not inclusive for women in leadership roles, I recognize I was fortunate to have a strong mentor who challenged me with those responsibilities at a young age and helped to shape my career.
In 1986, I met Bob Hartin, who was my customer in a successful office furniture dealership. After working together, we formed the concept of an ideal logistics and transport company that would only serve the furniture industry, and Western Logistics was incorporated in 1990.
Q: What is the shared history between Western Logistics and MillerKnoll?
MW: Our mission at Western was to become an excellent specialized service for office furniture. We methodically had to build a wide network of coverage, a unique form of communication pre-alerts, and a transportation model that would be different and highly efficient. In the first five years of development, we focused on expanding the network across Canada and designing an operating system to support it. By 1996, we felt confident enough in our process model to approach the West Michigan market with our offerings, and established a formal branch office in Grand Rapids, MI.
It was thrilling to acquire the support of Herman Miller, Inc., and Knoll, in 1997. The memory of those initial commitments is so vivid and remains firmly with me today. We committed to serving both industry giants with distribution to Canada, and that partnership has continued all these years.
Q: Who would you credit with inspiring or guiding you throughout your career?
MW: I grew up in a family business, led by my father, who taught us that every person needs kindness, and has value. It is in finding and nurturing that value that we find success. He taught us that “all” work of every kind has importance.
My profound and obvious mentor was my business partner of 29 years, Bob, who passed away in 2019. He and I worked together side by side from the first truck to the enterprise it is today.
I have also learned from and been inspired by our employees, who rise to meet the challenges we face in this business every single day.
Q: How do you support diversity and inclusion at Western Logistics?
MW: We have a very diverse employee population at Western Logistics. Our footprint across North America and the nature of the business offers us the opportunity to embrace diverse cultures with many long-term employees we’re viewed more like a family than an employer-employee relationship. At a recent manager’s meeting, we added up the years of service within a group of 16, and the total number of tenured years was 265.
Western Logistics is formally certified by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) in the U.S. and WeConnect, internationally, as we are both a Canadian-based organization and a woman owned, operated and controlled organization. I am also proud to be a local board member of the Act West Foundation here in British Columbia where we support educational pursuits for deserving single mothers who are striving to re-enter the workforce and support their families.
I support other women business leaders by sharing growth strategies as a long-time member of the Women’s Presidents Organization. I am also a member of a global organization called the International Women’s Forum which has 7500 members worldwide committed to advancing women’s leadership and championing equality.
Q. Why is it important for you to work with businesses like MillerKnoll who value diverse-owned companies within its ecosystem?
MW: We are proud to work with MillerKnoll as we have a historic knowledge of both legacy organizations, Herman Miller and Knoll, and their deep-rooted professionalism, standards, excellent processes, and commitment to diversity and inclusion. As an organization that has a culture of family, we feel the responsibility to also have high standards, and to provide work environments that are safe, inclusive and support employees and economies in both Canada and the U.S.
President and Owner, Sheridan Group
and TERRI BIANCO, Vice President, Sheridan Group
Q: Can you tell us a little about the path you took to become owners of the Sheridan Group?
DS: I graduated from University of Southern California with a degree in fine arts and began my career in project management and sales at a furniture dealership. I was working against the status quo in a male-dominated industry, and when I became pregnant with my first child, my male superiors at the firm decided to adjust the role so I wouldn’t be in front of clients. The firm’s lack of flexibility for working mothers and their effort to shield me from clientele fueled my idea to start my own furniture dealership.
After my child was born, I partnered with Terri Bianco and one of the largest design firms in Los Angeles to start a furniture dealership that became Sheridan Group in 1984. Once we joined forces, we positioned ourselves differently than any other furniture dealership in the industry. We built the foundation of Sheridan Group as a family-first business with an emphasis on service excellence instead of salesmanship, a value system that remains true to our business operations today.
Q: What is your company’s history/relationship with MillerKnoll or our brands?
DS: Sheridan Group has had a working relationship with MillerKnoll brands since the beginning. During a time when furniture dealerships weren’t aligned with specific manufacturers, Sheridan Group procured both legacy brands, Herman Miller, Inc., and Knoll, as clients.
As the industry evolved, furniture dealerships were eventually faced with having to align with a specific manufacturer, and although I had positive experiences working with both Herman Miller, Inc., and Knoll, I ultimately decided that Sheridan Group would become a legacy Herman Miller dealer. It’s so exciting that we can now partner with both iconic brands again under the banner of MillerKnoll.
Q: How have your personal and professional experiences shaped your role today in leading a company? Is there anyone who has helped shape or guide your career?
DS: We began our careers in a male dominated industry that put work first instead of family and it motivated us to do things differently. When we launched Sheridan Group, we made a conscious decision to lead the company with a family-first attitude. As working mothers that understood the importance of showing up for our children, this was a matter that was near and dear to our hearts.
Sheridan Group operates as a family-first company today just as much as it did then. I want working parents to have flexibility in their schedules so they’re able to show up for their children’s school performances, sporting events, doctor’s appointments. Etc.
Q: Given that MillerKnoll requests dealers and suppliers to also promote diversity and inclusion, how do you promote inclusion and diversity within your dealership at the Sheridan Group?
TB: Diversity, equity, and inclusion isn’t a trend that Sheridan Group hopped on board with. It’s been a part of our DNA since the very beginning. We see people as people, regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, education, or national origin. Diversity, equity, and inclusion isn’t viewed as a box the company needs to check because it’s always been at the forefront of the way we operate.
We encourage individuality by fostering an environment where people can thrive as their authentic selves. One of the ways Sheridan Group encourages individuality is through togetherness. How can you thrive if you’re never given an opportunity to get away from your desk and show your authentic self to your coworkers? That’s why Sheridan Group hosts monthly events for teammates to step outside of the office and bond on a personal level. In February, we visited the California African American Museum in honor and celebration of Black History Month. In the future, monthly events will include volunteer opportunities for nonprofit organizations, a beach cleanup, nature walk and visits to art and cultural centers around Los Angeles. We care about our people and want to see them thrive in the workplace and the greater community.
Q: Why is it important for you to work with businesses like MillerKnoll who value diverse-owned companies within its ecosystem? How does it support the broader community and other underrepresented communities in development, economic empowerment?
DS: Sheridan Group is a diverse community of 82 people. Currently the company is made up of 61% women and 39% men; of which 48% are White, 38% are Hispanic, 8% are Asian and 6% are Black. Among these employees, the LGBTQ+ and Veteran communities are also represented. Sheridan Group is grateful to employ such a diverse group of people and drive economic empowerment amongst underrepresented communities.
We also find it incredible to work with a company like MillerKnoll who values minority-owned companies within its ecosystem. MillerKnoll’s support empowers Sheridan Group to foster the economic growth of diverse development.