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Bill Becker: Leading Sustainable Innovation as CEO & Founder of BDI Furniture

Bill Becker

Bill Becker is a design leader in the furniture industry. Bill’s mission has always been to create unique and innovative furniture that enhances the quality of everyday life. Founding BDI in 1984, a leading manufacturer of home office, entertainment, and bedroom furniture, Bill now serves as the company’s CEO and Design Director and continues this commitment by creating designs that have a classic modernism and timeless style.

Tell us about yourself and BDI Furniture.

Growing up in a suburb of Washington, DC, I had always been interested in design and technology. I enjoyed taking things apart to learn how they worked. I would often deconstruct and reconstruct technology such as phones, digital clocks, and audio components. I found it fascinating, and I loved envisioning alternative designs.

I grew up in a mid-century modern house that my dad designed and built, which is where my interest in design began. I have memories of visiting Europe and realizing that the design of products there seemed so much better. Whether it was furniture, appliances, or even televisions, everything exuded a design quality that surpassed what I had grown accustomed to in the States.

I decided to pursue Industrial Design in college – the study of the creation of a diverse range of products like cars, appliances, furniture, and smartphones. After a five-year program, my thesis project focused on designers-turned-entrepreneurs. I was fascinated with their multifaceted involvement in product development, from design to manufacturing to sales.

A year out of college, I created a coffee table called “Perimeter”, a unique design included glass with a red painted edge. Recognizing this table’s marketability, I took it to a local Roche Bobois furniture store, which was part of a chain of modern furniture stores based in France. The store offered to let me consign it.

I set up a small business to begin making these tables, and BDI was born.

This initial table design expanded to additional table and mirror designs, and it was not long before I recognized a lack of innovation in home theater furniture. As flat panel TVs emerged, BDI became a pioneer, offering innovative features that supported the new technology, including flow-through ventilation, hidden wheels, adjustable shelves, and vibration-dampening shelf pins. These advancements set new industry standards in home entertainment furniture that are universal today.

BDI has expanded its design offerings to include home office furniture, which blossomed during the work-from-home (WFH) revolution. We recently entered the bedroom category with technologically-inspired furniture.

I take pride in BDI’s commitment to developing products that are not only innovative and visually captivating but that also cater to the demands of modern technology.


What’s the best compliment you’ve ever gotten?

From a young age, I was called creative and tenacious. I didn’t give up easily, and I was not afraid to go and talk to anybody who could help give me greater insights into the business I wanted to grow. Whether it was engaging with industry leaders or pitching my designs, I embraced opportunities to connect and share my vision.


How would your parents describe what you do?

I think they’d be very proud of my accomplishments. In fact, my dad was the one who sparked the idea to create TV stands that had more innovative features. I think my parents would say that my company designs and develops beautiful, innovative, and functional furniture.


What does your morning routine look like?

I am an early riser, engaging in fitness training three mornings a week. On the remaining mornings, I enjoy playing pickleball or going biking. I make it a point to have a healthy breakfast every day and incorporate meditation into my routine a couple of times a week.


What motivated you to start BDI Furniture? How did the idea come about?

There were a few design stores in the Washington, DC area that had what I considered to be beautiful design, and I was really intrigued with those stores. I had the chance to visit the Washington Design Center, which I considered to have an abundance of inspirational designs. But what frustrated me about it – and similar places like it around the nation – is they were inaccessible to the general public.

I thought, “Why must exceptional designs remain hidden within the confines of exclusive design centers, accessible only to those with credentials, connections, or the financial means to hire an interior designer?” It was then that I decided to create a company dedicated to designing products that are readily accessible to all who appreciate outstanding design.

In BDI, I had the opportunity to combine multiple disciplines that I longed to pursue. I had this desire to make great design more accessible, but also pursue my passion for industrial design, manufacturing and supply chain management. The whole process of starting a company energized me from the very beginning.

It is this passion that motivates me and the rest of my team. It’s no accident that today we’re known as a brand that represents good value, great design, excellent customer service, attention to detail, and uncompromising quality.


What was your mission at the beginning of your business?

Undoubtedly, survival is a top priority when launching any business. However, for me, another vital objective was to bring forth exquisite design and ensure its availability and accessibility to all. I found great joy in creating something new that had never before existed and then showing it to potential customers and having them react positively to it. Equally thrilling was the sight of our products displayed on retail floors, marking their journey from conception to tangible reality.

I remember the sense of pride I experienced seeing my tables in the window of Roche Bobois on Madison Avenue in NYC. I loved being able to go into the stores and talk to the sales associates. These interactions allowed me to glean valuable feedback about what they admired, areas for improvement, and potential opportunities.

However, above all, my primary mission was to establish a thriving business that would endure. I aspired to create a company that I could truly be proud of and that employees would want to grow their careers with. That ambition propelled me forward every step of the way.


What do you attribute your success to? Is there a trait you have or a person who has helped you along the way?

I attribute a lot of my success to my curiosity, my tenacity, and my luck in meeting the right people. I have been very fortunate in the connections that I have made internally and externally at BDI, and I never take that for granted.

I have a design driven team that prioritizes quality and attention to detail. They consistently approach design with the goal of evolving and innovating. This approach has proven successful for us, and I am proud to surround myself with a team that lives and breathes our core values daily.

I would also say that BDI has had great partners, fans, and customers, many of whom have been with us since the beginning. They have provided invaluable feedback and advice that has helped guide BDI where we are today.


When times get tough, what would you say motivates you to keep going?

Over 40 years we have encountered challenges, but have always remained committed to long-term goals. During harder times, we’ve regrouped, reevaluated, and engaged in crucial initiatives, ultimately emerging stronger. Driven by a passion for design and a desire to consistently deliver innovative and captivating products, our team is committed to fostering a culture of continuous innovation. This keeps us going.


Employees are one of the most important players in business success. What do you look for in an employee?

At BDI, we are committed to win-win relationships with our customers and suppliers. With employees, we seek a spirit of teamwork and cooperation, where we strive to support each other in our weak spots and help each other shine in our strong areas.

We also want team members who are always focused on the customer and strive to do things better by “sweating” the details. I want a team that is on the same page; team members that are focused on the customers and wanting to please them. I think that’s a common denominator for everyone at BDI. We strive to impress our customers.


What is unique about your business? Is there a competitive advantage that you have over the rest?

According to our customers, our products and service are what set us apart. We are known for our unique ability to combine form with function in our designs. Plus, our commitment to exceptional customer support, top-level sales materials, and a state-of-the-art website ensures unparalleled service.

Our team is also a competitive advantage. We focus on a collective effort, work towards common goals and share a deep understanding of our brand. This alignment and shared vision are crucial for our growth, as they contribute to our overall success.

While we design and engineer everything ourselves, we work with high-performing manufacturing partners, and collaborate closely to ensure our products are of the highest standard. Our customer service and operations teams also excel in supporting customers, aligning with the company’s core values daily. We all work hard and understand the BDI culture, and that is a competitive advantage.


Have you ever disappointed a client or customer? If so, how did you handle the situation?

No matter what checks and processes we put in place, we’re going to disappoint customers every now and then, whether it’s a quality issue or delay in shipping.

Thanks to an excellent customer service team, we stand behind our designs and do everything possible to make things right. That includes supporting customers after each purchase, because the moment they receive their product is just as important as the pre-sale experience.


Is there a type of marketing that has worked for BDI Furniture? If so, how did you stumble upon it?

Having high-profile influencers share positive reviews about our products has been powerful for our business. Plus, our digital marketing strategies can be very effective in getting the message out. But even more so, our satisfied retailers are a valuable part of marketing. There’s nothing better than having a sales associate that has our product on their floor and loves it. They can more effectively talk about our product to the consumer than anyone.


Is there any resource or resources that have helped you on your journey to becoming a business owner?

I was initially a member of the Young Entrepreneurs Organization (YEO), then Entrepreneurs Organization, and I gained valuable knowledge from peers who shared experiences and best practices in business.

I’ve now been in Vistage for over a decade and have found it invaluable to be around like-minded professionals, learning and sharing ideas and learned invaluable insights from suppliers & customers over the years.


What are the three best pieces of advice that you would give to women starting a business? What do they need to know from the very beginning?

Over 70-80% of women drive consumer purchasing, including home furniture, making women a crucial leadership role in the industry. So my advice is:

  • Dream big and don’t be daunted by naysayers: Starting a business often involves encountering preconceived notions about yourself and your capabilities, as well as naysayers. There will always be those who can’t understand your dreams and potential for success. Don’t let it sway you.
  • Build a supportive network: A strong support network–including family, friends, mentors, and partners–helps maintain motivation and offers valuable advice and guidance as you grow. Be open to learning from others, even if they may not always agree or be right. Be curious, ask questions, and try to stay humble. There’s always more to learn.
  • Be willing to take risks and learn from your mistakes: Starting a business often involves taking risks, so you must be willing to step out of your comfort zone. You may make mistakes along the way, but learning from them and using them as opportunities to grow and improve your business is important.
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