Stephen Weed's first job out of college was as a police officer.
The 34-year-old, who became CEO of Orlando office furniture firm Interior Contract Services Inc. in January, went through the police academy to help pay his way through college at Columbia Southern University in Alabama. Weed worked as an officer into senior law enforcement leadership roles during several years at Lilburn Police Department in Lilburn, Georgia, and later with Georgia's Gwinnett County prosecutor's office as an investigator.
Weed even won a lifesaving award in 2010 from the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce along with other Lilburn officers after he helped saved the life of a woman during floods in the Atlanta area.
“That’s why, when I stepped into the role and realized we supported a lot of the agencies with their office furniture, I loved it," Weed told Orlando Business Journal. "I was like ‘Oh yeah, this is from a former life, I know what this is about.’”
Weed, who later worked as a contractor with the U.S. Department of the Treasury doing financial compliance work as well as in the finance department of AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), now is looking to continue the growth of his company. The 23-employee firm's goal is to reach $10 million in annual sales in the next three to five years.
Here, Weed talks what he has been working on and some of the challenges he faces in his new role:
What have you been prioritizing since you took on the role? I think for me it was looking at our strategic relationships with customers we’ve had, and one thing I’ve advocated for is reaching new customers, which we have had a push for. Also driving some more folks into the company to change the feel of the company. My uncle Larry Weed, who is now chairman, had been with the company since 1983 and many of our staff have been with us for a long time. We are grateful for that, but also we are trying to diversify our workforce — adding in new hires has been pretty awesome. We’ve had some Seminole State College and University of Central Florida folks with us.
What is one of the biggest challenges you have faced? There is a ton of competition in our market. It seems like every day there is a new office furniture dealer coming into Orlando. That’s always a challenge, because you not only are dealing with 15 to 20 dealers within the city, but you also are trying to give customers their best pricing while trying to make margins so you can run a business. I had no idea there was so much competition within the industry in this market.
How has it been to work in the market as a young CEO? For us, because we are a small business, I’ve had to step into a sales role or an operations role. I’ve had a couple instances where I’ve called a customer directly and am dealing with them on a project. I may not be working with the project lead, but someone else in the organization, and they’ll ask what I do and I say, ‘Oh, I’m the CEO.” The face of business has changed. Every age and culture is stepping into leadership positions, not just in Orlando, but across the country. I really love the story we have to share, and I think being authentic and consistent to who we are is huge to use. I think that’s an advantage for us compared to our competition, because many do not even have a place in Orlando, they may just have a couple of warm bodies in the area looking for a deal. But we’ve been off John Young Parkway for a hot minute.
What knowledge have you brought in from past positions? When I was in government, even in a contract capacity and when I was working for state government in Georgia, ethics, integrity and doing business the right way was a huge part of it. In my former life, I worked on cases that involved that. Thankfully, we have never had an issue with that, but I really stress to our employees that integrity and doing the right thing is everything. That is important, because we do a lot government work, and we really need to be mindful that some of our clients are using money from the general public. That is something where I came in from the government side and have been really hyper-focused on.
What interests do you have outside the business world? I am a big fitness guy, so I love staying active. I have two little ones, so they keep me pretty active and on my toes. I love college basketball, college football and concerts, especially country music. I like some of the old country music, but some of the newer music is good, as well.
Stephen Weed, CEO, Interior Contract Services Inc.
- Job description: Leads corporate operations for the company, such as building area relationships and guiding company decisions
- Education: Bachelor's in criminal justice, Columbia Southern University; masters in human services, Liberty University
- Work address: 3939 N John Young Pkwy, Suite 100, Orlando 32804
- Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.interiorcontract.com