If These Tables Could Talk

Four Utah entrepreneurs share the inspiration behind their conference tables.

Great minds think alike and great entrepreneurs know that a strong culture, exceptional teams and an inspiring work space make all the difference. Or at least four Utah entrepreneurs do. The head honchos at Cotopaxi, Jane.com, Traeger, and MX all have conference tables that speak to the mission of their brands and the culture of their companies. But while the idea is the same, the tables are markedly different, and represent each company’s specific strengths.

Employees at Cotopaxi gather around a table made from recycled bowling lanes. “We believe in making great products out of materials that otherwise would have gone to waste,” says Cotopaxi CEO Davis Smith.

“Our company makes amazing outdoor gear and apparel and some of our bestselling gear is actually made of remnant material at our factories.” Smith says everyone loves the table, especially when they realize it was once part of a bowling alley.

Mike McEwan, Megan McEwan, and their Jane.com team have their meetings around a custom-built table. The base of the table is constructed of solid steel and the last four feet of each end is cantilevered. The McEwans purposefully designed the top of the table so the direction of the grain runs perpendicular to the length of table. They also choose not to keep chairs at either head, symbolizing the collaborative environment the founders want to cultivate.

“We have a very collaborative culture,” Mike McEwan says. We want to inspire the best ideas, and know they don’t reside within a single individual, but a collective of brilliant people. “

At Traeger, everyone in their office admires the 15-foot custom designed conference table. The tabletop is an impressive combination of Walnut and Bigtooth Maple. The rich wood sections were salvaged from fallen trees in Oregon, where Traeger originated. Raw steel elements with expressed fasteners represent the quality metal used to construct Traeger grills.

“The table is a continual conversation piece,” says Traeger CEO Jeremy Andrus. The story behind the table encompasses the Traeger brand and draws in team members and visitors alike. Elements of wood, fire, and metal, mingled with smoke from Traeger’s demo kitchen and outdoor patio grills, allows the Traeger office space to boldly convey the company’s tagline to visitors, “Welcome to the Wood Fired Revolution.”

MX CEO Ryan Caldwell looked at a number of commercial conference tables, before seeking a unique alternative. “So many options seemed cheap and flimsy,” Caldwell explains. So he went with the sturdiest alternative possible. The custom design table, made from concrete, had to be lifted to the fifth floor with a crane, and required over twenty people to get it installed. People stood on the table surface while welders secured the legs.

“There’s an actual deep cultural commitment to the stability and solidity of what we’re building. It shows in everything we do, even our conference table,” Caldwell says. “We’ve received a lot of awards for our user interface, but it’s the MX platform itself that is doing the heavy lifting. The surface of the table looks like it was cut with a laser, but beneath it you find a solid foundation. Eighty to ninety percent of what MX does is that foundation of data, even though it’s the user interface — the surface — that gets much of the attention. We wanted to remind all team members, partners, existing customers and prospects of that solid foundation and scalable platform — 50 people could stand on this table and it wouldn’t break.”

As evidenced by these four entrepreneurs and the successful companies they’ve built, brand culture can be infused in every part of the business, even the office furnishings.

All of the entrepreneurs featured in this article have participated in the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® Utah Region program. As the world’s most prestigious business award for entrepreneurs, Entrepreneur Of The Year has recognized more than 10,000 inspiring trailblazers in over 145 cities and 60 countries. Join the conversation on social media by following @EY_EOYUS using #EOYSLC.


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