Mills finds a home in family business

Joel Jacobson
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Profiles in Success

Matthew Mills didn't decide on a career choice until...

Matthew Mills

Matthew Mills didn't decide on a career choice until after he finished university and worked in the public sector for a year or too.

Then, 18 months ago, the 26-year-old took the plunge into the family business and, while learning from the ground up, knows this is where his future lies.

Office Interiors, a Burnside-based major supplier of office furniture, design and equipment, serves Atlantic Canada. It's a busy place, perfect for a young man to establish himself in a thriving business.

"I really started here when I was 12, " says the son of company owner and president, Jim Mills. "I worked in the warehouse in summers and weekends, and during vacations while at Acadia (University), I was here in accounting," Matthew says.

Matthew had no idea what he wanted to do when he left Dartmouth High for university.

"My dad told me to do what I wanted to do, that'd he'd support me no matter what," Matthew recalls.

Jim notes he thought it would be "nice to have one of his four children work in the business with me, but I was very conscious not to put expectations on them. But if they wanted to join the company, I wanted them to work continuously elsewhere for at least a year."

Matthew took arts courses plus marketing and accounting at Acadia, and, at the end, knew he wanted to be in business somewhere. He spent a couple of years in financial services in the public sector, but two years ago – feeling unchallenged – he started thinking about the family business.

He saw an ad for a sales position at Office Interiors and, unknown to his father, applied. He got the job.

"I wouldn't create a role for them (Matthew and Alex, 25, who came on board as a project manager six months ago)," Jim says. "They had to have something applicable."

Sales was totally opposite to what Matthew had been doing. He admits he was an introvert in high school, but came out of his shell at Acadia. He says he needed the challenge (of sales), something difficult through which he wouldn't be able to coast.

"It's hard work," Matthew says, "but it's great being out there, meeting people. I have four or five major accounts and many smaller ones, plus I'm always developing new business."

Matthew now expects Office Interiors to be his future.

"I'm enjoying what I do, with no plans to change. They appreciate that I'm going to be here."

He's learning other phases of the business, too, such as imaging, workstation design and furniture, and he's learning from people who have been there 20 years or more.

Jim is pleased.

"So far, so good. They've worked hard, even while being always watched as the boss's sons. I've made sure they've had a boss other than me."

Will Matthew be the head honcho some day?

Matthew laughs. "While Alex and I may run it someday, I think (Jim) wants to work until they carry him out."

Jim adds, "I'm only 52, so I have work left to do myself. I want them to be immersed in the business and be sure it's what they want to do."

While there's no direct succession plan, the sons know the business is theirs to grow and they'll get complete cooperation from the man at the top.

Organizations: Office Interiors

Geographic location: Atlantic Canada

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