ISA International Inc.
Art Sandler founded ISA International Inc. in 1976. This one man operation at the time grew conservatively, focusing on servicing the customer with thorough understanding of customers needs and finding innovative ways to best satisfy these needs. “I know this sound like a cliché, but it’s true. This is how the company succeeded and grew to this day,” says Kevin Sandler, Vice-President of ISA International Inc.
As ISA International evolved, the company became one of the leading furniture suppliers synonymous with high quality, innovative designs, and well known installations across North America.
Sticking to the fundamentals of exceptional service, the company grew into a 90,000 square foot facility with 55 employees, and a stock of 25,000 to 30,000 chairs at any given time. “Our [product] range is chairs and tables, and a significant part of our production – about 25 to 30 per cent – is custom furniture.
Customers may like certain elements from one design, and certain elements from another design, so it’s up to our team to make it serve the purpose of the product. For example, we provide furnishings for healthcare and assisted living, and we also do quite a bit of retail store planning, libraries and offices,” says Sandler.
The company clients range from independent restaurant proprietors, to large corporations such as Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment, Marriott, or Fairview. With such large accounts, timing of production and delivery can represent a significant challenge. Sandler says that these organizations understand the necessary timelines, and structure their ordering accordingly. However, if an emergency situation may arise, the company’s in-stock inventory of 25,000 to 30,000 units at the time offers a solid support for such situation.
While the extensive company inventory allows ISA International to provide the products on tight deadlines, Sandler sees the company’s biggest strength in listening to the customer. “We’re asking a lot of questions during the design stages. We need to be curious about the projects so we know what the client needs,” says Sandler. And it is often the case that the customer uses ISA’s management to find new options and solutions to the planned designs, and seeking alternatives and professional advice.
“We’re using the highest quality of finishes and tones. About half of our product is shipped to the U.S., and the other half is usually outside of the [Ontario] province. All of our products are built by hand [nothing is done by robots]. The last people in the production line are those who ship the product, and who liaise with the customer the logistics of how to deliver the product. This is where we want a person that is as engaging as the salesperson who landed the project. Our goal is to exceed customer expectations,” says Sandler.
To provide clients with what they want – or make them understand that there may be a better solution for their project – ISA International prides in its collaborative approach and relationships with the architectural and design communities, working closely with professionals to deliver custom solutions for their design vision.
As to the clients’ inspiration, whether it’s a magazine or web, ISA International’s experienced team can quickly comprehend the designs intended, understand what it would take to build the design, and what would be the budget needed.
ISA International deals with clients who are design-driven, which allows the company to stay focused on customer objectives. “In terms of our product, we’ve always used the best material available whether it be lumber, stain, foam, or springs, down to the glides that protect the floor. The essence of the company is based on design, quality and service with value. Because many of our customers have substantial budgets, it gives us the ability to develop products that are design driven. It’s our customers who lead us down a path based on their vision. We deal with the top designers and architects who have a project, a budget, and an inspiration,” says Sandler.
To remain on top of the latest furniture trends, ISA International frequents the European design and furniture shows, with special focus on fairs in Milan, keeping up with the new and trendy designs that are coming into the market. The company makes it a point working with the best European designs for their clients. “You see different materials at the shows, and you see what you would like to bring into the market. We take the latest design trends, and we find a way to adapt that type of application to a model that we may wish to bring into the market. We deal with public installations, so need to remain focused on the structural integrity of the product — while something may look good, it may not have the needed structural elements, so we change and redesign these designs for commercial purposes,” says Sandler.
ISA International is one the few Canadian go-to companies for commercial furniture design. Being a leader puts pressure on the company to stay one step ahead going forward and continue to bring innovation to the market, but ISA International welcomes this challenge firmly seated.