Klaus and company

Included in the Financial Post‘s annual list of Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies is Nienkmper, the Toronto-based designer and manufacturer of sophisticated high-end furniture for corporate offices and public spaces. This is just the latest in a long list of honours for the internationally renowned company and its founder, Klaus Nienkmper. “This country has given me so much — nothing could make me prouder than to be named among its 50 best-managed companies,” he says. “It is particularly welcome to have this acknowledgement of our success coming out of the worst downturn in our company’s 40-year history,” It has been a challenging time for Nienkmper, considering the crisis in U.S. commercial development; until recently, 85 per cent of its customer base was in corporate America. “Fortunately we had recognized our vulnerability to U.S. financial cycles and began developing our markets overseas,” says Nienkmper. “We’ve enjoyed particular success in the Middle East, which has helped to offset our dependence on our U.S. customers by over 30 per cent.” With many long-service employees, the company — which is at the forefront of the sustainability movement in commercial furnishings — boasts a remarkably low turnover rate. Investing in training, Nienkmper offers both apprenticeships and co-op placements to raise the standards of furniture design and production in Canada. It has also formed partnerships with many local school boards, community colleges and national art institutions, and provides numerous scholarships and internships. Nienkmper is focused on creating a workplace and public environments where people can realize their full potential. The company occupies a sprawling 120,000-square-foot facility in north Toronto that houses state-of-the-art furniture- manufacturing equipment, much of it customized to meet Nienkmper’s demanding design standards.

The company’s owner has always been an impressive corporate citizen. Klaus Nienkmper was a founding member of the Toronto Design Exchange and more recently worked with architect Daniel Libeskind to create the Royal Ontario Museum’s Spirit House Chair. He was a major donor to the ROM revitalization project and the Ontario College of Art and Design, and has provided funding to the Art Gallery of Ontario for special events.