Designer Insights

Before Paola received the Warrior Helmet, Sarah Filip, another valued Customer Service Rep, received the honor. She was awarded the helmet from her manager, Donna Jeffries, who said that Sarah gives a 150% every day and is truly the definition of an Ideal Team Player. We wanted to get to know Sarah a little better and understand what the Warrior Helmet honor, and working at COE, means to her. 


Fun Facts about yourself

I have a half-sister, in whom I have never met. I enjoy hunting with my boyfriend and our dogs. I am currently on track to go back to school in the Spring of 2020, for a BS in Health Education and Health Promotion; transitioning from a BS in Human Resources. 

What does winning the warrior helmet mean to you?

I am beyond humbled  and honored to have received the helmet. To me, it means that I work for a
company who acknowledges and encourages the hard work put in, day in and day
out, and gives me motivation to continue to work hard and to stay with a
company who stands out in this way. 

What did you or what do you look for when it comes to choosing the next recipient?

When choosing the next recipient, who was Paola, I was really focusing on our core values; I read through them carefully, before making a decision. I chose someone who I knew demonstrated COE’s core values not only at work, but in life in general.

How has COE helped you to get where you are?

I believe that the success of us being able to provide customers with great service is contributed through COE’s open communication and transparency between departments.  With the day to day work that we provide and becoming familiar with my own personal customers and our processes, I was able to make suggestions that were implemented in order to make this possible. Also, when you work for those who are “Humble, Hungry, and Smart”, and lead by example, it is motivating to do the same.  

What goals do you want to achieve and how can COE help get you there?

I love my current position at COE; however, the company is constantly opening up more opportunities to grow, both in your career and personally. I believe that COE can help me accomplish my goal of “pushing” myself to grow, within these opportunities. 

What is your favorite part of our employee engagement programs at COE and why?

My favorite part in these programs is to see, and allow myself to recognize my fellow peers and their efforts. I personally believe that this is a great motivator, that allows us to know that we are appreciated and respected for our efforts.

What are you most excited for when it comes to our Penguin partnership?

I am most excited to see where this will take us as far as the employee engagement aspect. I’m curious to see what other programs might be applied, and what other opportunities might arise. Furthermore, I think it will be pretty cool to have our logos collide and to be able to “wear this partnership” because of it!

Other than the obvious CS value, what other COE value do you think you’re the strongest in and why?

To point out one, I would say Quality. I am always double and even triple checking my work. I also make sure that I provide detailed notes to customers, the warehouses, etc., to try and avoid any unnecessary back-and-forth communication, and to be sure that customers are informed when things may be changing and if there are any issues. I find that our (or my specific region) customers really appreciate the details and being well informed.

Paola Ramirez, one of our Customer Service Reps, was the third Warrior Helmet recipient. She comes in every day ready to work, and is a team member who exemplifies Humble, Hungry and Smart. We sat down with Paola recently, and asked her some questions about receiving the Warrior Helmet, and what the award means to her.

Fun Facts about yourself:

I love to play poker and I play in a tournament once a month. I can be both silly and serious; I will never stop being a kid! I also enjoy smoking cigars. My favorites are Esteban Carreras (Chupa Cabra Hellcat) and Gurkha.

What does winning the Warrior Helmet mean to you?

The Warrior Helmet for me is a bonus, and while some bonuses come as additional compensation in your paycheck, some bonuses are not monetary; a smile from someone you may have helped, or being chosen to wear the Warrior Helmet because of your dedication to the company, is also a bonus. I consider my Sarah, a valued co-worker and also a valued friend, so it means a lot that she thinks high enough of me to offer me this bonus. I am very proud and honored to have received the helmet and kept it proudly for two weeks.

What did you or what do you look for when it comes to choosing the next Warrior Helmet recipient?

When choosing the next recipient, I will look for someone who goes above and beyond in his/her job every day. I will pass the helmet on to someone I feel represents being humble, hungry and smart, and someone who is willing to do the greater good for COE.

How has COE helped you to get where you are?

COE shows a high ability and concern to allow us the freedom to grow, not only professionally, but personally. The books we read as a company shows how much COE cares for us, and helps us all become better in different aspects of our lives. Working for COE makes me believe that there will always be opportunity for growth, as long as we are willing to put in the work and effort required.

What goals do you want to achieve and how can COE help get you there?

I want to be a leader, and one who leads by example. I want to remain humble, hungry and smart; I will never forget where I came from and all the hard work it took me to grow. I am thankful that COE can provide us all with the opportunity to grow and achieve goals.

What is your favorite part of our employee engagement program at COE and why?

My favorite part is the Warrior Helmet, because we get to recognize co-workers for their hard and good work. We have great people at COE, and some of them go without recognition. This is an opportunity to showcase a team member who truly is dedicated every day!

What are you most excited for when it come to our Penguin Partnership?

The Penguin Partnership excites me because it is monumental, and I get to be a part of it. I don’t only want growth for myself, but I want growth for the company and for my co-workers. The Penguin Partnership exemplifies growth, and I am thrilled to be a part of this opportunity.

Other than the obvious Customer Service value, what other COE values do you think you’re the strongest in and why?

Teamwork, because helping others is a quality I have; I love to help people as much as possible and do what it takes to get the job done together. Respect, because I will always treat people how I would want to be treated, no matter what. I believe there is never a reason to disrespect anyone; you have to be the bigger person always and lead by example. Transparent, because I will always find a way to communicate with people, keeping in mind that we are all different and have different points of view.

I feel the greatest tool that COE has given me is opportunity.  I started out as a receptionist almost 5 years ago.  My manager at the time saw something in me that honestly I never saw in myself.  Because of that, I was given the opportunity to take on different tasks in all aspects of accounting.  It wasn’t until then, that I learned that I would best serve the company as an AR Collector, and at that point, I took it and ran with it.  Here I am, almost 5 years later, sitting in my office as the AR Manager. I feel successful and I feel content.

And while my role hasn’t really changed, I am excited to continue to teach and guide the members of my team.  Each day is a new experience with them. Each day is another day to learn and grow.

What I have learned over the years with the company is that our opinion matters and our opinions are valued.  We are treated as equals and as a team; we are family. 

The company recognizes who works by the core values that are instilled in us at COE, by implementing employee engagement programs, such as the newest one, with the Pittsburgh Penguins. These programs open employees up to several new opportunities from different areas of learning to experiences that may never have been received before. They give team members something to strive for, which is a win for all those involved.

I think my greatest strength taken from the core values is Teamwork.  Even though I now have a management title, that does not mean that I am any different from any one else. It is important to me that my co-workers know, that if they need help with anything, or guidance on how to do something, that they can always depend on me to help in any way I can. We are not operating as separate departments; we are one united team, sharing and growing in five common values. 

In closing, I really don’t have a specific goal for myself, but my goal for the department is to continue to drive down AR balances and to have all accounts stay within the terms of their account.

Fun facts: I have an obsessive addiction to the paranormal, spooky things and all-around creepy stuff, so obsessed that I want to retire to Salem, Mass to live amongst where the witches were back in 1693.   Halloween is my favorite holiday and I absolutely adore black cats 

Starting as a small typewriter repair and office supply store in the late 1940s, no one could have envisioned the growth that this third-generation, family-owned company would see. 79 years later, COE Distributing is the nation’s largest wholesale distributor of office furniture. With its own private label product OfficeSource, COE has forward-thinking products that are great for any work environment. From the high-end executive office to a small office tucked in the corner of a home, OfficeSource provides modern, sleek, comfortable, and efficient furniture options that will meet any budget.

With a 270,000 sq. ft. warehouse space, located in Smock, PA, which just underwent a massive expansion in the last year, to another 180,000 sq. ft distribution center in Charlotte, NC, COE has always been a company of continuous growth, looking to satisfy its nationwide customer base. However, COE has not stopped at two distribution centers. A third location is opening in Houston, Texas in October. With this new 250,000 sq. ft

Along with the growth in distribution centers, COE is also welcoming many new team members to the company. The company has increased its workforce by 49 employees in the last two years, going from 59 team members to 108. Just in the last year, they have added 30 new faces.

Ewing contributes much of the growth in team members to the company’s employee engagement programs. At COE, team members participate in quarterly book clubs. All the books read, are ones that Ewing himself and the leadership team have read through and believe in. Some of these books include “Becoming Your Best,” by Steven Shallenberger, “The Ideal Team Player,” by Patrick Lencioni, and “Scaling Up,” by Verne Harnish, which is the newest one the team is reading, and is one that the Executive Team has been working through for the last couple of years.

From these books, Ewing has gathered many effective practices that have been implemented and proven successful at COE, including the Start, Stop, Continue Employee Survey and hiring team members that are humble, hungry and smart both in life and at work.

Along with the book club, COE also offers an Employee of the Quarter Recognition Program and the new Rising Stars Program, where four team members are chosen through an interview process, to work alongside the Executive Team and Managers/Supervisors within a year’s period, to set them up for the next level of leadership. Within this program, they are able to spend time one-on-one with the Executive Team, travel to see customers and other distribution centers, work their way through webinars, help the leadership team find solutions to areas of improvement, and so much more. This program has already shown great success, with our current four rising stars taking immense pride in what they are doing.

Because Ewing believes that people are the difference makers, and contributes much of COE’s success to his humble, hungry and smart team members, outside organizations have taken notice. The Pittsburgh Penguins have recently named COE as their first-ever Proud Employee Engagement Partner. After realizing that COE and the Pittsburgh Penguins share similar values and employee engagement opportunities, the partnership easily became something that both organizations were excited to roll out.

The partnership will enhance employee engagement efforts at COE, with Penguins experiences, will provide opportunities to continue learning and growing in the company’s core values, will connect COE employees to the passion of the Penguins, and will promote a culture of winning and innovation. The Warrior Helmet Program, which was created based off of the Penguins’ locker room ritual, of a teammate passing the helmet off each game to another player who did something impactful during the game, is something COE is excited to implement into the company, to recognize the dedicated employees, who strive to be their best every day.

Due to COE’s continuous hard work, growth, and innovation, the company has not only been recognized by outside organizations like the Penguins, but has also received many high honors and awards. COE has made the Inc. 5000 list for six consecutive years, has received the Smart 50 Award six times, and has also received the Pittsburgh Top 100 Fastest Growing Companies and Largest Private Companies in the Pittsburgh Region Awards multiple times. Ewing has also been an Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist. As you can see, both COE and Ewing have been busy, and both are not slowing down anytime soon!

And while Ewing, COE and its team members are hard at work every day, they all still find time to give back and serve the community through things such as an employee matching fund at the Community Foundation of Fayette County, as well as volunteering time on numerous Fayette County non-profit boards. COE also participates in internship programs, community events that benefit local people and/or organizations, sends Christmas gifts to families in need, and has a big role in Pennsylvania’s Challenge Program, which recognizes high school students in multiple areas and helps prepare them for their future careers. Most recently, COE has become involved with the Greater Houston Partnership, which will help connect our company with Houston and will give our team members opportunities to learn and grow more in the community down in Texas.

Being around since the 1940s, COE has seen immense growth and opportunities. Ewing attributes the company’s success to the team members, the customers, and the vendors, saying that without them, COE would not be where it is today. With 108 team members and three distribution centers, the company is already a force to be reckoned with and isn’t going

Pittsburgh Penguins Partnership Program Welcomes
COE Distributing

Smock, PA: For Immediate Release

Brett Bauer

Senior Manager of Partnership Sales
Pittsburgh Penguins

J.D. Ewing

CEO | President
COE Distributing

COE Distributing, a nationwide wholesale distributor of office furniture, has been named the first Proud Employee Engagement Partner of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

After realizing that COE and the Pittsburgh Penguins share similar values and employee engagement opportunities, the partnership easily became something that both organizations were excited to roll out.

“We are very excited to be working with COE Office Distributor  on a partnership focused on employee engagement. We are extremely impressed with how their leadership team trains, develops and supports their employees,” Jack Tipton, Senior Director of Partnership Sales, said. “We’ve designed this partnership to share common core values and emphasize the desire to be the best in our respective industries.”

The partnership will enhance employee engagement efforts at COE Distributing, with Penguins experiences and memorabilia, will provide opportunities to continue learning to show each team member’s commitment to the core values, will use the Penguins brand and IP to connect COE employees to the passion of the Penguins, and will help promote a culture of winning and innovation.

The current programs at COE that will be enhanced due to the new partnership, will be the monthly book club, the employee of the quarter award, and the rising stars program. All three programs are ones that J.D. Ewing, President, and CEO of COE, are proud of, and ones that the Penguins’ Marketing Team were impressed with, stating that they have never seen another organization do as much for the team members as COE does.

All involved with the book club, employee of the quarter award, and rising stars program, will take part in immersive and rewarding experiences, alongside the Penguins’ staff.

Other culture driving experiences involved with the partnership include the COE Warrior Helmet, which was created based off of the Penguins’ locker room ritual of a teammate passing the helmet off each game to another player who did something impactful during the game.

This partnership has been in the works for quite a few months, and Ewing was happy to be able to finally introduce it to the COE team members.

“What really intrigued me about a potential partnership with the Penguins, was how closely the values, vision, and goals of their organization align with ours. This is particularly true with the learning culture and value placed on employees in both organizations.  Ewing said. “The opportunity to partner with the Penguins organization is truly amazing for COE and will further enhance our employee engagement.”  

About COE: COE Distributing is the nation’s largest furniture only wholesale distributor. A third-generation, family-owned company, COE was founded by Clara L. Ewing in Hopwood, PA. The company, which started as a typewriter repair and office supply store in the late 1940s, has been named one of Inc Magazine’s fastest-growing companies for 6 straight years. This accomplished has only been achieved by less than 3% of the companies who have appeared on Inc Magazine’s list. Today, COE remains a family-owned corporation, specializing in wholesale distribution of office furniture and accessories. With over 120 years of combined office furniture experience, the owners at COE are committed to making each customer’s buying experience at COE exceptional. COE’s goal is to be the recognized leader in the wholesale office furniture industry. To achieve this goal, COE team members are extensively trained on all product offerings and always take the extra step to ensure customers are satisfied. By continually improving each day, COE is able to provide quality products and superior service. COE  maintains a work environment where creativity and innovation are encouraged, people enjoy coming to work and the desire to exceed customers’ expectations drives performance.

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