Meet Penny Johnston, the general manager at AOI Corporation.
Tell us a little about your business. – AOI (aoicorp.com) represents over 100 brands of commercial furniture with our main product line being the Herman Miller family of brands. We service Lincoln and the surrounding area with furniture solutions for corporate, healthcare, and higher education. AOI is also a certified DIRTT Partner which is a Pre-engineered Interior Wall System that has environmental and cost-saving benefits.
How did you get started in the business? – As a student studying architecture and interior design at UNL, my senior year internship was at AOI. At that time, AOI was known as Advanced Office Interiors and just getting started as the Herman Miller furniture dealer in Lincoln and Omaha. I was their first intern on the furniture team. This is where I began my career as an interior designer. After graduating from the College of Architecture with a BS in Architectural Studies, I went on to work in Lincoln as an interior designer focused on healthcare design. Some of the places I worked include Davis Design, in facilities at Bryan Health, and at a smaller architecture firm called Visions in Architecture. After 12 years of design, I was ready for a new challenge and shifted gears by becoming a sales representative for various furniture and architectural product manufacturers. Mohawk Flooring would be the most well known of the group. My sales roles all focused on the architecture and design community, which I knew best.
What has been your most important achievement professionally? – Becoming general manager at AOI in Lincoln. It has taken me full circle in my career.
Tell us a little about your family. – My husband Bart is Sr. manager, web development at Hudl. We will be celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary this December. We have two amazing kids, Mitchell who is a freshman at East High and Lily who is a seventh grader at Moore Middle School.
What is your favorite quote or the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? – “It’s only carpet.” This was the best advise my manager from Mohawk gave me. What she meant was, there are more important things in life than (insert your job here). Family and your life outside of work should always come first. Now as a manager myself, I give that same advice to my team.
Which talent would you most like to have? – For those familiar with the Gallup Strengths Finder, I would love to have the talent of WOO. Having small conversations with people I do not know is very challenging for me, but I love being in conversations.
If you could choose any other profession to be successful in, what would it be? – I would be a meteorologist. Growing up on the farm, life revolves around the weather. Because of that, I have been fascinated with weather my whole life. I saw my first tornado when I was eight years old “riding the bean bar” with my dad and siblings. (Those who grew up on the farm back in the late 80s/early 90s will know what I’m talking about!) I’m always tracking and following the weather.
What local nonprofit organization(s) are you passionate about or involved with, and are there any special reasons why? – I am a member of Lincoln Rotary 14. For the past two years, I have been on our Rise.Shine.Give. Committee, which is our biggest fundraising event of the year.