Propping Up Innovation at VARIDESK

Chief financial officer Craig Storey pushes VARIDESK’s creative approach in his own department as the company modifies traditional workplace and classroom environments

If the key to a having a happy career lies in the ability to leap out of bed every morning, excited for the day ahead, then Craig Storey has it all figured out. As chief financial officer for VARIDESK, a company known as a leader in standing desks for the office, Storey thrives in an environment centered on creativity, mobility, and fun. With a background in the toy and game industry, he transferred his passion for play to the enhancement of the company’s culture and financial vision. His secret to success? Knowing how and when to change.

Early in Storey’s professional career, he had the opportunity to work with several “fast-growing, early-stage companies.” These experiences taught him to never get too comfortable. More specifically, he learned how to scale business operations quickly and change direction at the pace of growth. His capacity for constant innovation motivated him to cofound, Sprig Toys. The company, which created interactive toys for preschoolers out of recycled materials, was absorbed by Wham-O in 2010. His successes and hands-on operational experience brought opportunities and big-name companies his way. Storey has held leadership roles at Heelys, Arteriors Home, and, most recently, VARIDESK, where he has spent the past five years ensuring that innovation never stops.

Now, motivated by VARIDESK’s mission to create happier, healthier workspaces, Storey and his team constantly rethink standard office practices and processes. While, typically, left-brained fields such as finance do not lend themselves to working artistically, Storey maintains his contentment in his job exists because of VARIDESK’s emphasis on thinking outside the box. “I don’t think I’m a left-brained person by nature,” he says. “I certainly have left-brained impulses, but I find the most value in using my knowledge to help create innovative solutions.”

Craig Storey, VARIDESK Photo Courtesy of VARIDESK

Storey believes success does not lie in brainstorming ideas, applying them, and waiting for an outcome. Instead, he encourages his team to work backwards—envisioning the outcome first, then mapping out the steps to achieve it. “We start with the finish line, ask, ‘If we succeeded, what would it look like?’” Storey says. “Then, I work with my team to establish touchpoints along the path, to assess if we are moving toward our end goal. If the environment changes, the goal could change, too. We’ve learned to embrace change through this process.”

External partners who work with Storey appreciate his inventive approach. “Varidesk is an innovative business, and the needs of the company are constantly evolving,” says Julia Harman, SunTrust Bank’s market president for the Dallas/Fort Worth region. “Craig is uniquely skilled at turning big ideas into an executable plan so that we are poised to support the growth.”

By looking forward and thinking in reverse, Storey and his finance team can bolster VARIDESK’s creation of products that enliven corporate and educational productivity and prosperity. And while Storey’s passion feeds into his team’s ambition to work creatively, he’s quick to commend its members for complimenting his strengths and neutralizing his weaknesses. Together, they are able to go against the grain of finance and look beyond the budget to “find solutions to achieve goals while preserving the assets of the company.”

In particular, the team’s effort to eschew a “no” mentality resonates vibrantly with VARIDESK’s culture. As the pioneer of the original standing desk, the company strives to create solutions that simplify the traditionally painful process of furnishing an office. Its latest goal, with the recent acquisition of Stand2Learn, is to carry the same principle into the classroom, integrating adjustable standing desks to tackle childhood obesity and help channel children’s reservoirs of energy into continued learning rather than restless behavior. With two daughters of his own, Storey’s excitement for the project is personal, and he has already been able to witness the impact the desks have made.

“We studied a lot of learning environments and discovered that many were not conducive to health nor learning,” Storey says. “The hardest time of the day for teachers is between lunch and recess, because kids are itching to move. If we can allow them to stand, rather than just stay put, then we can encourage them to stay involved in their lessons throughout the day. I’ve had teachers thank me for how much of an impact these desks have made in the classroom because they just make teaching and learning easier.”

To Storey, entering a space that incorporates VARIDESK’s products and seeing how they make an impact is his favorite part of the job. At the same time, though, he continues to enjoy working with other senior executives to anticipate and creatively circumvent any roadblocks the company might encounter. And, he says, the collaborative atmosphere of VARIDESK helps to keep roadblocks from cropping up in the first place, allowing “our founders to sleep better at night.”

Thankfully, the universal dream to work happy and healthy has provided VARIDESK myriad opportunities to improve the lives of those who are willing to break from traditional cubical walls. Storey looks forward to continuing to help the company enhance people’s livelihoods, one standing desk at a time.

The most outstanding entrepreneurs cut through the noise of this transformative age by breaking away from the pack—and then end up leading it. EY is proud to honor unstoppable entrepreneurs, like the team behind VARIDESK, through the Entrepreneur Of The Year program.