Pandemic Playbook from Amber Engine: What CAN You Do in the Chaos?


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“What can we do?”

Did you put the emphasis on “can” or did you lay it down flat, monotone and lifeless?

The way your language shapes the question determines the amount of impact and influence you’ll have over your team. When posed with the determination of finding some type of contribution or outcome, your small organization can be a huge change agent in this transformative time.

Mitch Warner, author of The Outward Mindset, recently offered an online webinar called “Chaos to Calm” in which he spoke to the importance of an organizational change plan.

Rather than focus on what can’t be done, he stresses the importance of altering your company’s product and go-to-market strategies by asking yourself three simple questions:

1.       What do we deliver?

For example:

  • Furniture manufacturers/suppliers may say wood for framing, cotton tufting or dining tables
  • Furniture retailers may say home decor and furnishings

2.       Is it critical?

3.       How can we adjust to meet the need?

  • Furniture manufacturers/suppliers may find new partnerships to redirect their raw goods to a new facility specializing in a must-have product area – pillows or mattresses for hospitals, say.
  • Furniture retailers may explore new avenues for connecting with consumers in their homes, via Skype, Zoom or FaceTime.

Your resulting answers help develop an action-plan for where you – and your consumers – are right now. After all, the furniture giants are pumping their brakes subsequently creating a tremendous opportunity for smaller furniture suppliers and retailers to step forward.

For example, we know more people are working from home right now. Reach out to your clients in a personal way to find out how you can help them make the necessary shifts for a more productive environment.

For manufacturers and suppliers, this could be a conversation about shifting deliverables to build a smarter stock in a retailer’s store – ensuring it’s filled with items people are shopping for right now.

For retailers, this may be a conversation with consumers about co-working with the spouse, ample storage and/or furniture designed to hide aesthetically unpleasing office equipment. 

Regardless of the person on the other end of the line, remember to keep it personal – this isn’t a sales pitch. This is a human-to-human offer of assistance since you well know that what you have to offer eases worry and fills a true need in the new world of Covid-19. Even if you don’t earn their business, you’re earning their trust, and that is huge.

On the same note, think about the ways your business can show up for, support and give back to the healthcare industry. Are there products and services your company offers that would benefit hospitals, urgent care centers, rehab facilities or nursing homes at this critical time? What about protective, front line forces, like police, fire departments or first responders? The idea is to think outside of the traditional box.

For example, if your woodworkers wear protective masks for sanding or staining and production has reduced by 80%, could you donate extra masks to doctors, nurses or the elderly in your community?

If you haven’t sparked an idea for your particular business yet, don’t worry. Just keep digging and an answer will appear that makes sense for your company’s contribution.

All the change we’re adopting in the name of adjusting to life in the time of Covid-19 will come with necessary, sometimes uncomfortable, adjustments. Perhaps, as Warner suggests, a new work ethic needs adopting inside the plant. You may have to find a way to get your team fired up. Or, like some companies right now, your workforce may need to scale up or down, with other key adjustments made based on performance.

With this in mind, smaller businesses are poised for tremendous success if they can find the opportunity and hold on tight. With a smaller workforce, you have a better shot of making fast adjustments that may save your business in the long run. Your small facility is nimble and can adapt easily to new products, outputs and services.

You also have the unique ability to offer personalized services that larger businesses cannot – a handwritten note, local delivery, curbside pick-up and/or personal consulting services (in person or via Facetime/Skype/Zoom). This is a chance for manufacturers to adopt a consultative approach, helping retailers understand what to stock and when it will be available to them. Especially if you’re willing to go the extra mile with free shipping on your side of the agreement.

This is also a chance for both suppliers and retailers to get creative in business deals right now. Alternate financing is a great way to meet people in your supply chain where they are.  Whether they’re buying raw materials or an assembled piece of furniture, businesses along the line – from concept to curation – find themselves in an uncomfortable position right now. If you’re able, offer in-house financing, lower interest rates, lengthier terms or layaway to ease the current financial burden so many of us face.

If you are toying with the idea of eCommerce, this is the ideal time to list your retail offerings online. Suppliers can even use this time to dabble with the world of B2C. Why not set up a limited number of SKUs on a platform like WooCommerce and see what type of reaction your inventory earns? Alternatively, it may be time to look more seriously at online marketplaces like Amazon, Wayfair, Hayneedle, Overstock, etc. With more screen time and less store time, everyone is buying online to refresh their inventories and/or their homes.

If your buyers do request site visits during this time, carefully consider the health, well-being and safety of all involved. Be impeccable with new cleaning and disinfecting procedures, wear masks and limit the number of people you allow inside of your warehouse, showroom or plant to ensure proper distancing for the facility tour, product review and resulting meeting. It may seem strange to sit so far apart from key accounts during this time, but it’s essential to bear a bit of awkwardness now in the name of doing business for years to come.

Whichever strategy you choose to employ, make sure your leadership team stays informed of Covid-19 developments from a non-political source. The CDC posts numbers, action plans and guidance daily. This allows you and your partners to make smart choices about the health and safety of all involved.

We want this to be a time of smart discovery, client relationship building and positive growth for your company.

About Amber Engine: Amber
Engine’s innovative software solutions simplify work and empower
people. The company offers full-service e-commerce solutions for
furniture brands looking to sell in online marketplaces such as Wayfair,
Amazon, Houzz, and many more. For more information contact or visit the company’s website.

Furniture Industry News and in depth magazine articles for the furniture retail, furniture manufacturers, and furniture distributors.

Read other articles by Nic Ledoux

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