NEWH is committed to keeping you informed about how others in the hospitality industry are responding to this pandemic in order to help you understand the potential outcome of the actions you are taking now. We will share relevant information, including video content, to provide you a global perspective about what is happening with all of our clients, peers and colleagues.

 


M A N U F A C T U R I N G

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxMay 12, 2020
Modena, Italy
Sergio Cassarini, International Key Account Manager Hospitality, Atlas Concorde

Last year, Atlas Concorde celebrated its 50 years anniversary, a significant milestone for the company. According to the more experienced managers, no one had ever seen a situation like the current one.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 emergency, the company has moved promptly, sometimes even ahead of the institutional indications on the rules of conduct, implementing a series of actions to ensure the health of its workers, customers and partners, from social distancing to smart working. In addition, a real “COVID-19 Emergency Team” was set up, supported by medical staff, with the task of implementing an articulated protocol of procedures aimed at the safety of all the company activities.

Atlas Concorde’s strength has been to react immediately ensuring the continuity of its activities, although reviewing them from a “smart” perspective. Each March the company schedules the launch of the new Spring Collections. We have chosen not to postpone or cancel this meeting but to transform the physical experience into a virtual one through digital means on a number of video conference platforms. Hundreds of videoconferences were hosted within a month, presenting five new collections including the highly anticipated LIMS (Limestone stone effect ceramic) and BOOST PRO (concrete effect ceramic), and three more collections from the contract range in industrial concrete style, light leccese stone and Kavala quartzite. In addition to these, new stone and cement effects in large format 120×240 and 120×278. Many of our customers have enthusiastically welcomed this new way of presenting the new collections, but above all they have caught the strong proactive message towards the future, understanding that Atlas Concorde has been able to find new ways to give continuity even in an emergency.

Our first thought certainly goes to all the people who have been affected by this emergency and to the uncertainties that affect future prospects. But we are also aware that crises can push us to do better. COVID-19 has sharply accelerated a digitization process which is now a reality. Visits to customers have become videoconference meetings and samples are sent by courier. Of course, we lack the pleasure of meeting historical partners in person and getting to know new ones, but our team now has the opportunity to dialogue with a much wider audience on the same day, continuing to provide a timely and personalized assistance service on specific needs.

Logistics activities never stopped, except for a very short period. Fortunately, our company is used to working with a considerable capacity of products in stock, also being able to count on a network of warehouses and storage areas in different areas of the world. Therefore, supplies for projects that were already underway were safeguarded thanks to our organization.

Since the end of April all activities have resumed in complete safety. For years now, the production of ceramics has taken place in an environment that already provides for social distancing, with few technicians present in the large spaces of our production plants. Furthermore, the protocol that has been studied by our “COVID Emergency Team” has focused on taking all the further precautions necessary to allow us to carry out the daily activities in maximum safety.

To improve logistics efficiency and significantly reduce the preparation time of orders that will be processed automatically, Atlas Concorde has been working for years on an innovative vertical automated logistics project. This plant, at the Spezzano di Fiorano production plant, is revolutionary in its kind throughout the ceramic industry and will allow us to store an important share of our collections.

During this moment of forced distancing, the whole Atlas Concorde team felt close and involved and everyone tried to give their best. In order to keep the collaboration between colleagues alive, numerous tools and platforms offered by the digital world came to the aid. We have put in place many initiatives, including non-working ones, to be able to relive that aspect of “randomness” that was experienced before the quarantine in the company corridors. An example is Monday’s digital coffee: a free-access video call for all colleagues in the office to chat freely.

This unprecedented situation has brought us back to living in time and spaces, not only to cross them; domestic environments have recovered their authentic centrality. Thus, the uses of porcelain stoneware have been rethought. Ours is a naturally hygienic and healthy product thanks to its chemical and physical characteristics. The numerous looks and finishes create a wide range of aesthetic applications which, combined with large sizes and reduced thickness, also open up new uses, such as coatings for furnishing elements. A “Total Look” style in line with the new space-time dimension in which we landed.

From today many of the changes in doing business will be permanent. The greater use of new ways of interaction, particularly digital ones, will certainly be among the legacies that this experience will leave us. People learned new ways of working and opportunities that they had not even imagined until a few months ago.

To remain positive in this moment of difficulty it is necessary to think that all crises have a beginning but also an end. Historically, even after the darkest situations, new horizons and opportunities open up, not only for work. This pandemic has brought people to re-evaluate the centrality of essential values, returning to the essence of things and the core of experiences and Atlas Concorde is aware of this.


April 22, 2020
Commerce, California
Jonathan Fu, Director/Sales & Marketing, CF Kent Contract

• What is the biggest change in how you’re operating your business today?
Most of our office staff is working remote which is a new challenge for us as we are used to working very collaboratively in a physical office space. However, we recently made IT upgrades that include VOIP phone system with integrated web conferencing. This has been really critical in order for our teams to communicate with each other.

• How are you dealing with the challenges of projects currently in process/knowing where your customers are in their timelines?
For projects that were already in process, we reached out to all our customers to see if any schedule adjustments would be required.

• How is this affecting your product development?
We typically introduce new product at HD Expo, but with the show cancellation we are now working towards BDNY.

• What is keeping you up at night?
The unpredictable nature of the situation. It’s hard not to be overwhelmed with what’s in the media. Sometimes it seems like we are making positive advancements and then other days it seems like things are getting worse and the recovery could take longer.

• How do you deal with storage of pieces that are already being shipped but will have to be stored until projects complete?
If necessary, we are holding or consolidating shipments from the factory and warehouse if a customer’s schedule is delayed.

• How have you been able to ensure the health and safety of your employees (esp. in the warehouse/factories)?
We have limited the amount of staff that is in our Los Angeles office and warehouse. Everyone is required to wear masks and gloves and observe social distancing at all times. Work hours have also been adjusted based on workload and shipment schedule to reduce the time staff is in the office.

• What would you like to tell your customers about your business?
Even with the difficult circumstances, we are still 100% operational. Our factories in Asia are at full capacity and all our US staff is still working. We just ask for a little extra patience and some things do take a little longer to process.

• How has this strengthened your team?
We are a pretty close knit family company and everyone watches out for each other. Ownership has made it clear their number once priority is the well-being of our employees.

• How are you keeping in touch with your team?
Programs like Skype have been essential in our business and we’ve been using it for years, both for internal office communication and with our factories. With the addition of our VOIP system, it is even easier now to jump a call or web conference with each other. We’ve even had a virtual model room review where one person in the warehouse used a laptop and camera to allow remote staff to review the pieces.

• Would you consider making different products in the future?
How are you innovating for a new market post-COVID? This is a daily conversation I have with ownership. If we consider ourselves just a “furniture manufacturer”, we are limiting our growth and ability to adapt to market conditions. So the key will be leveraging our resources to develop or even source new products that can address consumer concerns in a post-COVID hospitality market.

• Do you think any of the changes in how you do business could be permanent?
I think the greater reliance on technology to communicate will have a lasting impact—not only internally but with our customers and vendors. In the past, we might postpone or cancel meetings if someone was not in the office or traveling, but now I think we will be more comfortable having people conference in wherever they are. Working apart also means our internal communications have to be extra clear and concise since we can’t just walk over to each other’s cubicle to discuss something.

• How are you able to stay positive in the midst of crisis?
Keeping my eye on the longer road ahead helps avoid getting “stuck” in the day-to-day muckiness of this situation. Having gone through the 2008 Financial Crisis, I know that we all will eventually recover, even if it takes longer than we hope. Plus it helps to look at the silver linings of the circumstances—no commute to work, beautiful Los Angeles skies, and more time with my family.

• Any WFH pro tips?
1) Don’t work in your PJs—I try to wear what I would wear to work. Mentally it helps keep me in “work mode” 2) Take breaks—go outside and take a short walk or just get fresh air 3) Work at home doesn’t mean work 24/7. Have a consistent start and stop time everyday.

• What is your favorite social isolation hobby, recipe, tip for beating boredom? Have you picked up anything new?
I’m a fitness nut and was totally bummed when my Crossfit gym closed, but I am also fortunate enough to have a “home gym” with a decent amount of equipment, so I have been exercising out a lot more. Definitely been cooking more and trying new recipes and getting my kids involved in the process.


April 9, 2020
Tulsa, Oklahoma
Matt Deshantz, Vice President, Fabricut Contract, Inc.

What is the biggest change in how you’re operating your business today? Fabricut Contract is OPEN for business in the comprehensive way our reputation demands. As an essential business, we are operating within the guidelines of our State’s and the CDC’s recommendations for a safe workplace. Our Territory Sales Managers are working from home and connecting with their designer customers through virtual presentations and social media. At our Tulsa, Oklahoma headquarters, we have adjusted the number of employees working on our campus to maintain a safe workplace while supporting customer service calls, order fulfillments, and other essential business tasks. Our Sample Department has devoted its production line to manufacturing PPE masks for our local hospitals and first responders along with fulfilling requests from other local and national essential businesses.

• How are you dealing with the challenges of projects currently in process/knowing where your customers are in their timelines?
Our Territory Sales Managers are doing a tremendous job of following up and staying in contact with their designer customers and being a resource to their existing and new projects as business has shifted to home and digital.

• How is this affecting your product development?
Our Product Development Team continue to work on upcoming seasons. Additionally, we’re focusing on the future needs that fabric will be required to fill.

• What is keeping you up at night?
We concern ourselves with the health and welfare of our customers and employees; more than anything we want everyone to stay safe and out of harm’s way. Once we’re through the most difficult periods of this pandemic, we’ll all be able to get a good night’s rest.

• How do you deal with storage of pieces that are already being shipped but will have to be stored until projects complete?
Fortunately, Fabricut Contract has adequate warehousing and take each situation as it presents itself.

• How have you been able to ensure the health and safety of your employees (esp. in the warehouse/factories)?
Following our State and CDC’s recommendations, we are practicing safe social distancing and our employees are wearing PPE masks during business hours. We are working closely with our employees to ensure their safety and health both at work and at home. Our facilities team is cleaning commonly touched surfaces – light switches, door handles, etc. – several times a day.

• What would you like to tell your customers about your business?
WE ARE OPEN! Customer Service is answering your phone calls. Our Warehouse is pulling, cutting and shipping orders. Our Memo Department is pulling and shipping your memo samples. Your Territory Sales Managers are available for virtual presentations, project research and design assistance. We are here to keep your projects moving forward!

• How has this strengthened your team?
We know one another as a team but also as a family. The shared experience of this tragedy has brought us closer together as we fight the same concerns and fears.

• How are you keeping in touch with your team?
The same way we’re keeping in contact with our customers: phone calls, emails, texts, and FaceTime. As new ways to communicate present themselves, we consider each one carefully and implement as needed.

• Would you consider making different products in the future? How are you innovating for a new market post-COVID?
There will be many things that change and many that will remain the same in the post COVID world. We’re responding to future concerns by working closely with our mill partners to develop product that will address tomorrow’s concerns with health and welfare in the commercial fabric business.

• Do you think any of the changes in how you do business could be permanent?
Only time will tell, however, we do hope any changes made will be for the betterment of the industry and design community.

• How are you able to stay positive in the midst of crisis?
Exercise, sleep, and diet play a pivotal role in our overall well being. Nothing will improve our mental and emotional health more than staying safe, fit, and helpful during this time. We’re all in this together and can support each other during the difficult times. Reaching out to friends, employees, and customers keep the lines of communication open and strong.

• Any WFH pro tips?
Get up, get ready for the day, and conduct yourself as if you were in the office or on the road. Drastic schedule changes only heighten the insecurities we’re all experiencing.

• What is your favorite social isolation hobby, recipe, tip for beating boredom? Have you picked up anything new?
Meatloaf. Really the answer to the question could end there, but I’ll add that I’ve resurrected hobbies and recipes from my youth that have really provided comfort in isolation.


To all our partners within our vital trade community, know that we remain committed to you. Please watch the video below for an important update from David Kohler on how Kohler Co. is navigating the current situation and how we plan to move forward together—stronger and more resilient than ever.

April 6, 2020
Dalton, Georgia
Desiree Perkins, Vice President Strategic Accounts, Shaw Hospitality Group

What is the biggest change in how you’re operating your business today?
In our current environment, one of the biggest changes has been adapting to a new
work-from-home environment. With employees in our marketing and sales divisions practicing social distancing, we are using new digital channels to communicate internally and externally.
How is this affecting your product development?
As we adapt to having many colleagues and customers working remotely, this has created new opportunities for us to launch products. Our designers are working remotely, just like our clients. By solely using virtual or remote product launch tools, we have taken an in-depth look at how we present our products digitally. As a result, we’re planning on continuing to use many of these tools well after we return to working in the same locations.
What is keeping you up at night?
Our biggest concern is the safety of our loved ones. Many of us have people we care about working on the front lines, whether that is in a healthcare facility or for an essential retailer. Just knowing that friends and family members must expose themselves to high-risk situations gives us perspective.
How have you been able to ensure the health and safety of your employees (esp. in the warehouse/factories)?
     Our company is following CDC recommendations about sheltering at home and practicing social distancing. We are encouraging as many employees as possible to work from home.
For our warehouses and production plants, we are deep cleaning these facilities frequently, especially higher-traffic areas or frequently-touched surfaces, such as door handles. We are also adapting the facilities to discourage employees from congregating in popular areas, such as the lockers or the breakroom, by adding multiple microwaves and refrigerators and offering single locker locations throughout the plant in different locations.
We are also relying on transferring information digitally, instead of using methods of communication that require in-person conversations.
In all of these situations, we are putting our employees’ safety first and ensuring that we are approaching these safety methods in a human-centric way.
What would you like to tell your customers about your business?
When they need us, we’re here to help. We are still in active production and care for the needs of our hospitality customers. We understand that our customers are in unprecedented business situations, and we want to do everything possible to meet them where they are.
We’re using a wealth of digital tools, such as Google Hangouts, to stay connected. We are also finding flexible ways to make adjustments to our existing support systems, however they need it.
We are supporting our teams in the communities where they live. For us this means coaching our associates in the best methods to use digital tools to create community from a distance. Internally and with customers, we’re participating in digital happy hours or dinners, and offering CEUs and personal development series, all digitally. Many of our customers are requesting to have samples sent to their homes, instead of their offices, so we have been able to accommodate that easily.
There is no great playbook for this period of time, so we’re creatively trying out new ways to meet our customers’ needs. We’re trying to be as vulnerable and humble in the way that we approach this situation. Our goal is to meet customers where they are in a range of new and different ways.
How has this strengthened your team?
Our team has definitely grown closer through this period. We have been more intentional about our interactions with each other. We are all recognizing how great it is to work together, especially right now as we’re all pulling in the same direction.
This has been a time in which many of our team members have had an opportunity to to be more vulnerable. Many of us have had issues with unreliable wifi, or experienced disruptions from our pets, children, or other family members. However, we all know that our co-workers and customers are all experiencing those same obstacles, so we can show each other empathy and approach these challenges with a sense of humor.
We have all been showing our gratitude to each other more, as well. During a recent all hands meeting, we took a few moments to express what we’re grateful for. It was hard not to be touched by what we heard.
How are you keeping in touch with your team?
We have used so many creative tools to stay in touch. We are often using Google Hangouts or Zoom meetings. We have seen a recent spike in our Salesforce Chatter activity.
Recently, we held a “Yappy Hour” for our employees on a Friday afternoon, encouraging everyone to show off their pets.
Internally, we’re increasing the frequency of our employee newsletter to keep everyone informed about company updates. We are also holding many interactive, digital training sessions open to all employees.
Do you think any of the changes in how you do business could be permanent?
One change we are seeing is the shift in attitude about working remotely. There had been a prevalent myth that if you are working remotely, you might be distracted. Just the opposite has proven true, since work-life divisions have blurred at this time. We’re finding that employees are working harder than ever.
How are you able to stay positive in the midst of crisis?
The best way we have found to stay positive is by leaning on family and friends, and finding ways to stay connected from a distance.
Just last month, I taught my 87-year old mother how to use Skype, to schedule a video call for her birthday. Instead of the small gathering of family she was expecting, she was surprised to see all of her nieces and nephews from around the country gathered to celebrate with her. Normally for our family, a gathering with 40-50 family members might only happen at a family reunion every couple of years.
Many of our employees have found themselves exercising more frequently and going on long walks for a change of scenery. Without a commute, many have found more time in their day for these routines, which naturally help promote wellness and a positive mindset.
Any WFH pro tips?
When you find yourself working longer hours from home, it’s important to take breaks, even if you need to schedule them. Staying hydrated can also help keep you focused and productive.
When you are winding down at the end of the day, try to create relaxing moments for yourself. When your home is your office, it can be difficult to switch off, but it’s extremely important to have those dividing lines.
As many of us are starting to feel cramped at home, it can be important to have a sense of humor when you’re working alongside family members. Our routines have changed significantly, and so have theirs.
What is your favorite social isolation hobby, recipe, tip for beating boredom? Have you picked up anything new?
Some of our associates have found themselves spending more time outside. Some have even been able to connect with their neighbors, at a distance.
One associate is planning a dance party at a distance for her neighborhood. Many are dusting off recipe books or Pinterest boards.
As a company, we are scheduling regular “yappy hours” to show off our pets and unwind at the end of the week. Our associates have shown how creative they are in the methods they use to stay connected.


April 6, 2020
Hicksville, NY
Puneet Bhasin, President, Artline Group

What is the biggest change in how you’re operating your business today?
Our firm has been equipped to have our office team to work remotely for years. Due to the snowstorms in NY, we made a transition to storing our data on cloud and this way even though our physical office building is closed, our team has been trained and used to working remotely. The biggest change has been constant changes in delivery schedules due to various states mandating construction sites to shut down (for non essential business) and/or clients putting orders on hold due to delays or lack of travel.

How are you dealing with the challenges of projects currently in process/knowing where your customers are in their timelines?
We are all in this together and have to work together towards to the changes our clients encounter on daily basis. Therefore, we are offering storage of the projects which have been completed and are planning our production based on the new timeline the clients provide so they are accommodated accordingly.

How is this affecting your product development?
Since there is a bit of slow down in shipping of the orders due various State closures, we find this a perfect time work on projects which have been on the back burner (due to being too busy over the years). We are embracing this opportunity to work on various marketing initiatives (new website design for Artline Group was recently completed), and are experimenting with new technologies to enhance our offerings to the clients. There is a lot of new designs and concepts which will be introduced by Artline very shortly and we are extremely excited to share our ideas with the design community.

What is keeping you up at night?
We have developed close relationships with a lot of our clients and consider them as friends, one of our biggest concerns is hearing about our fellow designers/purchasing agents going through lay off or furlough process. Every time, we hear about a layoff from a hotel brand or design firm, it breaks our heart and we think about their families and difficult economic hardship for them.

How do you deal with storage of pieces that are already being shipped but will have to be stored until projects complete?
We are offering storage for projects which are ready in our facility and also planning production based on the dates the clients are communicating with us. We all have to work together to make sure that the end client is pleased with the services provided by our clients (purchasing agents and designers). The more easy we make it for our clients, the easier it is for them to work with their clients. This has always been our mantra.

How have you been able to ensure the health and safety of your employees (esp. in the warehouse/factories)?
All our office team is working remotely from their home to maintain social distancing. In addition, our production team is also maintaining minimum of 6 feet distance in production. All production team is mandate to wear masks and gloves.

What would you like to tell your customers about your business?
Fortunately, our industry has always been about people first and then business. As a whole, our industry is very understanding of the various delays caused due to Corona. Our firm has the same approach with our clients, we completely understand the delays in receiving the product due to construction or lack of travel. We all need to work together and be accommodating to each others’ situation. Let’s work through this little bump together and we will all come out much stronger once this is over.

How has this strengthened your team?
Our firm always had a family environment. Even though everyone is working remotely, our team is collaborating together constantly on new and creative ideas. The team members truly care about each other and at times like this, everyone has rolled up their sleeves and assist each other when there are questions or brainstorming situations.

How are you keeping in touch with your team?
We have utilized pretty much all forms of technology to stay in touch with each other ranging from phones, email, slack, video conferencing. But we still miss the in person interaction with each other.

Would you consider making different products in the future? How are you innovating for a new market post-COVID?
Artline has been known to be innovative with creative designs and materials. We are always looking for improvise or work on new ideas. Being that most of our products are produced domestically, this has been a huge positive for our firm. Post COVID, we see more production in various industry products coming back to domestic production (due to delays from import items). We feel this will be a big plus for our nation’s economy.

Do you think any of the changes in how you do business could be permanent?
When we are all busy, we tend to get in a routine on working on projects. At times like this, we have a little more time to truly think out of the box with creative designs and ideas. This is also the time, where we realize our hidden talents we have acquired over time. A lot of our team members are working on initiatives by collaborating together and realized that their experience has enabled them to acquire talents they didn’t realize they had. We are excited to see this collaboration and creative mindset continue once things return to being busy.

How are you able to stay positive in the midst of crisis?
There is certainly light at the end of the tunnel. The road to recovery might be a little bumpy at times but such is life. Situations like this make us realize of our strengths and bring us all together. Our team has been very creative by involving not only each other but their families in ideas. For example, our art team came up with a wonderful idea where they have come up with art projects for the team member children and to keep the children engaged in being creative as well (see attached)

Any WFH pro tips?
Try to maintain similar schedule as you would have in the office. It’s very easy to get consumed with day to day emails but don’t loose track of the big picture and long term projects. Try to set aside time for creative and long term projects every couple of days. Take a break every few hours from your desk and put in a load of laundry. It’s okay to take a mental break from the computer and let your mind refresh.

What is your favorite social isolation hobby, recipe, tip for beating boredom? Have you picked up anything new?
Being that our children (5 and 8 years old), are also home (since schools are closed), we have been working on a lot of creative projects together. Whether it’s music, dance, art, cooking, or sports, after work, we choose an activity and try to do it together. Our kids, join my wife and I doing boot camp on YouTube, and we return the favor by doing activity of their choice such as Kids Yoga with them. It’s been a great bonding experience.


April 5, 2020
New York, NY
Leigh Douglass, VP of Design & Marketing, P/Kaufmann Contract

What is the biggest change in how you’re operating your business today?
The whole team, from Design to Sales and Operations, is adapting to working remotely. We are all adopting and embracing new technologies that help us communicate with each other and with our customers. (Having already recognized some of the advantages, we predict that some aspects of this new way of doing business will remain good options way beyond the short-term mandate.) We are accelerating marketing and communication efforts to keep our internal teams and our clients informed and make them feel supported during this uncertain time. We are making our clients’ remote work experience as easy and productive as possible by shipping samples to their homes and continuing to provide the high level of responsive customer service they expect. We’ve made some changes and improvements, but what may be the most reassuring to clients is how we are staying consistent and continuing to do what we do best.

How are you dealing with the challenges of projects currently in process/knowing where your customers are in their timelines?
We have been fully engaged in project and process pipeline management for some time. We are well-versed in handling inventory management and cancellations. Many projects are on pause, some are cancelled, and some are being accelerated, all of which we are managing with our warehouse and supply lines which are still open. We are in a strong position with full financial backing, allowing us to be proactive rather than reactive as we serve and partner with our customers.

How is this affecting your product development?
We are taking the time to fine-tune our product offering and ways to best position it in the marketplace. We are exploring opportunities to market existing products to a wider audience and educate our sales team around other market segments.

What is keeping you up at night?
The sound of ambulances. Work does intrude on the wee hours, but living in New York City, we have been given a new perspective on what’s important, and what we have to be grateful for.

How do you deal with storage of pieces that are already being shipped but will have to be stored until projects complete?
We own our own warehousing facility, so we have the storage capacity to hold product for our hotel and cruise ship customers as they adjust to shifting timelines. We are pleased that we are still receiving goods into our warehouse coming through US ports.

How have you been able to ensure the health and safety of your employees (esp. in the warehouse/factories)?
We have moved to a 3-shift schedule with half hour intervals between shifts to limit interactions between employees and allow them to work at a safe distance from one another. All machinery and offices are cleaned daily. Employees are wearing gloves and masks and practicing social distancing during breaks. Shipments are loaded and unloaded outside of the warehouse to minimize interaction between drivers and warehouse staff.

What would you like to tell your customers about your business?
We’re fully open for business! We are proud to have maintained full employment thus far and we’re all here to support our customers wherever and however they are working right now. Our warehouse hours of operation have been increased to accommodate the flexible hours people are working as they juggle work and family life at home. We have given each of our corporate teams and sales reps the tools they need to maintain the high level of responsiveness and service our customers expect.

How has this strengthened your team?
This situation has been a unique opportunity to uncover hidden talents, learn new technologies, and improve communication within and between teams. Learning and mastering a new way of doing things is not easy, but it is paying off by increasing our confidence levels and desensitizing us to the fear of change. “Just do it” is no longer a cliched slogan but a necessity, and we’ve risen to the occasion. We’re getting to know each other better and, as we are virtually being invited into coworkers’ homes, we are able to touch each other’s lives and support each other as never before. We hope to maintain this level of caring, communication, and flexibility long past the immediate crisis.

Would you consider making different products in the future? How are you innovating for a new market post-COVID?
We are focused on staying in close touch with clients, understanding their challenges and remaining hypersensitive to their needs. This will help us not only get them through this temporary downturn but will inform the development of solutions for new markets and opportunities that will become important in the future. We know that great products won’t be enough: we are also working on improving our communications with more user-friendly information, sampling and education that will help our customers get ramped back up quickly.

Do you think any of the changes in how you do business could be permanent?
As we become comfortable with our new ways of working, creating new efficiencies, and offering teams more flexibility, we are expanding our definition of how to be productive and plan to retain many of the processes and technologies we are using now.

How are you able to stay positive in the midst of crisis?
Stay connected, and open to new ideas. Find ways to help and give back. Get support, hope, and strength from the great people around us and inspiration from those who are making a difference in the world.

Any WFH pro tips?
Separate work and home/family spaces—mentally and physically

What is your favorite social isolation hobby, recipe, tip for beating boredom? Have you picked up anything new?
Balance escapism with brain stimulation; indoor and outdoor activities: Disney channel, Boomerang cartoons, bird sounds on Amazon echo, hiking in the forest / long walks in the park, small-scale gardening (with mixed results!)


March 27, 2020

I was sitting in the Ottawa airport when I saw the headline that Coronavirus was officially a pandemic. I was leaving my second conference after a busy three weeks of rep training, tradeshows, and meetings. I had spent the last few months constantly traveling and shaking as many hands as possible – a greeting that now seems unthinkable. Admittedly, even after hearing the official pandemic status, the gravity of the situation did not immediately register with me. At the time, my in-laws-to-be were on a cruise, and I was preoccupied concerns around whether they would be able to attend our April wedding via a direct flight from Hong Kong.

That was just two weeks ago, and the rate at which everything has changed is hard to believe. Within days, the provincial government was urging bars and restaurants to close their doors to discourage people from congregating in groups. That was when the fear started to set in. Getting together in public places is at the core of the hospitality industry, and manufacturing restaurant equipment and furniture is the core of our business. If the very core of our main industry and business was being discouraged, and subsequently deemed illegal, I had to wonder what this meant for our company. We immediately closed our showroom to the public and moved all scheduled in-person meetings to an online platform. We carefully diagnosed the 3 metrics we would need to follow to make sure we would be able to weather this storm: the threat level of the virus, cash flow, and how our business could adapt.

Before we could react to anything, we needed to talk to our employees. We had a meeting with all our staff (with each employee standing six feet apart from one another) to talk about these metrics, and what changes to those metrics could mean for us. We discussed some of the current concerns and personal situations with our staff. With schools canceled, some people needed to be at home to provide childcare. There are also people who have compromised immune systems, or live with elderly family, who had to apply a different level of risk assessment to coming into work everyday. As a company, we discussed that we would need to make layoffs, and evaluated who would benefit most from the government assistance being put in place. We discussed the need to preserve the health of our business, such that once the pandemic subsides, we could rehire every single staff member and continue to work towards achieving the goals that we set out for 2020. I felt a little bit sheepish asking the staff if they wanted to have a chat group as we worked through this, and was so touched by everyone’s enthusiasm. We started a company-wide chat group so that we could continue to communicate, and with such a tightly knit work-family, we haven’t stopped. For some of the people who chose temporary leave, the most emotional part of it was the idea of social distance and isolation. Ironically however, the physical distance has made us all feel closer than ever.

As a manufacturer, working from home is not a viable option. We have quickly pivoted to running a skeleton staff in the office to reduce contact. Our shop continues to work, always wearing masks and gloves. Our shipping department is reduced, but still very much operational. We are having ongoing conversations to ensure that everyone is self-isolating, and that the members of their households are doing the same. It can be uncomfortable, but health and safety are paramount. While physically in the office, we keep our distance from one another, and we are consistently disinfecting surfaces and washing our hands. We are doing everything we can to avoid contamination, while monitoring the threat level of the virus.

We are constantly evaluating the orders going out, but as great as a purchase order is, it’s not cash in hand. We have always prided ourselves on being a healthy and stable business, and although the current global situation has not altered our health and stability, it does mean we may have to make some changes. Our mail delivery was nonexistent the past week, and we all collectively cheered when someone was able to go to a depot and pick up our cheques. We are closely monitoring our receivables and have had to change some of our policies on terms. The risk is higher than ever, especially knowing that there are companies that will not come out of this. We will not be one of those companies, and we will come out of this stronger than ever.

There was an instant pivot in our manufacturing. Although we have always indirectly supplied medical and grocery accounts, we revisited those relationships and the market need and thought about where we needed to be. We put the question out to our new, enthusiastic chat group about what we can provide in the fight against COVID-19. We focused on beds, IV poles, garment racks for masks and gowns, and medical supply carts for ventilators. We started getting requests for mobile hand-washing stations, COVID-19 testing stations, and satellite kitchens to help distance people in the hospitals. We put together a program of both mountable and portable sneeze guards and barriers for several industries to keep our front-line employees in essential services safe. Our design department is slammed, and our emails are overflowing.

With the provincial shut down of non-essential businesses, we are constantly getting emails and phone calls asking if we are open for business. I want them to know that we are not just open for business, but we are open to ideas. We are a team of out-of-the-box thinkers that is committed to riding this wave and becoming a supply partner to different markets. It energizes me every time someone has a new idea. It reminds me how strong of a team we are when we can collectively flesh out that idea, build it, and ship it as a market-ready product. Not only I am confident that we are addressing the metric of business volume, but I am confident that we are an essential business that is going to be part of the pandemic solution.

We still are watching our 3 metrics, and we take things day by day. The most monumental part of this is that it is not limited to our company, our country, or our industry. It is the entire planet. We are continually having transparent conversations about what needs to happen next. We all watch the same news, share the same fears, and think through the same challenges. I have never felt so close to some of our partners in the far corners of the world. I have discussed protocols and hysteria with people in China. I have discussed curfews and quarantines with people in India. I have discussed fear and death tolls with people in Italy. It has shown me the value and strength of our global relationships, and the importance of maintaining these connections. There is no precedent or playbook for what is going to happen, but I have seen some incredible comradery from across oceans as we work through this. The response to this pandemic has been a comforting reminder of our shared humanity, and the value of a team.

Tara Witt
Operating Partner, Tarrison
NEWH Inc. Vice President of International Relations, Canada
NEWH Canada Inc. Director
tara@tarrison.com
www.tarrison.com