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Pandemic Playbook from Amber Engine: Balancing Humanity and Business

Furniture World News



Whether your company has a Crisis Manager in place or you’re navigating new territory on your own, there’s a strange combination of elements at play. The desire to remain socially sensitive, the drive to provide employee protection and the need to navigate layoffs – and subsequent rehires – when the economy recovers.

Unfortunately, there’s no date to attach to the “when” of our economy. And, when you work with skilled labor, as many furniture and home décor suppliers do, the unknowns can be more difficult than in other industries. After all, when craftspeople build lives around the success of their manufacturing facility, it may be impossible for them to relocate a family in the name of finding another machine to run.

That’s why it is imperative that companies put together a communication and action plan that’s easy to share and understand on every level of the organization. Within your facility, determine your corporate level of transparency prior to opening dialogs. Then, be as open and honest as possible – maintaining your boundaries throughout the conversation(s). Be sure you and your colleagues walk the talk and stay organized as new information presents itself.

In his book, Ongoing Crisis Communication, W. Timothy Coombs, PhD, outlines essential crisis response and communication. His tips for effective internal communication include covering:


  1. Crisis Basics – This conveys the basic information of what’s happening – whether a process change due to distancing guidelines or layoffs from lack of work. Provide a basic, truthful framework for what’s happening.

  2. Protection – Share what you’re doing to protect your people and facility from harm. This may be something as simple as new disinfection procedures, a complete change of product being manufactured or something as difficult as putting your furloughed employees in touch with an EAP for emotional support.

  3. Correction – Outline what the company plans to do to fix the problem and protect against future outbreaks and interruptions. This may also include a plan to re-hire employees as the company is financially able.

The way that you and your organization address the COVID-19 crisis ultimately impacts your reputation – both as a leader and as a company. And, in today’s online economy, your company’s reputation is exponentially valuable. When addressing employee concerns, remember to show your concern, act with kindness and compassion, show your regret and offer apology. The simple act of being human in this horrifying situation will help everyone.

Brene Brown, PhD, LMSW, writes in her book Dare To Lead, that clarity in hard conversations is the best thing we can offer others. She says, “It’s simple but transformative: Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind. Feeding people half-truths or bullshit to make them feel better (which is almost always about making ourselves feel more comfortable) is unkind.”

Which brings up an excellent point – will you lead during the coronavirus crisis or will you manage? Yes, day to day operations must continue to be managed. But will you succumb to the ego-trip of fast decision-making or will you pull off the fear blinders to take a broader view of the situation at hand?

It’s hard to take an honest look at the vulnerability of a business you and/or your family built. It’s hard to see the dire financial truths of a company that teeters on the ridge of ruin. But it’s essential you lead with the long game in mind. Perhaps work through two sets of projections for Q2 – one set amid economic recovery, one at a significant loss. Then, use your in-house talent to develop and present a plan for business growth.

Release control and let your team members develop a plan that motivates re-engaged workers to greater success. As you balance compassion, opportunity, hard truths and a future focus, you set your company firmly in the starting blocks. When the race is on again, which it will be, your teams are set to run hard toward the finish line and ensure 2020 closes as a success.

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 info@amberengine.com or visit the company's website.

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