We are continuing to do what we’ve always done, just in a different way
The crisis is making me reconsider many things. It will certainly change the way we interact, and even how we do business.
In the beginning, it unfolded as in any other country. We heard about what was happening China, but if felt very far away – we all thought that it wouldn’t reach us. Unfortunately, we quickly realised that was not the case. We live in a very connected world and at the beginning of February, we started hearing of the first cases in Italy.
We took action straight away. Before anything was imposed by the government, we implemented our own security measures, such as asking the drivers who were delivering to our factory not leave the cabin of their truck, and later we shut our London showroom before the British government imposed lockdown. We also wanted to create a filter for the everything we were hearing from the media, to create a channel of clear information and advice for our employees, to help explain the financial aid being offered by the government, such as suspending mortgages and utility bills. It’s a very uncertain time, we are all stressed, and I wanted to ensure that our employees at least didn’t have to worry about their jobs. I sent a video message to everyone, reassuring them that their jobs were safe and they would continue to be paid.
So the company was OK, but we could see that our community was struggling; that the hospital was lacking the tools it needed to do its job. Using our network, we found a company in Israel that produced masks and, together with a group of entrepreneurs from the area, ordered 500,000. We kept a few hundred and donated the rest to the local community, and we continue to be in contact with both the hospital and the company producing ventilators in Italy to provide whatever assistance we can. I’ve always thought about the social responsibility of a company, and I feel this obligation now more than ever. We just want to do out part. Right now it’s the most important thing we can do as a company.
When this happened we were preparing for the Salone del Mobile, but already we are asking whether we should be investing in presenting our work there, instead of concentrating on creating beautiful and meaningful products. And, as we are now all working from home, using video conferencing software, emails and phone calls, I’ve found that the quality of our conversations has been much better than what it used to be, especially when we do our daily calls with the board. We are all less distracted, more focused.
At the moment there is little point focusing on the financial impact. There is not much we can do – we are lucky that the orders have not stopped yet, but there will be a downturn and, a few days ago, the Italian government shut down all non-essential manufacturing. While we are well prepared as a company, this is a time to think of our families and those companies who are not able to support their workers, and for the government to step in to help those who are struggling. We all need to come together.
We may still do the Salone virtually. Everyone inside the company has worked so hard on the show, from the workers in the factory to the office team to designers, with whom we developed the new collections. To share that would be a way to show our appreciation of their work, as well as to show that we are not stopping.
We are continuing to do what we’ve always done, just in a different way.
– Gabriele Salvatori, CEO