COVID-19 Response: Mahmud Jafri, CEO, Dover Rug & Home

We check in with twelve architects, builders, designers, and suppliers to see how they are managing their staff and their businesses during this incredibly challenging time.

With the coronavirus currently taking over our personal and professional lives, the measures that have been instituted to stop its spread have had a major impact on most businesses, including those of us serving the New England design industry. In times of crisis, we turn to people who have withstood similar circumstances in the past and persevered. We reached out to twelve industry leaders who have led their firms through past crises to share what actions they are taking now, how they will measure the success of their firms over the next twelve months, and how they’re moving forward.

Dover Rug‘s Mahmud Jafri shares how his family-owned business is navigating the COVID-19 crisis.

Home is going to be more important than ever before. How do we keep consumers engaged now?
We have never seen a crisis where we are dealing with health, mortality, and financial challenges at the same time. This translates into psychological and emotional stress, which calls for sincere and transparent engagement with your customers based on compassion and understanding, and the message has to be supportive and inspirational. After all, it is a universal human problem and it will be solved by fellow humans as one community.

How are you communicating with your in-house teams and outside vendors?
We are in constant contact with our in-house team. Our corporate culture is along the lines of family dynamics. Our communication, mutual support, and understanding is multi-tiered. We have communication at a company level, management level, and personalized level depending on the individual situation. It is critical that we communicate with our vendors and suppliers as quickly and as often as possible to keep each other abreast of this ever-changing environment. This allows both parties to be on board in planning to move forward.

How will you be defining success in three months, six months, a year?
Success in three months will be based on how quickly and safely we put out the “fires,” communicate with our trade partners, and have a mutual understanding of how to move forward in the short-term window––hopefully, it is a short-term window. Our six months of success will be defined by being open for business, having not lost any team members, with consumer confidence up and store traffic resumed. Our twelve months of success will be that we are back to 2019 levels in sales and revenues!!

Is there something you implemented at your firm in 2008 that worked that you are executing again?
The biggest challenge for brick-and-mortar stores is the overhead cost and debt service while competing with online merchants. We took some cost-cutting measures; historically we are a debt-aversion company, so we were able to weather the storm without the cost of debt service. We were able to get terms from our vendors to have inventory in the store and repay with sales revenue.

How are you thinking about cash flow management differently now than in more normal times? 
This crisis is all about cash flow. All of our trading partners have to come to the table in a true partnership based on win-win arrangements. We have to keep each other strong to survive and do well. We are only as good as our trading partners.

Are there different cost-saving strategies you are leaning on regarding staff, overhead, and discretionary spending?
It is a wake-up call for the entire economy worldwide. This is a huge reset button for all of us. We will be entering into a very different world, and we have to set realistic and conservative expectations. Unfortunately, consumer confidence is the last thing that improves. Our economy is based on consumer spending. We have to be patient and ready for some sacrifices!!

How do you ensure your “all of a sudden” remote workforce remains motivated and productive?
We have been in communication and with our team on a regular basis, keeping them motivated, providing vision, direction, comfort, and inspiration.

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