Smart Furniture White Papers: Ethics

Our Ethics

Integrity is the foundation of all that we do. By combining a team of talented, hard-working folks with a culture that values integrity, encourages candor, and demands innovation, we have set out to create a new way of doing business in our industry. The practice of these ideals hasn't gone unnoticed, with Smart Furniture having been awarded the Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics by the Better Business Bureau.
Customer/Vendor Relationships: A business with integrity is one that is perceived in the marketplace as positive, ethical, honest reliable, and responsive to both customers and vendors.

  • The culture of our sales and customer service teams makes it difficult to highlight just one or two examples of positive, ethical, honest, reliable, and responsive behaviors. Whether they're reconfiguring products that our customers have designed themselves so that the customers will save money or spending hours on the phone with multiple freight companies to ensure that we fulfill our commitment to deliver our products in time for an important event or move-in date, our sales and customer service teams routinely go beyond ordinary customer service to provide service that is truly extraordinary.
  • On the vendor side, we established monthly meetings with our manufacturing vendors which are intended to foster continuous improvement, two way communication, and partnership building. Additionally, we always try to produce as much as we can with suppliers in the local region so that we can make regular visits to their facilities, visit with the factory workers, and observe whether or not safe work practices and environmental controls are in place.
  • The world of design is fraught with patent violations and unauthorized reproductions of original designs. Sometimes it is hard to know, as a consumer or a company, whether or not you are buying an original or a fake (we've made several mistakes ourselves). For those products that we do not design ourselves, we endeavor to sell only those authorized by the original designers, though they may cost us more, while numerous competitors and industry players others choose to carry unauthorized versions.

Our Business Ethics: Integrity in Action

  • We started out as a small company in a large, mature industry. The result of starting small is that we are not trapped by convention. One example of this is how we treat our customers. A few years ago, we established a goal to provide the ''best customer service in the industry.'' After one year of trying to measure and achieve this goal, we realized that having the ''best customer service'' in the furniture market was not really saying much (Customer Service has traditionally been an afterthought in the furniture market). This led us to develop what we call the ''Golden Rule of Customer Service.''
  • Simply stated, the Golden Rule of Customer Service requires that everyone at Smart Furniture treat every customer the way they want to be treated when they are customers. This policy has impacted virtually every aspect of our business. It began with the founder putting a business phone by his bed every night to answer anytime a customer called, because he would want (though maybe not expect) the same. As another example, we established a Lifetime Warranty on the quality of Smart Furniture manufactured products. Rather than qualifying this warranty with pages and pages of fine print (as you can probably imagine would be the temptation of a company where the CEO and President are both former attorneys), we simply state that if any Smart Shelf gets damaged, we will replace it for free (that's really it). There are countless other examples of how this policy impacts our relationship with our customers. From having a human being actually answering the phone when a customer calls to developing packaging that makes it simple for anyone to carry and unpack, the Golden Rule of Customer Service is a source of pride for our team and hopefully encourages our customers to think of us a little different than our competition.

Who We Are: Employee Relationships

  • Developing a culture of honest ethically minded employees begins, for us, with selecting the right people. Every employee is screened during the interviewing process for not only talent, drive, and creativity, but also for honesty, candor, and integrity. Management strives to convey to every employee the importance of integrity, why it matters to us, and how it makes us different. And more often than not, when everyone's gathered around at our weekly staff meetings, we revisit the issue and its importance to being proud of what we do - personally and professionally.
  • Being a venture-backed company with significant pressure from investors to grow revenues and net income year after year, we have to innovate and create everyday. Employees are encouraged to take chances and even make calculated mistakes. To make sure that a given mistake does not become a larger problem, employees must feel comfortable enough to disclose mistakes quickly and completely. To encourage this honesty and sense of responsibility, employees are never reprimanded or disciplined for disclosing mistakes. This policy has helped us to develop a culture of honesty and candor - as well as innovation and creativity.

Our Commitment to Integrity: Why Business Ethics are Important to Smart Furniture

  • Having a true commitment to integrity and candor means never taking ethical short cuts - even when the consequences are critical.
  • During one critical time early in our history, we were in need of acquiring more customers and had very little resources to do so. A (former) employee had a relationship with folks at a former employer through which he/she was able to obtain a large and extremely valuable list of potential customers. The prospect list would have been extremely valuable to us, and likely would have helped bridge a financial valley, but we learned that it had been acquired without the permission of his former employer. Rather than using the list, we required that it be destroyed.
  • During that difficult period, the Company was not able to provide employees with bonuses or raises. Although he was already making substantially less than he could earn anywhere else, Smart Furniture's former CEO and current Chairman, Stephen Culp, cut his salary further to provide raises for other employees.

Above the Crowd: What sets Smart Furniture apart from the rest?

  • Our young company can't claim to have any particular expertise in ''doing the right thing.'' Sometimes we don't even know what the ''right'' thing is. And sometimes, even when we do, it requires such sacrifice that an easier or more instantly ''rewarding'' choice is tempting.
  • ''Doing the right thing'' is certainly not about ''rewards.'' With that said, trying our best to do the right thing has yielded a potent long-term benefit to our culture. It comes down to one word: Trust. Obviously, earning the trust of customers and vendors is important. But first, we realize that the members of our team must trust each other, up and down and across the organization, from the office, to the showroom to the warehouse.
  • That may sound like a small thing, but its effects have been powerful here at Smart Furniture. Trust has opened the door to a kind of diversity, freedom, and candor that none of us has experienced before in other workplaces. People volunteer when they don't understand something or make a mistake, or have an idea that may sound silly, because they trust each other, and they trust that we're all trying to improve, all the time, all together.
  • It gives a greater meaning to our professional and personal pursuits. Professionally, of course, we want to help our customers and our fellow team members. Those customers and that team must trust that the folks at Smart Furniture will do their able best to do the right thing. That trust has a tendency to remove barriers - barriers to discussion, to self-improvement, and even, frankly, to sales.
  • On a more personal and ultimately more important level, we can't control every aspect of our company's success; we can control how we conduct ourselves individually, and as a team, toward others, because it matters.
  • Even if Smart Furniture is around for 100 years, even though our business mission is very important to us, most of us will not spend our whole lives working here. But however long we are here, and whatever we accomplish, when we're done, the more meaningful measure of our legacy - of our effect on the people we worked with and served - will not be what we did, but how we did it.
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