Navigating the Crisis | Chris and Clare Turner on leading CTO Lighting through Covid-19

“We felt that it was important to support the creative community in any way we could, so our sales and marketing team carried on keeping in touch and checking in with all our customers and sales partners in the UK and abroad. Sometimes it is not only about the sales, but that genuine gesture of wanting to know how you are.”

In today’s ‘Lockdown Leader’ profile, we meet Clare & Chris Turner, Founders of CTO Lighting, a luxury contemporary lighting company whose designs grace the interiors of iconic buildings all over the world.

How are you navigating your business through the current COVID-19 crisis?

We put people at the heart of our business and at the beginning of the crisis our main priority was the health and wellbeing of our staff, not just in work, but also helping them be financially secure for those we have furloughed. We moved everyone from head office to work remotely and safe at home, ensuring they were all set up to work properly.

Our factory outside Birmingham was more of a challenge, we spilt the staff into two teams and had them working across two shifts. Luckily, we have two sites, so we were able to space the staff out.

Our second priority was to be sure we supported our clients worldwide, and as a result of these changes we have been able to keep fully operational, supporting our global client base, managing supply chain, and also still delivering orders to clients. We also felt that it was important to support the creative community in any way we could, so our sales and marketing team carried on keeping in touch and checking in with all our customers and sales partners in the UK and abroad. Sometimes it is not only about the sales, but that genuine gesture of wanting to know how you are.

What has the situation taught you about leadership?

The need to be clear on vision and objectives, we have had to make important decisions to ensure the long term growth of CTO Lighting. Looking into a world that suddenly came to stand still, you need to think creatively and focus on opportunities. Working remotely has its own challenges, but it has enabled some more head space to make key decisions; we have promoted two employees in our London head office and also signed up to the Living Wage which has supported two of our factory staff.

And what has it taught you about your business?

As a family run business the relationships we have with our staff, clients and partners mean a lot to us. This crisis made us realise how much we trust our staff and how much we miss them. So, ensuring we have a team that find a good work life balance, and enjoy their job is crucial. It has been incredible to see how much they appreciate the business and the effort they are putting every day to help the business to grow.

As per out clients and partners, it made us realise that we are not beholden only to one or two large clients, but a well spread global mix; In fact made us see that our clientele is a large community of creative people and individuals with different personalities and needs that we value and understand, which is what give us the strength and will to work tirelessly to help them during this period. It made us realise that we are a very agile company that has the power and flexibility to adapt to the new challenge.

How are you – and the wider business – supporting your people?

We think support is much needed during times like this. Not only from the business point of view but in our personal lives too; with kindness and gestures that bound us together as human beings.  Every day at 9am we have a daily video meeting; everyone recaps their previous day and any of the objectives they are working towards, and it is equally important we all see each other together outside of the working environment. Our marketing manager holds a zoom meditation class every Tuesday morning and l am playing remote chess with our Supply Chain Manager who is furloughed.  We also make sure that we regular call our furloughed staff and external sales agents.

We have also repurposed a fraction of the factory capabilities and time to produce PPE for the local community. The production is been delivered by our staff to local care homes and hospices. A small gesture that helps those in need but also reminds us to keep in touch with the reality out there.

What do you see as the potential long-lasting changes to your business?

As a company we will need to re-evaluate certain key areas; how we bring product to market with digital led product launches, we are working on exciting new products to be launched in the Autumn, as well as having an even more UK focused supply chain and ensure we deliver on our sustainability policy we are about to action. We also want to make sure we retain our existing team; ensure they develop and hone their skills and together get back on trajectory of growth. The intention is to be leaner, faster and have the capabilities to adapt quickly and keep pace with the new norm.

How are you, on a personal level, dealing with lockdown?

We discovered the joys of having a much improved work-life balance, it is great to spend more quality time with our young adult children. Rediscovering our kids in adult life has been wonderful and finding new skills in the family too! Food tastes much better when cooked by our eldest returning from Italy.

www.ctolighting.co.uk