Friday, May 15, 2020


During the last few days I have been thinking a lot about courage and all the ways we are seeing it these days.  There are so many courageous people doing extraordinary things right now to keep us safe, keep us fed, keep us healthy, keep us comfortable in our homes around the world.  From the first responders, doctors and police officers to the lady at the grocery store who checked me out four weeks ago, my mailman who continues to ring my doorbell, and even our garbage collectors who come every week, all of them have risen to the challenge of showing courage to go to work when no one else was and take care of the rest of us.  They are truly courageous. My heart and thanks extend to all of them. 

But courageous does not belong solely to those men and women.  They are truly amazing, but there are other demonstrations of bravery happening everyday around us.  You see courage defined is the ability to do something that frightens one; mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.  Through that lense, I think about all of the ways that I see courage in the people around me.  My kids learning how to greet their grandparents without hugging, my team creating videos of themselves to demonstrate new product despite how uncomfortable they may be, our partners figuring out new ways to conduct business, indeed our employees helping us make furniture again with new procedures and mandatory masks. 

I watch my five year old son, the most gregarious kid you would ever meet, never met a stranger, as he embraces the rule of social distancing.  The battle that must be going on inside his little head to control himself and hold back.  Everyday he has missed his teachers and friends as he has stayed home.  In many ways he doesn't even fully understand the why.  He too, indeed all children, are demonstrating serious courage.  

Each of us is mustering the strength to persevere, whether that's a Zoom call or video chat, a google classroom, or back into a work environment. We are pushing through the immense changes in our lives, and change for most of us is scary.  It takes courage to face the unknown.  It takes courage to overcome the fear of not knowing.  It takes courage to learn something new.  

I am grateful for all of the courage I see around me.  Everyday both the big and small acts of courage are everywhere.  I challenge you to look for them too, and let their presence give you hope.  


Thursday, May 7, 2020

The Little Things

Shot from our first Wednesdays @ 1 Webinar Series

The last few days I have been thinking a lot about all the things that we have taken for granted through the years, certainly things that I have for all my life.  Things like sitting in a meeting with my peers, business travel, giving someone a hug, or just shaking a hand.  Attending church, sitting on the sidelines of a soccer game, dropping my kids off at school.  The list goes on and on.  They are small things, indeed very small things and yet, those small things I realize now are what built my sense of community and camaraderie. They defined my relationships and in some ways my self worth. 

Through these days my highs and lows could be tracked like the tides, though not as predictable.  And I am now realizing that it's not the big picture news creating these swings but rather the loss of the little things.  The routines I had blindly followed and the gestures I had unconsciously made were the bedrock of my being.  If I can’t hug someone, how do I show them that I care? If we can’t sit in a room together, how do we have community? If my kids can’t go to school, how do I keep my sanity?  (Sorry, that one just slipped in there.)

I think all of us are somewhere in the process of dealing with this, of recalibrating and redesigning ourselves in light of the new social rules. Of course we have all tried to hold on to the old.  I know a few of you have pulled out your lawn chairs in your driveway with a neighbor or two, and probably more than one of you have ventured into Lowes on Saturday to buy plants.  We crave those rituals of gathering.  And yet we are being forced to redefine what those will look like in the future. How do we move forward from here?  What does that look like? 

I had the opportunity yesterday to listen to Bob Phibbs, a well known speaker on retail and retailing.  His message was exactly what I needed to hear. While pragmatic and grounded, it was rooted in hope.  Today is different, tomorrow will be different too, and to stare at the past and think we are going back is helpless.  So what is one thing I can do today to move us, to move me, further down the path tomorrow?  I can focus on the things I control and be hopeful and provide hope to my family, my business, and our customers.  Bob so aptly stated that his marching orders, his mantra is, “In hope I am fearless.” I love that. We need to be fearless now.  We need to embrace these new opportunities to connect as awkward and as clumsy as we may be in doing so.  You know the old saying, it's hard to teach an old dog new tricks.  Well, throw that out the window.  Embrace fearless, commit to learning the new.  Be vulnerable. 

I have great hope for a new way of connecting. Already I am gaining composure and comfort with video conferencing and software I would have never learned before. My brother is teaching himself social media one YouTube message at a time. I facetimed with my parents last weekend even if my mom did set the phone down on the table for some of it.  My ten year old daughter who had professed that she hates technology, is now a master at Google Classroom and Chatroom, and is navigating her way independently around e-learning.  This week I watched one of our design partners host a three day virtual webinar for their designers that they would have never done before.  Young and old, at work and at home, we are all having to learn, but the beauty, the silver lining, is that we are all learning together.  

Learning takes vulnerability.  In order to learn, you must admit that you don't know.  It's uncomfortable for most of us, especially as we get older.  But it's perhaps the most human thing there is.  So, what little thing will you do tomorrow to be fearless?  What's one thing you will you do to give hope to those around you?  I challenge you to commit to being human.  Commit to learning the new.  Remember, in hope we are fearless. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

One Day at a Time

Reading back through the last several weeks of posts that I have written I am reflecting on how this situation has unfolded both for me personally and professionally.  Unfolding in some way suggests that it was a slow process of events when in actuality we all know it has been anything but slow. It has been unbelievably fast and furious.  My family like many went from spring break plans to the reality of school closures and canceled events. Our company went from full steam ahead to contemplation of a factory shut down in a matter of days.  Our country, indeed the world, has seen seismic shifts in a matter of weeks.

The reality of it all I think has yet to sink in, as each day we work through new realities and new decisions.  How do I juggle work and teaching today?  Can my husband cover a webinar so my five year old doesn't jump into my Zoom meeting?  Those are the easy questions.  Do we extend our factory and office closure or do we open?  How do we manage our business needs and our employee needs? What happens if we have a case at work?  Those are the tougher questions that loom in front of all business owners. There are no easy answers.

And yet, I find tremendous comfort in the saying, "one day at a time".  Inside of this crisis there have been and will be many tragedies, real hurt and real loss.  At times I have been overcome by the emotions of it all and have to have a good cry.  That's healthy.  However, none of us can stay in that place for long.  Thankfully I have my young children in the house for a quick snap back to the now.  The urgent scream from the restroom, "Mommy, come help," is enough to jerk anyone out of their seat.  Take action on what is now, on what is in front of you.  (That's what 5 years olds are good for- and it's a great lesson for all of us.)  Stay in the now.  God only gives us one day at a time for a reason.  The past is the past, what happens tomorrow, nobody knows, but today is the present.  Treat it like one.

Friday, April 24, 2020

First there was Hickory Chair and then came Century Furniture

Century 1948 Casegoods Plant
As we wrap up our first week of coming back on line in our factories, I thought I would share another story from Harley.  Most people don't realize this, but at one time in the mid 40's my grandfather actually bought Hickory Chair.  I'll let him tell the story.  For those of you who knew my grandfather, you will hear him in these words, and if you knew him you know that there was no better storyteller than Harley.

Well that's another story. Some old families here owned Hickory Chair and the Menzies and the Geitners and some others, and they got this high-powered operators, they came in and they bought Hickory Chair, but they bought it for two or three hundred thousand dollars less than nothing.  The old crowd wanted to get out, so what they did, this new crowd they came in, they guaranteed the inventory and guaranteed the accounts receivable, and when they did that, then they paid them the money, I think it was about $750,000, but you see, the inventory are guaranteed and the receivables are guaranteed, it amounted to more than the price they paid for it.  So they got the whole deal for nothing.  And all they were interested in was, shall we say, to milk it.  And they didn't care where you got a union and whatever, they didn't care. So my two brothers and this gentleman I was telling you about, Pete Menzies, we met them down at the hotel, we said now, "I'll tell you what we'll do, we'll give you, I forget how much, we gave them a profit, I'll give you,..." Oh, I can't remember the figure, but we gave them a profit, provided they got on the 2:00 train and got the hell out of town.  

So we paid them and Bill, my brother Bill, and Pete, said, "Well, we'll take Hickory Chair," and there was another operation called Hickory Manufacturing Company. My brother Alex and Cecil Bost bought it.  They took Hickory Manufacturing Company.  So I remember going down there, let's go down there and see.  I'd never been in the place, let's go down and see what we bought.  And then I went down there and looked at it.  Then later on I was down there kinda looking after it, trying to help a little bit, trying to stay out of the way. But I was back there in the kitchen one day and I said, "Listen, it's not going to work. Either you buy me out or I'll buy you out." Well, they decided they'd take their money. So I paid them off.  

So then that's when I got started in the furniture down there.  Then later on, I sold it to old Buzz Fennell.  He and a group of people got together and bought it.  They bought my interest out. And then shortly after that, why, I decided I'd build a very small little plant.  And that's when I started Century Furniture Company.  And it didn't get small, god, it just got pregnant with it, it just got bigger and bigger and bigger and then I got so involved that I thought I'd never get out of it.  But you're going back a long way on that.  


It is a pretty amazing twist of fate, that over seventy years later, we find ourselves once again sister companies with Hickory Chair.  Some things you just can't make up, and these stories run deep in our family and company history.  Each story for me holds lots of little lessons.  I hear opportunity, I hear perseverance, and I hear plenty of luck.  Lord knows it takes all three to run a successful business.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Celebrating Earth Day- Century's Environmental Stewardship Policy

 599-211 Consulate Soane Tall Cabinet in Lapis 

Century Furniture strives to achieve the status of “The Best” furniture company in the world.
Our environmental policy is a key element of our corporate philosophy. Since our beginnings in 1947, it has been our culture to be socially responsible with the safety and health of our associates, our business partners, our customers and our natural environment. We are committed to reducing our environmental impact through intelligent design, conservation, and recycling.

We believe the best way to conserve environmental resources is to design and manufacture furniture of such impeccable quality that it will last for generations. Nothing is more wasteful than disposable furniture.

The vast majority of our furniture is manufactured in Hickory, NC from predominantly domestic materials. Very high energy costs are involved in the transportation of furniture and raw materials. When items are produced locally, the environmental footprint is much smaller.

We strive to meet or exceed all regulatory or industry standards in terms of safety and potential emissions to the environment. No resource is more important than the health of our associates. We set and continually review objectives and targets to protect our global environment. We seek not only to comply with safety and environmental regulations, but also to implement in-house standards to continuously improve our environmental performance and reduce our environmental footprint.

We believe in renewable energy. We will continue our efforts to reduce energy use by combusting scrap wood and sawdust to generate power for our manufacturing facilities.

We believe that recycling is critical to pollution prevention: Computers, ink cartridges, batteries, paper, cotton, fabric & leather scraps, cardboard, pallets, fluorescent bulbs, cans, glass and bottles, etc. Every employee is empowered and motivated to recycle whenever possible and systems are in place to maximize our recycling efforts.

Century Furniture is certified as an EFEC company.  EFEC is a voluntary environmental management system (EMS) for furniture manufacturers.  It was created with the purpose of maintaining and furthering the industry’s strong environmental performance.  The EFEC system is a set of management tools and principles that a company needs to integrate environmental concerns into its daily business practices.  EFEC provides a systematic approach to review and improve operations for better environmental performance and improved profitability.  Benefits are obtained by setting up procedures to get the work done and reviewing these procedures to ensure they are working properly.
In addition, many state regulatory agencies are creating benefits for companies that have an EMS in place. These benefits may include less reporting, fewer inspections, permit flexibility, faster permit approvals, government recognition, and reduced permit and application fees.
  • Create a proactive environmental management system
  • Implement an environmental system in a business setting to create new opportunities to increase company value
  • Create a communication forum to showcase industry’s environmental commitment
  • Serve as a foundation for future business requirements including environmental certification
Century Furniture’s main office and each of our manufacturing facilities have been EFEC certified since 2010.  In addition, Century Furniture was recognized as a Sustainable by Design company in October 2010.  Both EFEC and Sustainable by Design are audited and continuous improvement recognitions, which means our Century team is continually working towards higher and improved environmental standards for our company.

Rainforest Alliance 
The Rainforest Alliance is a non-governmental organization (NGO) with the published aims of working to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices and consumer behavior.

  • Through a Supply chain risk assessment the Rainforest Alliance helped us see potential areas of risk and how we could change future buying practices
  • We worked together to develop and implement a Responsible Purchasing Policy for Wood Products
  • The Rainforest Alliance certified Century Furniture as FSC® Chain of Custody Certified
All of these efforts are intended to ensure our positive effect on the global supply chain for wood products, ensuring that this precious resource will be here for use and enjoyment of future generations. We feel very proud of progress made in our own company and the influence we have had on the wider global supply chain.

We continue to work each day to find ways to be better stewards of our resources.  From our recycling programs to our high level work to ensure the chain of custody on our wood, Century is committed to continued improvement and environmental leadership.