Ever since the outbreak of COVID-19, we are experiencing numerous changes in our lives. Over the last 18 months, one of the biggest challenges for businesses around the world has been the lockdown and not having a functioning showroom, having it open than shut. Also, the social distancing norms increased the challenges further. This has led companies to switch towards digitalization, however, adapting to all these new and sudden changes can be more challenging. But this is what successful companies do, they adopt to the changes and survive through the hardships, amongst those is FCI LONDON.
Founded in 1985, FCI London has grown from a 5000 sq ft showroom to one of the largest designer furniture and lifestyle houses in the UK. The company is an independently owned family business with deep roots in furniture design, manufacture, and interiors. It has one of the largest contemporary furniture showrooms in the UK, displaying the most exclusive quality pieces from the world’s most exclusive quality designers.
With the recent changes happening around, FCI LONDON decided to switch to a heavy consultancy model. The company started offering interior design services to customers via zoom, WhatsApp chat, or other kind of videoing options whereby it could advise customers, look into their houses and advise them based on their situation rather than products in the showroom. Moreover, the company invested heavily in software to allow working remotely and in the cloud which proved really helpful. The entire trade side of the business working with architects and interior designers, the company was literally up and running within hours.
“Most trade clients don’t really need to come into the showroom. They need prices, support, the quick response time on information and we had our global operations set up to be able to do that really quickly which was a massive advantage for us when most of our competitors were shut just waiting for the government to tell them what to do,” says Firdaus Nagree, CEO at FCI LONDON
The journey of FCI LONODN began by setting up a showroom and working with a lot of small manufacturers who produce absolutely beautiful furniture and don’t know how to market themselves. Some of the pieces these manufactures produce were far superior, from a comfort or value point of view than some of the top tier brands. The mission of the company gradually changed over the years and is now really clearly about helping individuals transform their spaces and getting the most emotional, financial, and productivity value from their spaces. The company wants to help transform spaces by putting in the most appropriate pieces with the best sensible and not just creative but pragmatic and practical design and space planning advice.
FCI LONDON works with the best brands in the world. Also, the company makes a conscious effort not to work with those brands that are overpriced. It picks and chooses and sees if it represents a good value for money proposition for our customers who are predominantly to be interior designers. Firdaus and the team at FCI LONDON work with brands that offer a fair value for money, that have great design and customer service. The team has worked with a lot of small brands who offer amazing value for money as they don’t put up a 300 percent margin for just saying they are a big brand. “Where we really different from our competitors, we don’t buy inexpensive goods from the Far East and mark them up to ridiculous amounts. We also don’t just blindly work with “the best brands or the best designers”, we evaluate every single brand for value for money, customer service when things go wrong which they do go wrong, and comfort and quality, so that’s really our USP,” says Firdaus.
As a CEO, Firdaus believes that there are so many rewarding parts in the journey of a business leader. For him, he like tinkering and being involved in digital marketing. He feels involving with any new technology work can be rewarding. Firdaus and the team at FCI LONDON have built lots of technology inside and around the business. The team believes in brainstorming the idea and hypothesizes a solution. This helps them in building the solution in technology that actually works. It gives the team what they aimed, whether it’s increased sales, margins, productivity, or visibility. He loves finding solutions to problems and then fixing them with technology.
Firdaus is a serial entrepreneur, angel investor, father, husband, and passionate scuba diver who has founded or funded numerous successful companies since 1999. After beginning his career as a strategy consultant with Accenture, he became involved in the London property scene, trading properties from the age of 21. He has been actively involved as an executive, board member, or investor in a variety of sectors including Digital Hospitality, F&H, Construction, Interior Design, Retail, Bridge Finance, Proptech, Education, Aggregated Logistics, Property, On-Demand Food Delivery, and Insurance.
Challenges are part and parcel of the business. A sign of a successful company is when it understands that it can overcome any challenge and empower its team and others associated with it. Recalling the challenging times, Firdaus asserts, “When the 2008 crisis hit, it was a very difficult time for our business. We had to reinvent ourselves and shut down alot of showrooms, which was difficult on the ego but the most sensible decision. These challenges in trying to figure out how to cope with low sales, low margins, low demand in a very tough landscape, was very difficult. The challenge that I didn’t know I was facing was the challenge of putting a really strong company culture together, which would help me build a strong team.”
It took him many years to figure out that company culture was so important and once he realized that and started focusing on his decision-making based on culture, the team evolved and grew. Today, the team the company has is the best team that it ever had which is why the business is growing at the rate that it is growing.
A leaders’ mindset is vital for the company’s fortune. Today, a leader’s role is to coach, mentor, find opportunities, build, and to find things that people are strong at rather than trying to focus on the weak aspects. He should be able to maximize the strengths and move people around so that they sat in the right seat and support them in their success. “I don’t think the leaders’ job is to do everything and to be in the front in many respects. It is to be nurturing, supporting, and coaching rather than being the face of everything,” says Firdaus.
FCI LONDON is doubling its team and has already started the process. The company is building a SasS platform that will be a global platform that will revolutionize how people access design advice and allow them to really add enough value and optimize their living spaces without spending an arm and a leg no matter what their budget is and hopefully lead to just happy people. It envisions making a space visually perfect to the customer’s personality and functional effectiveness that will go along, way to the overall happiness.
The most important message is that we are on the cusp of revolutionary change with how people spend time in their homes which is being highlighted by covid. We are developing a system and platform that will allow people to look at their homes differently and demand more from their homes and give them help to be able to maximize what their home can do for them, by getting the most of their homes and by leveraging the amazing wealth that the design industry has that is untapped and the passion interior designers have for adding value to people’s homes. We going to put that to good use.
Firdaus Nagree, CEO at FCI LONDON