First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Franco Nidea: We are doing fine and adapting well. Fortunately, no one in my immediate family has contracted Covid-19. Right now, I am currently staying in San Diego with my wife at my in-laws’. They had a spare room with a backyard, and that sounded much more inviting than being stuck in quarantine in an apartment in Queens. Plus, my wife gets to spend time with her sister.
Tell us about you, your career, how you joined A&H Co.
Franco Nidea: I moved to the US from the Philippines when I was 18, right after I graduated from high school. It was not an easy move for me, and it took me a few years to adjust. After getting my Accounting degree, I started working for a private-label company in the garment industry as an accountant. I worked closely with the owner for several years while the business expanded from New York and Hong Kong, adding additional offices in Vietnam and Florida.
I am very thankful for this experience as it taught me a lot about running and operating a business. While working there, the family had an opportunity to acquire a small business owned by my father’s childhood friend, who was retiring. In January of 2016, we acquired the business and named it A&H Co. my mother, Josefina Nidea, incorporated the company as Chief Executive Officer, initially together with my father, Alenn Nidea, but I eventually took over his shares as a part-owner in 2018. The company provides office supplies, office furniture, and promotional products in the NYC Metro. We continued the operations of the business while learning the ropes before making some improvements to the company. During the transition, we retained most of the existing clients and added some more. Luckily, the office was located a few blocks away from my work, so I was able to help out part-time in the afternoons when I left the office. I joined the company full-time after two years.
How does A&H Co innovate?
Franco Nidea: Since we are in a mostly commodity industry, we differentiate ourselves by our exceptional customer service, competitive pricing, and seamless purchase process. We keep track of our customers’ operational movements and anticipate their supply needs, which become the basis for making adjustments with our product sourcing and supply chain.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Franco Nidea: Being in the office supplies industry, our sales went down drastically during the first few months. Like a lot of companies, we focused on selling face masks and hand sanitizers when we could get our hands on them from our suppliers. The costs on these items shot up, and it was tough to get, but we were able to service most of our loyal clients.
We also started two new websites focusing on B2C to try and offset the lost revenue from our B2B clients. The first one focuses on home office furniture – Corner Nook – which we established last May. And recently, the second one focuses on supplies and PPE – NeedYa Supply.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Franco Nidea: We did have to shut down our B2B office supply e-commerce site since that came with a back-end system that was too expensive to maintain for the sales we were getting. We shifted our focus on selling home office furniture direct to the public instead of B2B. That’s why we started Corner Nook .
It’s a curation of the same contract-grade, high-quality office furniture you typically use in the office for your home. Since most companies are shifting to more employees working from home, people find that their workspaces are just not adequate to focus and be productive. That’s why we have encouraged everyone to set up a proper dedicated workspace to increase their productivity.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and A&H Co in the future?
Franco Nidea: It was tough in the early months of the pandemic since we were stuck in our apartment. But we try to go out at least twice a week to a park and exercise. It really clears our heads and keeps us fit, which leads to being more productive. Stress and anxiety are internal factors that can be met with our internal ability to control our attitude and emotions. Attitude strengthens the will to combat effectively the limiting effects of stress and anxiety on our mental and emotional state. Rather than take a sidestep, we want to take our company right into the crisis and come out by sailing through it. We are constantly working to see a stronger company going forward.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Franco Nidea: We are in survival mode right now, but we have been increasing our marketing efforts for our B2C e-commerce sites while balancing our B2B clients. We are also looking to hire new salespeople for our office furniture and promotional products business.
Your final thoughts?
Franco Nidea: The pandemic has been an extensively devastating phenomenon on people’s lives and livelihood, which our generation has never seen the like of. But as wisdom tells us, we must learn to work within the crisis and seek opportunities there. Our foremost concern and the primary task at this time is self-preservation and utmost self-care but, at the same time, to be genuinely mindful of our neighbors and communities’ safety. That determination to help ourselves and take time to reach out and assist others can transform our ordinary capabilities into truly powerful forces to learn more and other ways of doing things. We could use that power to achieve our business goals and create more effective means of obtaining positive results.
Like other natural or man-made crises, the current one is temporary, and we take it as an opportunity to learn how to navigate through and resist its disastrous impact. While we hope that it never happens again, we wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity to learn from it. As we sail through, we adapt and adjust; we make changes and shifts in our customers’ products and supplies. We have put up a new B2C e-commerce site to ease the procurement process for our customers as a way of helping out in the marketplace.