Leading through COVID-19: Interview with Caleb Hill, Mortimer Upholstery



As leaders, the COVID-19 crisis has presented us all with unexpected challenges. Facing these unprecedented circumstances head-on has led to many stories of great leadership across all industries and sectors in Nelson, Tasman, and Marlborough.

We have developed this 'Leading Through COVID-19' interview series to inspire and support a sense of togetherness as our region moves through and beyond this challenge.

In this interview, we talk to Caleb Hill, Manager/Director of Mortimer Upholstery and Nelson Shade Solutions. We have been very impressed with their ability to rapidly innovate, developing and producing PVC safety screens for essential service providers.

Has COVID-19 affected your business overall?

Yes. We are a manufacturer and service provider - 99% of our work is non-essential. We currently have nine team members at home unable to produce any income for the business.

As a leader, what has been key in keeping your team engaged?

Sincere, honest and clear communication. You must be honest and transparent with your team members and let them know why and how you are making particular decisions. If those decisions are going to affect the lives of your team they need to know sooner rather than later. 

Any learnings or advice you can pass on to other leaders? 

Your business and energy are needed in the 'now' - but it’s also important you keep playing the long game, working towards long term goals and things that are important to you. 

Through my experience adversity has always been a blessing in disguise. It has forced me to make decisions I would have never made in normal circumstances.

Have you been able to identify any opportunities for your business as a result? 

Yes. We manufacture products locally using soft textiles and I am sure that the new economy will present us with new opportunities. We have already adapted to develop a new product - manufacturing and supplying PVC safety screens to essential service providers.

Any thoughts on what will change for your business as a result of this disruptor?

I am estimating a 20-40% decline in turnover. We will have to adapt our company structure to suit. This is an opportunity to become a smarter, leaner and meaner business. In this process, I am 100% confident that our level of service and quality of product will not be sacrificed. We will have to improve these things to be more competitive in the marketplace and like many others will also have to adapt our business to meet new COVID-19 safe workplace guidelines.

Enjoyed this interview? Read more from our Leading Through COVID-19 interview series here.

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