Mar 22, 2021

Member Spotlight | CITY Furniture


Business: Florida-based furniture retailer with 20 showrooms across the state and an e-commerce platform.

Launched: 1971

HQ: Tamarac

Employees: 2,500+


Selling furniture might not immediately come to mind as the most technologically innovative business. But Andrew Koenig, President of CITY Furniture, sees things differently: “My mindset is for CITY Furniture to become a tech company that sells furniture, not a furniture company that has tech.”

Koenig’s bias towards innovation has served CITY well during the pandemic, when most brick-and-mortar businesses scrambled to go digital. Not CITY. They had already armed their associates with transactable iPads, enabling the company’s salespeople to work virtually as soon as in-person businesses were mandated to close. 

CITY had an e-commerce platform before the pandemic, but Koenig said they “doubled down” on their online offerings in a matter of days. They started offering free shipping with no minimums. As soon as they were legally allowed to reenter the showrooms, CITY set up virtual store appointments for customers. This involved two socially-distant salespeople who could chat with customers via an online video feed and show them products in real time.

“We were prepared, and we responded quickly,” Koenig reflected. Even though CITY’s sales took a hit last Spring, the company was able to bounce back, ultimately turning a profit for the year.

Despite the difficulties brought on by the pandemic, Koenig said that CITY “still lived our values and cultures.” The company did not have any layoffs and was able to provide two weeks of paid sick leave to employees. CITY maintained their employee profit-sharing pledge, while also continuing to donate 5% of profits to charities.

Out of the pandemic came growth for CITY. To respond to an increase in business, Koenig hired around 500 new employees in the fourth quarter of 2020. CITY also plans to build a Miami warehouse and enlarge their Tampa warehouse.

Koenig’s unique perspective on running CITY extends past his penchant for technical innovation. Much of his leadership philosophy stems from the time he spent in Asia after college.

“I learned about elements of buddhism: the idea of the collective, the whole. That really resonated with me.” He describes employees as his family and treats them as such. His email signature urges employees to prioritize their work-life balance: “please do not respond to my emails during non-work hours.”

Koenig admits that this emphasis on work-life balance was not always the norm at CITY. “We used to over-work people – that’s just the way it was. But now we’ll terminate leaders if they overwork their people.” Initiatives like this have led to what Koenig describes as “record levels of employee satisfaction.”

Emphasizing work-life balance is not just the right thing to do: it’s backed by empirical evidence. Koenig studied Toyota’s ‘lean’ manufacturing process, which sets out best practices for time management. This philosophy is all about maximizing efficiency and productivity, and, as Koenig described, employees need to understand that “life is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.” He explained: “Sometimes you have to sprint for a period of time, but you can’t sprint forever without becoming a rude, frustrated person. I’d rather go out of business than overwork our people.”

CITY took another page from Toyota’s book, implementing their ‘kanban’ approach to project management. The company urges employees of all levels to give their input on how to make their processes more efficient. Koenig claims to receive an average of two suggestions per year from each associate. “I take this wisdom of the crowds very seriously,” he said of this suggestion system.

Koenig has a positive outlook on the state of our local economy. “South Florida is one of the best places to be in the country, maybe even the world,” Koenig asserted. He highlighted the region’s diversity and population growth as factors that look to make the “next two or three years very exciting.” And CITY Furniture will not just sit on the sidelines of this growth; rather, Koenig looks forward to being an active participant.