House & Garden | Diary of a Somebody

Christopher Sharp

The Rug Company’s CEO returns to a happy office and a mountain of brown envelopes

Christopher Sharp

Image: Brijesh Patel

May 05 2011
Christopher Sharp

Day: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

We’re back. The office in London seems to have been thriving without us. Everyone is in particularly high spirits. It turns out that the flushed faces and extreme levels of enthusiasm are because they’ve all been on holiday. The ones who stayed in England are particularly smug about the recent sunny weather; three English countryside holidaymakers mention that Emma had torrential rain in Spain. There is still plenty of wedding talk, mainly about “the dress”, surprisingly only from the girls; you’d think William had married a dress. The boys are looking particularly uneasy. To be fair, we’ve got a special interest in “the dress” as we did a collection with Lee McQueen just before he died and we are now starting to talk to Sarah Burton about some more ideas.

I have a toxic-looking pile of mostly brown envelopes on my desk. I open the hand-written ones first and the brown ones last and much of it, thankfully, belongs in the bin. (I fantasise about a service where unsolicited mail is returned by truck to the home of the CEO of the offending company on Sunday mornings.)

We are actually very busy. The Rug Company is about to have a growth spurt and it’s, rather brilliantly, all happening at the same time. Time is rarefied. I’m in Hong Kong next week, doing a week of Rug Company festivities with Lane Crawford and the fashion designer Giles Deacon (we have a new collection with Giles). This week, it’s almost ready, The Rug Company does Dallas (this will be our fifth American shop). We’re opening another shop in London (the location is still so highly secret that no one in the office can mention it by name without holding a P45), a second store in NYC, this time uptown (it gets pricey up there), a new shop in Malta (it’s cheaper down there) and a new e-commerce website – our first time selling online. Robin, our finance director, is doing this year’s budget and is unsure whether we will sell a rug a month or an hour – I can’t help. We are working on our new catalogue (300 pages of brilliant design and styling), are preparing a show for Decorex in September, publishing our magazine Collect, and the cherry on the cake, it’s Suzanne’s birthday at the weekend. (I’m now feeling unwell.)

We don’t have a stopping-for-lunch culture at The Rug Company (there’s no time), it tends to be food on the hop apart from “special occasions”. These are actually quite common – birthdays, babies, Fridays, new staff, old staff, anyone visiting, and for these “special moments” Rosemary does a huge spread of food from all the finest, hugely expensive, accountant-greying, Holland Park delis. I can’t think of any special occasion for today.

The office/studio is round the corner from our Holland Park shop and between the two locations there are 30 of us. We have excellent people working for us. It’s rare that anyone leaves and when they do it’s usually triggered by those terrifying words, “I have some exciting news”, to which I reply, “Let me guess, umm, let me think…” I pretend to be shuffling through a multitude of possibilities and then my eyes light up, a huge smile engulfs my face, I am consumed by visible happiness, I am officially delighted: “You’re having a baby, how fantastic, that is the most wonderful news.” This happened again today.

I try to visit the shop every day to have a chat. We have a particularly good sales team in London. They’re exceptionally willing and have been known to drive to Paris to deliver a rug and to spend the day hanging pictures for clients. (I discourage the latter.) I am often told at dinner parties (hopefully while seated on one of our rugs) how “wonderful” our service is. Great service is rare and good sales people are in danger of extinction. Our most successful salesman in London, when asked in his interview if he had any sales experience, said that, as a lad, he had a Saturday job in his dad’s grocery shop. He then added, which got him the job, “If they came in looking for apples, I made sure they left with bananas and oranges as well.”

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