Posts tagged: partners

Natori: A Continuation of an Appealing Apparel Story

By , May 17, 2014 9:58 am

Continuing from the last entry on Ken Natori’s visit to my licensing class (CEO 035), here are more traits that distinguish Natori.

One is customer service.  I emphasize this in all my entrepreneur classes and to my clients. Customer service is the most cost-effective, and probably least expensive way to differentiate your company from your competition.  It is so important, and like marketing, often an afterthought to everything else a busy entrepreneur or business is focused on.  But here’s the big secret: Customers remember customer-service!  Often customer service tips the scales in favor of the company providing it. Whether it’s a sole proprietor or a Fortune 500 company.

Natori has multiple licensees but when a customer calls customer service, they do not know which product has been licensed – nor should they.  This is due to keeping a unified brand within the fashion house. Customer service at Natori is trained to answer all questions about all products, irrelevant of the source (licensed or in-house).  This makes for a seamless experience for the customer – how it should be.

Another distinguishing characteristic at Natori, is that Josie, the founder, came out of a Wall Street background, as does Ken.  The result is that they understand first and foremost that fashion is a business.  And they treat the company as a business.  Ken emphasized this point when he spoke to my licensing class, in order to separate Natori from  typical fashion houses which are often known for high drama.  The culture at Natori, while still high fashion, is much more sedate and drama-free. Sounds like a nice place to work.

Which leads me to my closing point:  Natori is currently looking for a junior person to work in their licensing department.  Know anyone?  Are you that person?  If so, Ken wants to hear from you:  ken.natori@natori.com

Ken Natori


Sandra Holtzman teaches CEO 035: Licensing.

She is the author of Lies Startups Tell Themselves to Avoid Marketing.

Natori: An Appealing Apparel Story

By , May 10, 2014 9:18 am

On Monday, May 5, Ken Natori guest spoke at my Licensing class (CEO 035).  He generously spent an hour and a half talking about his company, founded by his mother, Josie Natori, and answering questions on all aspects of licensing posed by the class.

Natori2
First – what is the Natori brand:

Natori uses its brand equity to build East-meets-West lifestyle brands including ready-to-wear, accessories, bedding, towels, fragrance, home fragrance, swim, eyewear, and more

Their three-pronged brand strategy includes:
•       Josie Natori / Natori http://www.natori.com/  (luxury, heritage)
•       Josie http://www.natori.com/JosieByNatori  (contemporary)
•       N Natori http://www.natori.com/NByNatori  (accessible to all women)

photo3
Natori is one of the few companies that has retained its ownership in a world of mergers, buyouts, etc. This has allowed them, among other things, to maintain their own vision and control over their products and licensing procedures.

There were two things Ken brought up that really left a strong impression on me and the class.  The first was related to his business ethics. When asked about who his licensees are and how he selects them, Ken brought up a simple, but powerful, equation: Partner over Product. This means the people he does business with are the most important element of licensing. By choosing the right partner, Natori is establishing a long term relationship with each licensee. This philosophy is similar to putting together a management team:  licensing is like a marriage.  You are in it for the long-term. Licensing is an ongoing dynamic relationship that, if done well, and Natori does it well, goes on for years. Translation: a win-win relationship that grows business (for both the licensee and licensor) while maintaining the brand.

Because of Natori’s relationship with their licensees (win-win and long term), the licensees have an in-depth understanding of both the company and the brand. This fosters on-target contributions for new product ideas as well as new vertical opportunities.

The other thing Ken brought up that left an equally strong impression was also related to business ethics.  Natori built and owns its own manufacturing plant overseas. Not only does this make business sense and allow the company to keep control over the quality of the manufacture of many of their products, but equally, and some would say more importantly, Natori controls the circumstances and pay of their overseas employees. This methodology completely sidesteps the human rights issues (aka sweatshops) commonly found in overseas garment manufacturing. As a result, Natori’s stance makes them a green company by virtue of their humane treatment of their employees.

My next post will cover more elements that distinguish Natori from its competitors.

 

Sandra Holtzman teaches CEO 035: Licensing.
She is the author of Lies Startups Tell Themselves to Avoid Marketing.

Make sure you know what you want for your company or you will lose it: “I guarantee it”

By , July 13, 2013 9:45 am

A few weeks ago Men’s Warehouse founder, George Zimmer was fired from the company he founded. It turned out he wasn’t the majority shareholder of the company.  That led to his ouster.

No matter what kind of company you found, there are a few key points to ensure this doesn’t happen to you (unless you are just in it for a quick turnaround and flip, in which case that’s your exit strategy and what you strive for).

·         When raising money, remember, the probability of having to give up more than 50% to get the money is very high.  That means you’re giving up control.  Often the founder is parachuted out with lots of cash.  But if you want to build a company and maintain control, think carefully about the sources of your money. This is what is meant by “expensive” money.

·         When taking on partners or starting out with partners, make sure there is a strong contractual agreement in place that covers who is in control of what and to what degree.  Anything can happen, and the weird stuff often does – if your partner dies or gets divorced, you may wind up with an heir who knows or cares nothing about the business.  Then your problems really begin, especially if they don’t want to be bought out (or you can’t afford to buy them out).

·         Vision  = Control  as stated very clearly in the article link below.  If you want to see your vision flourish, make sure you maintain control of your company.

http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130625210053-25745675-the-lesson-from-george-zimmer-s-firing-keep-control?ref=email

·         If your company has a Board of Directors, remember one of their main functions is to determine whether or not to fire you (and your management team).  This is what happened at Men’s Warehouse. This is also why so many large corporations have a Board of Directors that is composed of cronies.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/26/george-zimmer-letter_n_3505699.html

 

Sandra Holtzman teaches CEO 035: Licensing.
She is the author of Lies Startups Tell Themselves to Avoid Marketing.

Equity Stakes in a Startup

By , June 22, 2013 9:05 am

Creating a new business structure around a partnership or multiple founders is one of the most single important aspects of starting a new business.  Like a business plan, your corporate structure, how you allocate shares, profits and control of the new business will help determine the fate of your company as well as the company culture (anywhere from hostile to win-win).  This is a relationship, or more accurately, a marriage (so the culture would be more like dysfunctional to loving).  Like a marriage, I highly recommend looking to the end of the company or partnership as you create the beginning – like a pre-nup.  Seriously.  Have everything worked out to cover the end and you will be good to go in the beginning.  Because you never know how the relationship(s), or company, will end – will you be bought out? Go public? Be taken over? Get investment? Change direction to one that not everyone wants to buy into? Dissolve? Will founders or partners or you have  a change of circumstances that lead to a desire to end the relationship?  Will someone die and you are suddenly stuck with a spouse as a partner? All this needs to be spelled out upfront, because once the horse has left the barn…well, you all know how that one ends.

When I speak to multiple stakeholders at the start of their company, I go around the room and point out a scenario where one person decides they want to take more control of the company – maybe because they feel they are doing more work, or contributing more value or whatever.  And ultimately that leads to someone else being screwed.  I’ve had co-founders come back to me later and tell me that the scenario I played out in the meeting was exactly what happened.  So protect yourself and your partners BEFORE YOU BEGIN.

George Deeb in Alley Watch provides some helpful hints and considerations that should be taken into account about how to split up equity in a startup.

http://www.alleywatch.com/2013/06/how-to-calculate-equity-split-between-founders-in-startups/?goback=.gde_56766_member_249711906

Sandra Holtzman teaches CEO 035: Licensing.
She is the author of Lies Startups Tell Themselves to Avoid Marketing.

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