Category Archives: GUEST BLOGGER

What “I’ll try” really means in business and personal relationships

Short answer: the other person isn’t committed.

Communications 101: Communication is the foundation of all relationships — business and personal. When communications function well in a relationship, the relationship succeeds. When they don’t, the relationship struggles. It’s that simple. And “I’ll try” is a bright red flag. Whether it’s a business or personal relationship, “I’ll try” is a signal that should not be ignored…it signifies something is amiss in the communications, and thus the relationship. When you receive the “I’ll try” message, you need to proceed carefully.

Gene Guberman (gguberman@verizon.net) specializes in dealing with communications within relationships. Here is his take on the situation: The way someone communicates reveals something the person is unaware of. In poker it’s known as a person’s “tell” that unveils they are “bluffing”. Interpersonal communication is loaded with varieties of information untrained people don’t perceive and speakers don’t know they are unwittingly sharing about themselves. Conflict is omnipresent between individuals. Managing conflict between people and building successful relationships requires understanding the hidden aspects of communications – our own and those of significant others.

Fashion Forecasts for the Fall by Guest William Clark

My guest blogger this week is William Clark who will discuss some of his choices for this fall’s fashion lineup accompanied by a historical reference of fashion falls gone by. And this being a small business blog, the last designer is just that.
William is the founder of JETTSTYLE, his consulting business where he has worked with Reese Witherspoon, Pauletta Washington, Benny Medina, and Renee Zellwegger. He brings to JETTSTYLE a wealth of experience in every facet of fashion. No less impressive is the fact that he was selected to assist in the styling of a major shoot for a recent edition of Italian Vogue. His background includes working with Carrie Donovan at Vogue, Bill Cunningham at the New York Times, Jean Paul Gautier, Thierry Mugler, Comme des Garcons, Giorgio Armani while, at the same time, overseeing direction of the Emporio Line visually for the US, and Bottega Veneta. His red carpet clients in addition to those mentioned above, include Jennifer Aniston, Brad Pitt, Hilary Swank, Gwen Stefani, Mary J Blige and Salma Hayek.

It’s official: we’re diving into summer — let’s talk about my favorite ready to wear collections of the season.
We are first taken on a African safari with Sarah Burton of the house of Alexander McQueen who was obviously influenced by Monsieur Yves Saint Laurent’s African Queen collection from the 70′s . She used vibrant graphic prints and intricate textures in abundance. Her use of textiles was so beautifully executed by making feathers and beads to appear to be checkered tweed. The crocodile and gold harnesses worn over graphic printed kilts then gave it a medieval twist.

Alexander McQueen, NOW

VS

YSL, THEN

Miuccia Prada over at the house of Miu Miu looked to the 60′s & 70′s through a naughty school girl’s rose’ colored glasses for inspiration. Her use of muted pastels such as pistachio, powder blue and neapolitan in beautiful childlike prints of parrots, foxes and angel fish could have easily been seen on supermodel Veruschka in the 70′s or today on the houses Oscar winning muse Lupita Nyong’o. Muiccia’s artisan approach to usage of textures like crochet, tortoiseshell, suede and python was perfection.

Miu Miu Spring/Summer 2014, NOW

VS

Veruschka, THEN

While back home stateside Prabal Gurung presented a hyper colored and floral splashed collection out of the 50′s with a ultra modern twist. These vibrant colors lined dramatic evening coats in metallics giving them edge. Between binding the waists of dresses and pants with clear pvc belts and the ultra sexy shoes there was a slightly erotic vibe to his collection and I liked it 😉

Prabal Gurung

Next on to design duo Badgley Mischka. We’ve been invited to a party thrown by the Great Gatsby on one of his opulent yachts. The color palette is muted pastels and the theme of coarse is nautical. There are chic touches of the 20′s & 30′s in pleated chiffon palazzo pants, fringed bugle beaded dresses, bucket hats and the girls wore marcel waves in they’re hair.

Our last destination (a small business fashion house) is Ancient Egypt where there is new Queen on the throne and she is The Serpent Queen from the House of Rubin Singer. For s/s 2014 this rising star couturier is giving elements of the ancient and regal culture with a ultra modern approach. He uses embellishments in his embroidery such as bugle beads, chains and swarovski crystals. He sculpts and drapes the female form in combinations like silk brocade, chiffon, python, and metallic leather embossed with hieroglyphics from the tomb of Queen Nefertiti. His Serpent Queen is a dangerous temptress that knows she can seduce with her dark beauty.

Rubin Singer’s Serpent Queen, NOW

VS

Liz Taylor, Another Queen THEN

You’re a lifestyle company. Who are your champions?

Silver Lining is one champion. I met Carissa Reiniger, CEO and President, about three years ago. She has dedicated Silver Lining to helping lifestyle businesses grow. Simple. It’s a one year, mostly on line, program designed to grow your business. It’s not a business plan but rather an action plan that relies on some of the same things in a business plan. There’s nothing wrong with business plans…they are great for determining what direction you want to take your company in. Business plans are primarily used to raise capital however. The philosophy at Silver Lining is that action plans are a better way for lifestyle businesses to grow. Their action plan is called SLAP: Silver Lining Action Plan. It’s a simple (because once you fill in the blanks, the plan program does all the calculations for you). Even if you’re self motivated, sometimes taking care of your own business gets pushed to the side by you – like the shoemaker with barefoot kids. If you can relate to this, then maybe you should check Silver Lining out. www.Silverlininglimited.com


Carissa Reiniger, CEO and President of Silver Lining


Gale Brewer, Manhattan Borough President who stopped by to cheer on the SLAP in the City participants. http://www.galebrewer.com/

Natori: A Continuation of an Appealing Apparel Story

Natori: A Continuation of an Appealing Apparel Story

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, has 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

Natori: An Appealing Apparel Story

On Monday, May 5, Ken Natori guest spoke at my FIT Licensing class (by the way, you don’t have to be a fashion designer to take this class). 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.

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)

In a world of mergers, buyouts, etc., Natori is one of the few companies that has retained private ownership. 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

Great line-up of expert speakers for my licensing class which starts tomorrow!

Licensing is a great source of primary or additional income for your product(s). Learn the basics about how to navigate the world of licensing in four weeks! And get the lowdown from people who live licensing!

My guest speakers this term will be:

David Kalow – An Intellectual Property attorney with fashion product experience

Arnold Burstein – A Licensing Agent who knows all the in’s and out’s of the licensing world and is the Chair of the NY Chapter of the Licensing Executives Society

Serena Godwin – Licensing Manager, Natori and (surprise guest speaker?)

Nathan Fleisig – An FIT faculty who specializes in licensing names and products

It’s not too late to register!

CEO 035 (55A) Licensing

Thurs., April 25, May 2, 9, 16

6:20-9:10pm

No one ever got fired for using a big name consultancy….here’s a case history

Glenn Zimmerman guest blogged for me a few months back about how companies find it safer to go with a known / name / brand company than an unknown, which many small businesses are. One of my Fast Trac (http://levin.suny.edu/fastTrac/)  students, Vadim, relayed this story of trying to work with the city that testifies to Glenn’s point and extends to government as well:

Vadim had an expediting company that dealt with obtaining construction permits and various construction-related approvals from multiple different NYC municipal agencies. Vadim, and some of his co-workers, developed a system that allowed the different entities to transfer all their paperwork online. This system cut down on the time and cost for homeowners looking for construction permits. They used biometric access keys, encrypted secure connections and cloud storage to ensure that their product was safe and reliable. They calculated that the municipal agencies involved would have saved about $60 million a year by using this system – the price tag of the system was a little over $4 million. They built a prototype. Other benefits included saving around 70 tons of paper a year, elimination of backed-up manual processes, transparency, etc. They even did market research and found that 96% of surveyed industry members (including city employees) wanted this system.

Their idea got support from the Mayor’s Office and the Office of the Public Advocate who arranged a meeting with the higher-ups within the Dept. of Buildings. During the meeting three of the DOB executives looked bored. They told Vadim that even though he had a great idea the department didn’t have any funds and recommended that he return the following year.

Vadim later found out that the DOB hired Accenture to “improve” their system at a cost of $27 million. Accenture’s solution, told to my student by an insider, was to create a B-scan system which lets you fill out paperwork online, print it out, physically bring it to the DOB only for it to be scanned back in online. The DOB also had to hire more people to do the scanning.

Vadim was bitter about this experience. Some of you may have similar experiences.

I would love to hear from anyone who might have a solution or suggested solution for this small business conundrum.

There’s nothing more expensive than a cheap lawyer (or fill in another profession)

Morrie Simkin, is a securities and regs attorney at Mclaughlin & Stern (who started his career at the Securities and Exchange Commission). We were recently discussing pricing and he provided the insights below. While these examples apply to attorneys, I’m sure you can plug in your own vendor experiences.

Morries’ Insights:

While Using the price of legal services as the key criterion in selecting lawyers is a mistake for which the client will pay.  They will get a product that does not do what they want or need it to do, or a bill that is filled with unnecessary charges.

To keep the costs down the cheap lawyer must do things that are not always in the client’s best interest.  If the transaction is a commodity type transaction—the same as every other transaction of that kind, the use of a basic form contract may be sufficient.  However, it is never so simple.  There are at least two sides to a contract.  One party or the other may raise issues, problems, propose terms or raise questions not contemplated in the form or that are at variance with the form.  To make these changes and to make sure the contract is complete and consistent takes time.  The cheap lawyer can not afford to devote the time this requires.  One example I recently saw was a partnership agreement.  One partner could remove the other only on their death, disability or conviction of a felony.  But the partners had fallen out of love, and one wanted to kick the other out.  There was a clause to remove a partner if he did not devote full time and attention to the business.  But there was no way to implement it.  Defined terms necessary to implement this clause were referenced but not defined.  It would have taken too much time for the cheap lawyer to go through the contract and make sure it was complete.

Often in a transaction the cheap lawyer does not or can not take the time to learn what it is the parties want to accomplish.  A variant of this is where the lawyer is so eager to get the assignment that he takes on matters with which he is not familiar or in areas where he is inexperienced.  The result is a cheap fee but a disaster for the parties should issues of contract interpretation or enforcement ever arise.

Another tactic that the lawyer with a too low billing rate uses is to make up in time charges what his low billing rate lacks.  He finds things to bill for—the unnecessary phone calls, the unwanted memos, the unnecessary motions or depositions in litigation, etc.  This way he has more time in the matter for which he can charge the client.

This may sound familiar.  How many RFPs or bids have you lost to a low bidder? Only to find out later that they cha-chinged their pricing up after they won the contract?  Or they screwed up the job?

A version of this blog recently appeared in FIT’s Hot Topics blog where Sandra is the Small Business blogger.  You can reach Morrie Simkin at Msimkin@mclaughlinstern.com

No One Ever Got FIred for Hiring IBM

OR…..How Do You Get Admission to a Club Requiring You Already Have Been Inside?

TODAY’S GUEST BLOGGER IS GLENN ZIMMERMAN, FORMER NBC NEWS REPORTER AND ANCHOR AND CURRENTLY CEO, CO-FOUNDER  AND DIRECTOR OF STORYTELLING AT   MAD BEAR PRODUCTIONS.  (See bio below)
Let’s say you’ve just developed a nifty hospital service.  Now, suppose a hospital is considering using your services. BUT… they want to see other hospitals in your resume or portfolio. Which you don’t have. Later you hear that they went with a similar (more expensive, less innovative) service from one of the big guys. And that’s when it hits you. Developing something new is the fun part. Selling it… is the real challenge.
It is not that IBM (or any large company) is necessarily the best solution for a client or even has the most interesting offering. It is all about the audience.

For businesses like mine, the audience would be a VP of marketing at a company or an executive at an advertising agency. They do not want to fail.
Notice I did not say “they want to succeed” because success in this context is not even the opposite of failure. The potential of success may not even factor into the thought process.

In this context, failure means sticking their necks out by partnering with a smaller company and risking their jobs if it goes badly.
On the other hand, if they chose to partner with a larger vendor (like an IBM) and the offering does not work out. Their boss would likely be more understanding because they clearly were not the first to take the leap (or at least that is what I’ve heard over and over again from people on the inside).

At the core of the problem is the question (and title of this article): How do you get admission to a club requiring you already have been inside?

You don’t even have to stay in the club long. Just slip in long enough to be noticed sipping some Dom or Remy in order to make your audience comfortable with you.

Let’s take the club analogy literally for an instant. If you want to get into some “swanky nightclub” (I don’t even know if that term is even used anymore), it probably would make sense to get to know the doorman. Not that Iʼm clubbinʼ much these days. Not that clubbinʼ was ever my thing (all right maybe for a little while in my early 20ʼs) but you get the point.

The doorman is the gatekeeper of the club!

If you do not have the corporate portfolio and are not “big enough” to make an impression on brand manager “X” … you are S.O.L. (thatʼs Sadly Out of Luck… Iʼm a dad now… I donʼt curse), unless you know someone who has access to open that door for you.
What I have found especially interesting is you never know who will end up connecting you with whom. So, that is why I am all about meeting people of kinds (it is truly fun for me) and in the process breaking down doors with a personal introduction to either the doorman or someone on the inside.

Also, this is where some social media tools (especially LinkedIn for me) is extraordinarily effective. You have the ability to engage the exact person you are looking for with a pretty high degree of success. For a nice range of strategies, go to www.mashable.com and then in the search window type LinkedIn. A slew of great resources will come up.

Once you get the ear of your audience online, it is crucial that you make the transition to the real world. Whatever works best for you: phone, Skype or a cup of coffee.

Now whether or not any of these connections turn into sales is probably an article for another day… maybe Iʼll call it “C-L-O-S-I-N-G spells the ultimate form of R-E-L-I-E-F.”

GLENN’S BIO:

Glenn Zimmerman directs the storytelling at Mad Bear Productions (www.madbearproductions.com), a unique video marketing company he co-founded that helps businesses find and share their stories online.

For more than 14 years, he honed his storytelling craft as a television news reporter and anchor. Whether it was at NBC’s flagship station in New York (WNBC-TV) or the number one station in Detroit (WXYZ-TV); Glenn brought a sense of creativity, intelligence and excitement to every story. In his career, he covered the highest of highs to the lowest of lows life has to offer but always understood what about a story was memorable.  He has interviewed presidents, models, athletes, actors, musicians, and everyone in between. As a reporter, he has been honored with an Emmy and numerous other awards and accolades for his storytelling and investigative reporting.

Glenn has a BA from Boston University in International Relations and an MS from Syracuse University in Mass Communications.