Tag Archives: Simple

Designer Tip – Getting the contacts you need

Starting out on your own can be an extremely daunting exercise. Top of the list of all things scary has got to be all the people that you know you need to know, but just don’t know: those elusive contacts that can make your business. The buyers of department stores, planners, merchandising, suppliers, and all the other players in the fashion business value chain.

To help finding these people, and importantly, securing their contact details I was told of a super simple and effective trick. Nothing unlawful, just playing the game… (note that this technique can work wonders outside of fashion). It may not always work and it has downfalls, but if you’re being blocked in an organisation it might just be worth a try.

Step 1: Know who you want

Find the company you need an in with. Maybe it is a supplier or large department store in a target market or city.

Look on their website, or online directory for the contact phone number of their HQ.

You want the number that puts you through to reception or equivalent.

Step 2: Call the HQ of above company and ask for the name of the person/ role you are targeting 

a) Call the reception at HQ.

b) Say who you are and where you are calling from.

c) Ask one question and one question only. “What is the name of the [buyer, merchandiser, accounts person etc…]?”

d) Write the name down and thank reception for their time.

 

Why: Reception is often trained to filter calls. They are gatekeepers. If you can’t prove you are someone they won’t let you through. But in the vast majority of case they will give you a name as this does not affect their role requirements.

Step 3: Wait a full day then call back

a) Wait a full day before calling back.

b) Again call HQ (you don’t have the direct contact yet) and tell the receptionist that you were “just on the phone with [Mr/Mrs Buyer, merchandiser, accounts etc…] and the call cut-out. The number didn’t come up on your phone. It was an urgent call and you need to call them back.” you can make up your own story, but you get the point.

c) Again in the vast majority of cases this is enough to clear the requirements of the gatekeeper and either give you the number/ email or put you through to the person. If possible try to avoid being put through. It could backfire if reception puts you through and tells your contact that you were just on the phone to them and you were not. This is a risk of this technique.

d) Call or email the person you need directly. Happy times.

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3 Interview Questions That Reveal Everything

No designer, irrespective of skill set, networks, creativity, or any other born or learned trait can go out in the world and build their brand, their product, their DNA, without help. At some point in time if you’re on the road of a label you’re going to have to employee someone. Alternatively if you’re working within a label there will probably come a time when you need to hire someone.

It is this reality that leads to this post. Sourced from inc.com this is a great little article on some simple, yet (almost brutally) effective interview questions.

Originally written by Jeff Haden, and published Jul 18, 2012. The full article can be found here http://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/3-interview-questions-that-reveal-everything.html

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Interviewing job candidates is tough, especially because some candidates are a lot better at interviewing than they are at working.

To get the core info you need about the candidates you interview, here’s a simple but incredibly effective interview technique I learned from John Younger, the CEO ofAccolo, a cloud recruiting solutions provider. (If you think you’ve conducted a lot of interviews, think again: Younger has interviewed thousands of people.)

Here’s how it works. Just start from the beginning of the candidate’s work history and work your way through each subsequent job. Move quickly, and don’t ask for detail. And don’t ask follow-up questions, at least not yet.

Go through each job and ask the same three questions:

1. How did you find out about the job?

2. What did you like about the job before you started?

3. Why did you leave?

“What’s amazing,” Younger says, “is that after a few minutes, you will always have learned something about the candidate–whether positive or negative–that you would never have learned otherwise.”

Here’s why:

How did you find out about the job?

Job boards, general postings, online listings, job fairs–most people find their first few jobs that way, so that’s certainly not a red flag.

But a candidate who continues to find each successive job from general postings probably hasn’t figured out what he or she wants to do–and where he or she would like to do it.

He or she is just looking for a job; often, any job.

And that probably means he or she isn’t particularly eager to work for you. He or she just wants a job. Yours will do–until something else comes along.

“Plus, by the time you get to Job Three, Four, or Five in your career, and you haven’t been pulled into a job by someone you previously worked for, that’s a red flag,” Younger says. “That shows you didn’t build relationships, develop trust, and show a level of competence that made someone go out of their way to bring you into their organization.”

On the flip side, being pulled in is like a great reference–without the letter.

What did you like about the job before you started?

In time, interviewees should describe the reason they took a particular job for more specific reasons than “great opportunity,” “chance to learn about the industry,” or “next step in my career.”

Great employees don’t work hard because of lofty titles or huge salaries. They work hard because they appreciate their work environment and enjoy what they do. (Titles and salary are just icing on the fulfillment cake.)

That means they know the kind of environment they will thrive in, and they know the type of work that motivates and challenges them–and not only can they describe it, they actively seek it.

Why did you leave?

Sometimes people leave for a better opportunity. Sometimes they leave for more money.

Often, though, they leave because an employer is too demanding. Or the employee doesn’t get along with his or her boss. Or the employee doesn’t get along with co-workers.

When that is the case, don’t be judgmental. Resist the temptation to ask for detail. Hang on to follow-ups. Stick to the rhythm of the three questions. That makes it natural for candidates to be more open and candid.

In the process, many candidates will describe issues with management or disagreements with other employees or with taking responsibility–issues they otherwise would not have shared.

Then follow up on patterns that concern you.

“It’s a quick way to get to get to the heart of a candidate’s sense of teamwork and responsibility,” Younger says. “Some people never take ownership and always see problems as someone else’s problem. And some candidates have consistently had problems with their bosses–which means they’ll also have issues with you.”

And a bonus question:

How many people have you hired, and where did you find them?

Say you’re interviewing candidates for a leadership position. Want to know how their direct reports feel about them?

Don’t look only for candidates who were brought into an organization by someone else; look for candidates who brought employees into their organization.

“Great employees go out of their way to work with great leaders,” Younger says. “If you’re tough but fair, and you treat people well, they will go out of their way to work with you. The fact that employees changed jobs just so they could work for you speaks volumes to your leadership and people skills.”

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Making the Most of Mentorship

Post originally sourced from The Business of Fashion – http://www.businessoffashion.com/2012/07/finding-your-m-o-part-4-making-the-most-of-mentorship.html#more-35154. Full credits to Áslaug Magnúsdóttir, co-founder and CEO of Moda Operandi for writing this timeless piece on personal and professional development.

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Earlier this month, my mentor, former boss and business partner, Marvin Traub, passed away at the age of 87. Marvin was a defining figure in the American retail industry and the man who, in his longtime role as president and CEO of Bloomingdale’s, pioneered the concept of bringing entertainment to retail. With his out-of-the-box ideas and ability to rally people around his vision, Marvin put an indelible stamp on the way the industry operates today. And even in his later years, possessed of a rare energy and passion for life, Marvin worked harder than anyone I have known. I was extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to work closely with him, learn from his vast experience and meet many of the industry contacts that he nurtured over half a century of work.

Marvin’s passing got me thinking about the extraordinary importance of good mentors. In life, in general, we often rely upon select people — parents, teachers, spouses — to help mold us into who we are. The business world is no different: we need bosses to grow us into successful business people. And, in turn, we need to mentor those who are looking to become the same. Marvin was a boss and mentor who greatly shaped my career. And now, with him gone, he has inspired me to do the same for others.

Not all bosses are Marvins. Sometimes a boss is and will always be nothing more than somebody you work for. But even in a more favourable scenario, mentoring and being mentored isn’t easy. We don’t always like to be shaped and it’s not always fun doing the shaping. Indeed, many of my most important learnings from bosses like Marvin came during bumpy moments when we did not see eye to eye on a particular issue. Similarly, the process of mentoring some of the people of whom I am most proud was almost as painful childbirth. The fact is, great mentors and mentees are not necessarily great friends. With that said, here are some words of advice on how to mentor and be mentored effectively.

HOW TO BE A GOOD BOSS AND MENTOR:

1. Lead by example — and stick to it.

Good bosses and mentors take a stand on how they want things done, which sets the standard for the organisation at large. No manager’s style will make everybody happy. The key is to be consistent, so that employees learn how to operate within your particular approach.

While at McKinsey, I worked on a project for a manager with incredible attention to detail. His reports were premeditated and polished to a tee: the structure of the document, the choice of words, the rigour of the analysis, even the labeling and placement of the footnotes. At first, I grumbled about his “anal-retentiveness.” But I soon learned that his painstaking approach drove real results and I benefited greatly from employing it throughout my time at the company.

In my next job, I made investments for a billionaire entrepreneur who was a risk taker, unbound by process, structure and other norms. At first, this was chaotic and confusing. But he, too, was incredibly successful and he taught me to be comfortable operating in an environment in constant flux. I learned how to anticipate the unpredictable. And without this guidance, launching and running an internet start-up would have been a daunting task indeed.

The key is: whatever your style, teach it and bring others onboard. They may not love your approach, but they will adopt it. Nobody respects a flip-flopper.

2. Inspire through conviction.

The best mentors and bosses are those who inspire through passion and conviction. Marvin was a master at getting people to do things they normally wouldn’t do because he believed in his ideas so strongly. He got Diane von Furstenberg to ride an elephant to a Bloomingdale’s store opening event. He convinced the city of New York to change the direction of traffic on a major avenue so that the Queen of England could visit Bloomingdale’s. For Marvin, the sky was the limit and his passion inspired those around him to dream big. Whatever you believe in, whatever you stand for, broadcast it with all of your heart. Conviction is infectious — demonstrate it and your people will dream big with you.

3. Give honest feedback frequently.

You need to be extraordinarily honest and forthcoming about the feedback you give your mentees, positive and negative. Your people can’t be proud of what they don’t know they’ve done right and they can’t fix what they don’t know is broken. A month into my job at McKinsey, I was shocked by a performance review from the partner leading my first project, detailing my need for improvement in several areas. But I sucked it up, made changes and came to really appreciate granular criticism on a regular basis as critical to my growth. I probably would not have progressed at the company without the constant, tell-it-like-it-is feedback loop.

Last month, when M’O completed its latest round of financing, I received a message, out of the blue, from that same partner who gave me my first performance review. “I am so proud of you,” it said. So the cycle of feedback continues. Be honest, be critical, be forthright.

4. Share yourself

Have the confidence and willingness to share your experiences and relationships with your people. That’s half of what they are looking for.

Marvin Traub went out of his way to share with me his vast network of contacts. Over daily breakfasts at the Regency and lunches at the Four Seasons, Marvin and his business partner, Morty Singer, introduced me to hundreds of colleagues and associates — including my co-founder, Lauren Santo Domingo. Many of these introductions have formed the basis of my professional community. And Marvin’s generosity in this regard motivated me to work even harder for him. The point: be generous with your network of knowledge and contacts and your mentees will bend over backwards for you. Hoarding only slows their growth and fosters resentment.

5. Encourage debate

Just because you are the boss, it doesn’t mean you have all the answers. Sure, you know that, but you really have to believe and show it. Encourage debate among your people. Get them to speak up and voice their opinions, even if they’re unpopular opinions, particularly with you. Let feisty people tell you your idea is stupid. Help timid people articulate their support for your idea. Good mentors listen and learn and develop outcomes that take into account different personalities and all sides of the argument. To be clear: this is not about letting people be rude — it’s about enabling people to say whatever they think about the idea at hand.

HOW TO BE A GOOD EMPLOYEE AND MENTEE:

1. Debate respectfully

In keeping with the previous point, when your mentor encourages debate, be vocal in expressing your opinions. Articulate your point and provide evidence to back it up. But don’t get out of line if your boss doesn’t see it your way. Your boss is usually your boss for a reason. Pattern recognition and concern for other factors may influence the final decision, even if the outcome seems counter-intuitive to you.

2. Learn from the good and the bad

Nobody is perfect. All bosses and mentors have good and bad qualities, just like you do. Don’t lose sight of the good because you are preoccupied with the bad. And try to learn from what you don’t like: make a note of what you don’t agree with, so that you might do differently when you find yourself in a similar situation. If you’re not also a mentor already, you will be one day and you’ll want to draw on all of these notes.

3. Overcommunicate

Make sure you share the work you are doing. Your mentor isn’t psychic. So share loudly and share often. Provide regular updates and schedule frequent one-on-ones. Pick up the phone, pop into the office. Do not wait until a mentor or boss has to ask about something. Indeed, if he or she has to ask, it’s a clear sign that you are undercommunicating.

4. Ask for help

Always ask your boss or mentor for help when you need it. Whether you don’t fully understand a task or feel stretched by your workload, it’s your obligation to ask for back-up. If you think you might need help, then you need help. Said differently: it’s unacceptable to not ask for help and then miss a deadline. That’s a sure fire way to get fired. No boss should be upset with you for asking for help. A boss will, however, look at you critically if you overpromise and underdeliver. Don’t mess this one up.

5. Your boss is human too

Just as you want your mentor to take a genuine interest in what you are doing, take a genuine interest in return. It can be lonely at the top and there is often a lot of good that comes from trying to get your boss to open up in an appropriate but personal way. Having a relaxed human dialogue with a boss or mentor is often the best way to strengthen your relationship and make the most of your learning. But be honest and respectful about how you reach out. Idle chatter or kissing-up is interpreted as just that and may do more harm than good. Better to pick a topic of common interest and dive deep, batting stuff around over a period of time, like an extended chess game. Bosses need love, too, and sometimes the best form of love is a conversation with about something where both parties temporarily put business aside and lose yourselves in something personal or even frivolous.

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How Great Leaders & Companies Inspire Action

How do great leaders inspire action? How do companies inspire marketplaces to investigate and purchase their products, fashion or otherwise? The answers to these questions I discovered within a 18 minutes TEDx talk I found this morning by Simon Sinek.

The points within the this talk are simple, yet immensely profound for the world of fashion. People don’t need fashion. People only need clothing, and that depends where they are located in the world. People purchase the ‘why?’…

Check out Simon’s talk below. It may inspire you to re-think your communication of your ‘why?’.

http://video.ted.com/assets/player/swf/EmbedPlayer.swf

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Copying Zara: Utilising Zara’s Strategies to Grow a Young Fashion Business

Zara’s expansion globally, and in particular entry in to the Australian market, has fuelled speculation that the fashion game is changing. Businesses not ready to compete with Zara will be wiped out as customers flock to refresh their wardrobes every fortnightly ‘Z-Day’.

If you are one of these businesses, or looking to enter the market, all may not be lost. Perhaps there is even something you develop from Zara’s model.

Today EF is looking into some simple things that a young fashion label, or even a mature fashion business, could execute relatively simply to acquire some of Zara’s secret sauce. EF has investigated three cogs with the Zara machine that could apply to your business.

1) Vertical Integration = Creative Control. Creative control = Adaptability.

It is nothing new to hear that Zara, and its parent company Inditex, operate within an almost fully integration production, distribution, and supply chain. From “The Cube” in La Coruña, northern Spain the company can co-ordinate global logistics with military like precision.

But what this really breeds is adaptability and all the positives that can bring. Ability to change if you got it wrong, responsiveness to trends, cost reductions throughout the business etc…

Now you might not have the financial firepower to simply build your own vertical integrated system overnight, but you do have you. What I mean by that is use you to foster adaptability in your model. You can do this with trust. Earning the trust of your suppliers, distributors, and other parts in your production, sales, and distribution chains can give you flexibility when it counts. We all know of the things we have done for friends, but would not do for strangers.

2) Become an Intelligence Agent

Through a complex yet fundamentally simple system designers in The Cube can receive almost real-time data from Zara’s ~2,000 stores worldwide. This information primarily comes from staff on the ground talking to customers and using simple, yet extremely effective and efficient technology to communicate this intelligence internally. This intelligence then drives adaptability, informs logistical decisions, and so fourth.

Clearly most young fashion businesses lack the capital to build such technical systems. But there are three things to consider here. First of all the goal. The goal is to obtain the best quality information from your customer base and staff as possible as quickly as possible. The second is you may not need technology per-see to achieve this. If your business is a small operation a face to face solution with some key questions may be the answer. The third is, most of the technology is either a) free, or b) relatively in-expensive. For instance you could utilise an ipad/laptop at the point of sale to jot down answers to 5 key questions that submits the answers automatically to a Google documents form.

3) Know who you are and stick to it. 

A point to remember with is that Zara has a highly optimised model for them. I emphasise ‘for them’. Lightning-fast, locally-targeted designs are Zara’s specialty. Since inception in 1975 it has taken Zara the best part of 25 years to build their model, but what has surely helped in this journey is knowing from the very start what they were aiming for. If you are not sure what your goals are take some time out to figure them out. Do what you must, then tackle them with conviction.

In closing, I want the emphasise that simply trying to copy everything Zara does is not the simple answer to building a modern-day fashion powerhouse. But you can certainly learn from their mechanics. The key will be to utilise their principles, but optimise it your way.

For an interesting expose on the Zara machine and it’s impact on the world of fashion check out this video from Australia’s ABC network.

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Why Inspiration Trumps Imitation

This post is sourced from the blog of futurist and keynote speaker Mike Walsh

Why Inspiration Trumps Imitation

You can have too much of a good thing, especially if it wasn’t yours to start with. Here’s the perfect example – brands that shamelessly imitate the strategies of their major competitors. I was scouting the Westfield complex in Century City, LA last week and noticed a new Sony concept store a few feet from a classic Apple retail shrine. It was striking how similar both stores appeared, except for one crucial distinction – Sony was devoid of customers.

Years ago I remember watching a fascinating interview with Steve Jobs. He was comparing himself to Microsoft and Bill Gates, explaining that their mission at Apple was to take as much as they could from art, music, history, science and technology – in his words ‘the best things that humans have done’ – and cram it into their products. That’s why, he said while people use Microsoft products, they love the ones that Apple makes. The difference was passion.

Apple’s retail strategy is also no stranger to appropriation. Next time you are in front of one of their stores, stop for a minute and squint your eyes so that the laptops and screens disappear and all you can see are abstract shapes, materials and lighting. Anything look familiar? When they designed their stores, Apple took direct inspiration from the world of luxury boutiques with their expensive construction materials, theatrical street presence and sparse merchandising, They ruthlessly imitated, but importantly – it was not from the playbooks of their immediate competition.

That said – there are some limited scenarios when direct imitation works as a disruptive strategy. For example when you take an expensive product, and deliver a comparable substitute at a dramatically lower pricer point. Although their customers might deny it – low priced imitation is the secret behind the success of fashion brands like Zara and H&M. They directly copy high fashion styles from established luxury brands, and rapidly manufacture and curate market appropriate products at prices mass market consumers can afford. Not so dissimilar is the practice of Chinese ‘shanzhai’ or bandit phone manufacturers, who offer clones of high end smartphones at substantial discounts to their originals, and in doing so, open up entirely new consumer niches.

The distinction between inspiration and imitation might be nuanced, but the competitive differentiation can be vast. Steve Jobs was always fond of the infamous Picasso quip – ‘good artists copy but great artists steal’. But what does stealing really mean? When you steal something, you don’t just take it – you make it your own. Sage advice for the next time someone asks you to look over your shoulder and mindlessly mimic something your competition does.

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Building video campaigns with TrueView by Google AdWords

Rob Young of Search Engine Watch reported yesterday how Google AdWords has released a new self service campaign format specifically to build video advertising campaigns. AdWords for Online Video campaigns bring completely new video ad formats previously not seen on YouTube promoted video accounts.

The full details of Rob’s guide to TrueView can be found here.

TrueView has also been extensively in simpleZesty’s latest post Google Entices Brands to Youtube Through Adwords For Video.

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Social media and SEO: Keys to optimizing Facebook

Much has been written about the wonders of the new social media age. The customers of the future will be digital natives. So what can you do now, simply and effectively to maximise your effect in the one of the largest social media platforms: the behemoth that is Facebook.

Turns out someone has tackled this for us. Check out the full article on optimising Facebook here.

In summary the points are:

  • Keywords in updates
  • Edit links to include keywords
  • Add links to the info page
  • Focus on the ‘about’ box
  • Keywords in your page name
  • Descriptions on all pieces of content
  • Add a link to photos
  • Tage pages in posts
  • Follow best practice in posts
  • Point ads to your Facebook page
  • Be consistent with links
  • Always link to the main page
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