Tag Archives: Supply Chain Management

Digital Colour Forecasting – Pimkie Color

Here is a novel approach to the evolving digital landscape that we find ourselves in. Ever though to yourself – I wonder what they’re wearing in Antwerp? Ever ended up drunk on a train only to wake-up in Milan with everyone in blue and you’re in green (damn, so last year)?

I came across the Pimkie Color Forecast today to solve just such first world problems. The forecast shows you in real time what colors people are wearing in the fashion capitals. The service currently investigates Paris, Milan, & Antwerp via Big Brother type approach utilising live web feeds and daily, weekly, and monthly colour trending charts in each city.

The movement from a web 2.0 world, into a truly interconnected world harnessing the full resources of web and mobile, plus all the demographic, geographical, and other data sets the latter allows for, will thoroughly change the how fashion is forecast and planned for in coming years.

 

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Business Tools for Designers – Mastering Negotiation

The following is a great summary of some classic negotiation skills from former lawyer and author Matthew Swyers. During the career f any designer in any market there will be a need to negotiate. Throughout the production, distribution, and sales process, making sure your needs are meet, along with the needs of your various stakeholders will be crucial to success.

Please note this post was first written on inc.com, published 26 July 2012.

Basic Skills

1. Listen

To negotiate, you must learn how to listen and apply what you hear to formulate your next move. Every word has a purpose. Every statement a hidden tell. If you listen carefully, I mean really carefully, you will be able to hear and understand what your opponent in the negotiation truly wants. Listening is the bare minimum skill you must have to start building your abilities as a good negotiator.

2.  Be Willing to Walk Away

When two sides are negotiating, one of the other most basic skills you must retain is the ability to walk away if the deal does not satisfy your requirements. Some may think this is axiomatic, but it is not.

Once I was assisting a friend in negotiating the purchase of a new car. At the end we were close, but the dealer refused to remove some extra charge that was just more fat on the bone for his sales price. After much back-and-forth over this item, we reached an impasse: The salesman would not take it out of the price, and I would not move on him taking it out. I stood up, politely thanked him for his time, and said to my friend, “Let’s go.”

To my surprise, my friend remained seated, turned his eyes toward me, his expression quickly changing to that of a child’s wanting a toy in a toy store, and said, “But I really want the car.” At that point, any chance of continuing to negotiate a better deal evaporated like a puddle on a hot Southern summer afternoon. If he would have stood and walked, we would have never made it to the door before that item was taken off the cost. But by not being willing to walk away, we gave the other side a critical advantage: He knew we would not walk. Always be willing to walk away from a deal, and let it be known in either a subtle or not so subtle manner, as the situation dictates.

Intermediate Skills

1.  Feign Indifference, Don’t be Indifferent

Obviously we care about the thing we are negotiating for, otherwise there would not be a negotiation. But just as we must be willing to walk away from the deal, equally as important is that you must never let the other party know how much you want or need to make the deal.

For example, for anyone who is familiar with my other writings you may recall that I am a trial attorney who has tried hundreds of cases in my career and litigated thousands more. At some juncture during the course of litigation, the parties will discuss settlement. Irrespective of my client’s concerns and directives, I always feign indifference during settlement discussion. Why? Because if the other side ever gets a whiff that you are not willing to try the case, it will have a decided advantage over you in the negotiation process.

So no matter if my client is ready to take the case to the mat or can’t afford or does not want to move forward anymore, opposing counsel gets the same routine from me every time: “We can try to settle the case or just go to trial. I’m good with whatever.” The goal in feigning indifference is to be as difficult to read as a blank page. In the end, however, it is a valuable skill to have in any negotiation. So you may not be indifferent, but never let them know.

2.  Have the Ammunition You Need

In litigation, this is about having your case ready to go to trial if it does not settle and making sure the other party knows you are ready. In other negotiations, such as in real estate, it’s about letting a prospective purchaser know you have another buyer on the line and that if he does not meet your terms, you’ll just sell it to the other guy. In any negotiation that involves an alternative action if the terms are not met, you must let the other party know you can, and will, do a specific act it does not want you to do in the event terms are not met. In short, let the other party know that you have your ammo and are willing to use it.

Many years ago, my then firm represented a man who had been horrifically injured by a product. Our firm was brought in to represent his interests against the manufacturer. Because of certain confidentiality provisions, I cannot mention the product or even the type of product it was. Suffice to say, however, it was the first case of its kind and had significant national exposure on not only a media level but political as well. Well, as in any litigation case, the parties are required to exchange documents whether they are detrimental or not to your case.

We knew that the defendants were holding out on us and saying that these specific very damaging reports did not exist despite the fact we had witnesses that testified to the contrary. We knew if we got our hands on these reports, they would be shaking in their boots. Well, to make a long story short while referencing a great episode from Seinfeld,we employed a special team of people to “retrieve” the reports for us, and “yadda yadda yadda,” we appeared at pretrial with these ultra-damaging reports in hand. The case, one of the most contentious and longest I had ever been involved in, settled minutes later. Why? Because we had the ammo.

So it does not matter if it is litigation, real estate sales with an alternative buyer, or otherwise, always have the ammo—or appearance thereof—to support your side in the negotiation.

Advanced Skills

1.  What Motivates the Other Party? Use It

As a prerequisite, you must always listen. Listening, as stated above, is critical to hearing what the other side wants. But on a higher level, you must strive to understandwhy. What is motivating the why? If you can listen between the lines to understand that which truly motivates the other party, you will gain a decided advantage in the negotiation of the deal.

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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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The Mystery of Invoicing

Ah invoicing… the mysterious art of sending a piece of paper to a typically faceless email to be processed increasingly off shore and hoping that payment arrives before your cash flow plummets and you receive a nasty call from your banker. Fun times… not why we’re in the Fashion game.

What we wanted to share today was a funky , very subtle strategy an Amsterdam based creative agency employed to spice up their invoices and speed up payment from their customers.

Strategy: it’s in the tagline

At the bottom of every invoice the agency would place a tiny line above where to send money. They frequently changed it to keep it interesting and included;

You pay now. We love you long time.

To prevent the hounds being released please pay in 14 days.

We don’t like baseball bats, but Hells Angels do. Please pay in 14 days.

Mr T says “don’t be a sucker. Pay the bill Fool.”

Now obviously the use of Bikies (or Mr T for that matter) is not condoned to collect your accounts. However the agency found this subtle strategy made their invoices funny, interesting, and therefore at the top of the to be paid que. One supplier even collected the statements from 20 invoices and posted them onto their Twitter feed. Now that is love!

Fashion is a creative industry. Seek to turn the mundane into the extraordinary.

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A Different Premium Brand Strategy

After you spend years investing to build an aspirational brand, a competitor launches a new clothing brand or perfume and your customers disappear to buy the new new thing. The luxury and fashion industries are full of such stories.

Luxury and fashion have been playing this aspirational model forever. It works like this: I am not part, but would like to be; because I want to be recognized as a rich and important person, I buy a Gucci’s bag, Prada’s shoes, and so forth. To aspire and be recognized is part of being human.

But the aspirational branding strategy is intrinsically risky, because it is so exposed to consumers’ fashion hypes and downs. How can a luxury business stand apart from the aspirational crowd?

Let me present a successful case in Europe and parse out the managerial lessons. Loro Piana sells both exclusive wool and cashmere fabrics and its own branded clothes. An six-generation-old Italian family business, the company’s sales have grown from €243 million in 2000 to €478 million last year, despite two deep recessions. Loro Piana is distributed globally in 22 countries and operates 135 retail stores, most of them directly owned.

The company’s mission is to sell excellent products made from the best sources of raw material (wool and cashmere). Over the years, the company has been able to scout in remote areas of the world the best raw materials, building local sustainable ecosystems and preferred access to breeders.

For example, Loro Piana has been working with the vicuna from the mountainous steppes of South America for many years, culminating with the animals saved from extinction thanks to a project developed with the support of Peru government and the local community. By acquiring 2,000 hectares in the Andes, the company is establishing a natural reserves to further protect these animals. The vicuna produces the finest fiber capable of being spun with an average diameter of only 12-13 microns against the 15 microns of cashmere. Thanks to its preferential access and local community bonds, Loro Piana buys 85% of Peru’s production.

Another example is baby cashmere, a fiber the company obtains from the undercoat of young Hircus goats in the remote Gobi desert in Mongolia. Loro Piana works smoothly and sustainably with local nomadic Mongolian goat herders and has set up a local Mongolian company to manage the process of baby cashmere sourcing to be closer to the local nomadic community.

For Loro Piana, success depends not only on its ability to build competitive advantage through access to the best raw materials, but also on its sophisticated marketing skills and ability to use its exclusive raw material access for its branding. Baby Cashmere and Vicuna are now prime Loro Piana labels, associated by clients and consumers with product excellence. The company uses a very limited advertising budget compared to other fashion houses, mainly focused on promoting local ecosystems and stories of raw material excellence. The company does nearly no advertising on clothing lines or what aspirational brands usually do. In contrast, Loro Piana wants to be hidden.

Over the years, thanks to its obsession for sourcing and product excellence and sophisticated marketing, Loro Piana has become a classic of elegance. Its branding consumer’s perception is the opposite of aspirational. This brand and strategic positioning preserves them from the hypes and downs of fashion brands. Business is more stable, less cyclical, with lower advertising investment requirements — and, as a consequence, very profitable.

Do you have a plan for you brand on how to become a classic and shy away from the aspirational crowd?

This article is sourced from the Harvard Business Review blog and was written by Alessandro Di Fiore. Alessandro is the CEO of the European Centre for Strategic Innovation, based in Milan.

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