Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Transfer Window Swings Wide Open

It is typical at this time of year that brand managers start getting a wee bit anxious.  It is one of the less positive ways that the Swiss side of the industry tends to handle staffing issues.  Lately, it does not seem to have been an issue of competence.  Very talented people who had worked their way up in a firm, put in 10 plus years, and just as suddenly - they are shown the door so that they can:
pursue other professional interests and opportunities.  When other professional opportunities are not elaborated on, it means just what you think it does.

Now the Buddhist in me says this is the cycle, we are born and reborn.  Just as brands are born and reborn.  But ultimately what sudden exits of seasoned, talented personnel really reflect is short-term vision from the brand's home office.  Or maybe another way to put it, your brand is only as strong as the people who are part of it.

The watch business is just that, a business.  Sales goals have to be met, retail "turns" need to be realized, profitability is perhaps a bit more of a focus than learning and growing.  And that is as it should be.  But I also have to believe that there has to be a better solution than the mass of "shit-cannings" that are currently taking place.  Don't get me wrong, this sort of thing tends to happen every year just before SIHH and BaselWorld, but this year seems to quite a bit more pronounced than in previous times.  Top replacements will be dispatched from Switzerland - folks who no doubt are competent but lack the relationships, the cultural knowledge and the demographic understanding.  They will (hopefully) find their way in time.  But a lot of time, effort and disruption probably could have been avoided.

What is interesting from my perspective is that many Swiss brands seem to think that if a brand is successful in North America, and that the North American incumbent has been "at the helm" for any sustained period of time, then that North American incumbent is becoming more of a liability than an asset because she/he is just costing too much money.  I suppose that it is a good way to try and control your labor costs.  It is a rather unsettling trend and is not just limited to individuals.  Word around the campfire is that a certain group is going to relocate approximately HALF of its brands from the NYC metro area to sunny Florida.  Now on the surface this doesn't seem like such a big deal.  Companies move all the time.  But consider that your more senior talent are most likely of a certain age, making a certain wage, with certain family responsibilities like, I don't know - kids and mortgages.  They are not going to want to move.  Well, moving is probably not going to be "optional", ergo, new hires will be made at lower starting salaries.  SAVINGS!  Also Florida represents a much lower cost of doing business, so it is on some level understandable.  The good news for brands looking for staff in the NYC metro area, there could be a glut of talent available in the very near future ; )

For those out there now looking - I wish you a swift and fruitful turnaround.  Here's hoping after 10 plus years you at least get to keep your "jersey".

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