Tuesday, December 29, 2015

What Barry Hearn Could Teach the Watch Industry

I am a fan of Men in Blazers, in one of their most recent pod casts they shared an interview with former Leyton Orient owner Barry Hearn that I found fascinating, informative and a lot of fun.  I encourage you to check it out here -


Essentially, Mr. Hearn shares the 10 rules that he learned by owning a football club, but there was a great deal of it that I felt truly applied to the luxury industry as well.  So with full credit extended to Mr. Hearn for putting them into words, and for the Men in Blazers for sharing it, here is my modified set of rules for the watch industry, one rule at a time -

1.     Always remember why you bought the company in the first place.

The watch industry is one of those businesses that can stir a great deal of loyalty not just amongst the fans out there, but the people working for the brand.  From the top to the bottom, there is a personal identification that comes with working for a brand.  With that level of devotion comes a fairly large bundle of emotional baggage.  But whether you own it on paper, or you are a salaried employee, in one way or another you have "bought" the company.

And for many a brand owner/brand manager and (in some painfully obvious instances) CEO, the brand is something that they always wanted to have.  When you were working behind the counter at Tourneau, you sometimes fantasized about what it might be like to be the brand manager on the other side of the counter.  Beautiful suit, flawless manicure, expense account.  It all looked really good.  And when you made the jump to brand rep, and then to brand manager it all did seem exciting at the time.  But, and I will paraphrase what Mr. Hearn said - running a brand can be a lot like having a mistress - It costs you a fortune and you only have 3 good days a year.  

Now when I say that it costs a fortune I don't just mean in terms of money, although the money side of it is very evident to you when you are the brand owner, the CEO or even the rep who is counting on incentive bonuses based on sales.  But there is a bigger "cost" -

  • Time away from family 
  • Your health - in this instance physical owing to constant travel, poor sleep and even poorer diet
  • Your relationships - and no, that is not just with your family
  • Your mental health
So one way or another, you are paying a cost - this is, by the way, just like any other business.  But what makes the watch industry so unique is the amount of passion it stimulates from those who work in, or hope to work in it.  The only similar industries I can think of are automotive and fashion.  Do you think toothpaste, air conditioners or peanut butter fuel this level of enthusiasm?  
So if we stick with the mistress analogy, this makes the watch brand a bit of a cruel mistress.  

But you got into this business for a reason.  Moreover, if you recently joined a different brand in the past months, you did so for a reason.  Whether or not it was the right reason, only time will tell.  

What I think gets lost in the morass of a downturn the likes of which we are experiencing is the fun, the enjoyment - the reason you got into this business in the first place.  The reason why you "bought the company" in the first place.

I got into the business on a full-time basis in 2007 - just before the last big downturn.  And it was one hell of a ride!  It is safe to say that I was so new to it at the time, that I probably didn't know enough to be worried or unhappy.  Every day I was asked to take on new and different challenges and responsibilities.  Long days, and a lot of effort went in.  There was a real team spirit and we were all pulling together.  And we emerged on the other side intact.  This was perhaps one of the great benefits of being a smaller operation - you could be nimble.  There were many other folks from bigger, richer brands who are now in different industries.

But looking back on it now, we never questioned why we got into the business or "bought the company" in the first place ; )

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