We all know the story of the local cobbler who was so busy making shoes for his customers that he didn’t have time to make shoes for his family. I have led and participated in hundreds of organizational visioning sessions but in 1998 it was clear to me that my own family needed a shared vision for the future. I was determined and proclaimed that we would spend New Year’s Eve 1998 together as a family working on our family vision. Under duress my wife and three children amused me and participated. My wife found the actual document I used to facilitate our visioning session in a file. I hadn’t seen it in ten years and the question remains relevant today. Does your family have a shared vision?
Here is the document I used to get us talking as a family ten years ago. Maybe the questions will enable a similar conversation with your family.
Kaplan Family Visioning 12/31/1998
Imagine it is the year 2008. The world survived the dreaded year 2-K disaster and the Kaplan family is thriving in the new millennium. It is hard to imagine that ten years have passed since that silly New Year’s Eve in 1998 when our dad made us stay at home together and develop a family vision. He said it was a mental picture or image of the kind of family we wanted to be. And like any vision it wouldn’t happen by accident but because everyone in our family wanted to achieve it and worked hard to make it happen. Well, ten years have passed. Let’s see how we did in living up to the family vision we created that New Year’s Eve right after dad won the family monopoly game!
Before we can discuss the kind of family we have become in the year 2008 we should start by discussing the kind of individuals we have become. I can’t believe how far we came as individuals. It will help us with our family vision to understand what each of us will be doing in the year 2008. Once we have a picture of ourselves as individuals we can take a look at how we relate together as a family.
How old are you in 2008? Where do you live? What kind of home do you live in?
Are you still in school? What grade (high school, college, graduate school)? Where? What do/did you study? What kind of grades do/did you get?
Are you working now? What do you do? What are you planning to do after you graduate?
Describe your personal relationships (boyfriend/ girlfriend)? Husband/wife? Kids! How about friends? Do you have a lot of friends?
What role does music play in your life? Do you play any instruments? How often do you play?
How much traveling have you done? What parts of the world have you seen? What parts do you plan to see?
How much do you read? What do you like to read? Do you read a newspaper every day? (Maybe there won’t be newspapers ten years from now!)
How much do you write? Does your job require you to write? Do you write on your own? What do you like to write about? (your mother has been encouraging me to write more…blame her….she has a habit of encouraging all of us to be better…doesn’t she…I think one of her best traits)
What hobbies/sports are you active in? How active are you? Do you exercise? Maybe we should know how much you weigh! Are you a sports fan? What sports? Have the Red Sox made it to the World Series in the last ten years? Perhaps you live somewhere else and have become a traitor and don’t root for the Red Sox any more!
What are the most important things in your life in 2008?
Now that we can picture what each of us is up to in 2008 and can admire our personal successes we can start to discuss what kind of family we have become.
OK so the Kaplan clan is alive and well in the year 2008. Who would’ve doubted that each of us would have an exciting and positive view of the future? It’s one of the great things about our family….the fact that as individuals we are all smart, funny, ambitious and have a ton of optimism about the future. And of course it is the humor we share with each other which makes for an “interesting” combination with our competitive spirits. I don’t know about you but I am extraordinarily proud and impressed with the individual integrity, talent, and personal motivation that we all possess.
But…(you had to know that there was a but somewhere!) …I am not as clear on what we will be like as a family. What will we be like collectively? That might seem like a corny question to ask and I know you are laughing at me for doing this. I truly believe that what our family is going to be like ten years from now will have a lot to do with the importance we place on being a family and how we treat each other NOW.
Having a vision doesn’t mean you can predict the future. Nobody can do that. It simply means that you have a view of what you would like the future to be like. Once you have a clear vision you can steer yourself toward it. It helps you know every day/month/year if you are doing the things and acting in a way that points in the direction of the vision.
Anyway, here are a few questions to get us thinking about our family vision:
How often do we see each other as a family? Are we together for the holidays? Do we go on vacations together?
What happens when our family gets bigger? Spouses? Are there any nieces and nephews? (I guess they would be grandkids huh? YIKES)
How often do we talk with each other? Do you talk often with your siblings?
What is the nature of our conversation? Are we talking about our lives and what is really going on or are we doing the adult equivalent of NOTHING REALLY!
How about email as an alternative to the phone. Are we all hooked up on line wherever we live?
OK how about something a little tougher….How close are we as a family…..really? What happens if something really great happens for one of us…. Are we all there to help celebrate? I suppose it is fair to ask the opposite question… What happens if someone gets hurt or has something bad happens, or just plain needs our help? Are we all there for each other?
How will we treat each other? Do we respect and love each other? Can other people around us see how much we respect and love each other?
And finally….How much importance do we place on family versus individual? Ultimately the importance we put on it will determine the kind of family we will be in 2008. I am willing to sign up to whatever vision we create and to work hard to make it happen. Are you?
Back to the Future 2009
I cried when I read this, ten years later. Because of its personal poignancy and its accuracy. My family is as close as ever. We communicate incessantly by every electronic means available. We added a new member to our family when my oldest daughter was married this past summer. We just returned from a great family vacation. Newspapers are almost dead and of course the Red Sox have won the World Series, twice. Life is good.
Today’s post is courtesy of speech and communication specialist, Marjorie Feinstein-Whittaker, of The Whittaker Group. I was introduced to Marjorie by a client and have been thoroughly impressed by the progress she’s made with his communication skills throughout the course of my work with him.
Many of us spend a significant amount of work time in meetings ranging from routine staff and management meetings, to client presentations, and more. Unfortunately, these frequent opportunities for education, collaboration, and communication are often perceived as boring, unproductive, and even contentious. One of the most important things you can do to make your participation in meetings positive is to be a good listener. By offering your full and focused attention, and conveying respectful and socially appropriate behaviors, you can build and maintain healthy long-term business relationships. This is easier said than done. Many of us have both verbal and non-verbal habits that can sabotage our best efforts. However, if you identify and address some of these behaviors, you can learn how to exude confidence, competence and poise.
If you typically:
1. Interrupt others – If you have an enthusiastic, perhaps impulsive personality, it may be difficult not to blurt out comments at inopportune times. Take a slow, deep breath, or silently count to three before you speak. If you inadvertently interrupt someone, acknowledge it by apologizing, and encouraging the speaker to go on. For example, “I am sorry for interrupting. Please finish what you were saying.” If you need to interrupt a speaker to get a meeting back on track, or give another participant time to reply, raise your hand slightly (to chest level), and acknowledge the speaker by name. “James, I’m sorry to have to cut you off, but I promised I would leave 10 minutes for Q and A.”
2. Have a trash-mouth –
If you are a person who litters their speech with expletives to get attention or express extremes of emotions, you are negatively affecting your professionalism and credibility. It is best to refrain from inappropriate or potentially offensive remarks. Work on expanding your vocabulary so you can explicitly and appropriately convey your thoughts and emotions. Instead of saying, “It was a damn good meeting,” try something like, “The meeting exceeded all of our expectations.” Learn how to choose your words carefully. Rehearse alternative ways of expressing your feelings and ideas in a more professional manner. If your colleagues include nonnative English speakers, be careful not to use unfamiliar figurative expressions, slang or colloquialisms which may be misunderstood or misinterpreted. Also avoid jargon or acronyms that might be unfamiliar to some members of the group.
3. See the glass as half-empty –
If you are the nay-sayer in the group, think of ways to re-frame what you say with a more positive spin. Instead of remarking, “That is never going to work,” or “That is a ridiculous proposal,” try something like, “This project is going to be challenging. Perhaps if we delegate the responsibilities, we can meet the deadline.”
4. Have “monkey-brain” –
If you sit in meetings and your mind jumps from one thing to another as if you were swinging from tree to tree by your tail in the jungle, you need to learn how to focus. Of course there are a myriad of external distractors, such as people walking past your office, interesting things outside the window, office chatter, and buzzing smart phones. There are also internal thoughts that may range from a growling stomach to how you feel about your co-worker on a given day. Learn how to be in the moment. Look at the person who is speaking, and really listen with your eyes, body and mind. Offer to take the minutes. This task will ensure that you are really engaged and listening mindfully.
5. Ramble, mumble, or speak too softly or rapidly –
Sometimes it is difficult to get to the point, especially if you are asked a question that you didn’t anticipate. Instead of answering immediately, take a breath, and organize your thoughts silently. Create a mini outline in your mind so you can stay on topic and avoid rambling. A convenient acronym to help you achieve this is T-I-E-S. T= re-state or paraphrase the question or topic I= introduce your main idea E= cite 2-3 supporting facts or examples S=summarize
Make sure you speak at a reasonable pace (not too fast or slow), and at an adequate volume (not too soft or loud). Finish the ends of your words, and don’t let your voice trail off at the ends of words. Try to minimize stereotypical and meaningless remarks such as, “Do you hear what I am saying,” and empty fillers such as “you know,” “It was like,” “uh,” etc. Pause silently, and speak when you have something worthwhile to say. Make sure you speak with varied pitch and intonation, and avoid a monotone (boring) delivery.
6. Send the wrong message without saying a word –
It is extremely important to be aware of what kinds of non-verbal messages you are sending through eye contact, gestures, and body language. For example, bouncing your leg, drumming your fingers, or rolling your eyes could convey impatience or frustration. Closing your eyes/pinching the bridge of your nose, looking away and yawning could convey boredom, and raising your eyebrows, covering your mouth with your hands could convey disbelief. Much of what we say isn’t spoken at all. Try to maintain appropriate eye contact with speakers, lean forward with your body, and nod to convey interest and attentiveness.
Of course, you cannot control what other colleagues or clients say or do in meetings, but you can control your reactions. You will find that being a good listener who is in the moment will have benefits that go beyond the Boardroom.
Marjorie Feinstein-Whittaker is owner and principal consultant at The Whittaker Group in Boston and is co-founder of ESL RULES. Her companies provide assessment and consultation services to both native and nonnative English speakers in a variety of fields. She develops and delivers specialized foreign and regional accent modification programs and customized workplace communication programs for those seeking to improve the clarity and effectiveness of their speech and communication. Marjorie works with clients from all over the world, both in person and via distance learning. Her training programs have been featured on The Today Show and many local media outlets.
You can contact Marjorie here.
-Content provided by Rath & Co. Men’s Style Consulting. Read more: http://rathandco.com/2014/03/follow-these-6-rules-for-success-in-any-meeting/#ixzz2xZ1CJ78r
Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Oh, excuse me, someone was talking to me about navy blazers, and I fell asleep.
The idea of navy blazers typically conjures memories of a first trip to Brooks Brothers for a rite of passage Sunday jacket, gold buttons and all. But not all navy blazers have to be a snoozefest. In fact, there are ways to take this conservative stalwart and give it a good shake-up. Read on for 5 tips on how to make a navy blazer your own:
1) Get it tailored so that it FITS you. I’ve you’re a current Rath & Co. client, or if you’ve been following me for some time, you know I’m a stickler for clothes that fit perfectly. So if you have a navy blazer that’s been hanging around your closet for a while, and the fit is within striking distance (the first thing to check is if it’s right across the shoulders), take it to a tailor you trust, and have him or her check the rest, including waist, arms and length, and make adjustments as needed. You’d be amazed at the 180 a jacket can take with a few nips and tucks.
2) Swap out those trad gold buttons for ones made of horn or gunmetal, like in the image above of a blazer I designed for a client. You’ll go from preppy to polished in no time.
3) Rather than standard navy, consider a blue with some kick to it, like midnight, cobalt or royal. Check out the same shot above of my client in his spanking new bright blue blazer. (His fiancée wasn’t complaining.)
4) Instead of a solid, try a subtly patterned fabric, like this tone-on-tone windowpane (above left — you have to expand the image to see the pattern) I just picked out for a different client. A blue hounds-tooth or pin-dot (above center and right) would also work, as would blue tweed in cold weather. From 4 + feet away, these fabrics read as solid, but up close you can see the extra oomph.
Read the rest of…
Julie Rath: Wake Up that Navy Blazer
I am soooo smart sometimes….
Why do I say this?
Mostly because I am always looking for clever and cost-saving short cuts in life.
And it is fun when I come up with one.
For example, last month I decided the 5 sportscoats and suit jackets I wear most frequently all had arms thst came down to long on my shirt sleeve and I was going to do something about it. The typical person would go to a tailor or to the store they bought the jackets.
But not me. That is too expensive and time consuming for a guy like me–who can comes up with ingenious short cuts I simply tried each jacket on and estimated in my mind how much needed to be taken out of each arm. Took me all of 3 minutes.
Then I dropped them off at the cleaners with my instructions.
And Voila!! Just look at that sleeve now!! It’s not too long anymore, is it?
Ok, maybe a little too short….I know. Ahem. So this week I am taking the 5 jackets and suit jackets to a tailor to have them taken back out to the appropriate length.
Ok. So, maybe I’m not sooo smart after all. But it was fun thinking for a day or two that I really was.
There’s nothing better than a well-dressed man in a suit. And yet, while suiting is one of my favorite things to style, many Rath & Co. clients work in casual environments and don’t have the need or opportunity to wear dressy clothes very often. For these clients, the challenge becomes how to be well-dressed and get noticed without looking out of place among their peers. There’s a fine line between putting some effort into your appearance and seeming like you’re trying too hard (which can often result in getting busted on by coworkers – never fun). Those offices where jeans, t-shirts and sneakers are more common than a jacket and tie can range from tech startups to laboratories.
With these challenges in mind, I’ve created the below list of 8 tips on how to step up your style just enough so that it improves your self-image and the way you’re perceived by others, but not to the degree that you overdo it and become the object of skepticism or even ridicule.
1) If you’re wearing sneakers, make sure they’re not ones you’d actually exercise in but rather what I call “social sneaks.” These are sneakers you wear for every day, not working out. They should be clean and fresh-looking. Wash or replace them as soon as they start to look grungy. Converse Jack Purcell’s are a great choice.
2) Same goes for any other kind of footwear you might find yourself in: keep it classy and avoid anything with the word “hybrid” in its description. The place where the sneaker meets any other kind of shoe (i.e., dress shoe, boot or sandal) is like a dark alley late at night — nowhere you’d want to be.
3) Just because you’re wearing a casual shoe, you don’t need to wear white gym socks or plain black dress socks. In fact, wearing more interesting socks is a great way to inject style into your look without going over the top. Try different colors or patterns, like those above from Drumohr. And even simply switching from black to navy or grey is a big improvement.
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Julie Rath: Bringing Your Style A-Game in a Casual Work Environment
A friend recommended I buy jeans at American Eagle Outfitters, a store I have never been to before.
I was excited until I was browsing and was told they not only didn’t have any jeans big enough for my waist (36), they also didn’t have any with a short enough inseam either (29).
And the worst part is I really liked the jeans!! I asked if they had a hybrid “Big and short section” for my size but they didn’t.
To add insult to injury, the waistlines for most jeans there are 26 and 28!!
What happened to us men the past 25 years? Or is this new fashion payback from women who men have idealized as far skinnier than normal for decades?
I smell gender payback all over this!
Come on, guys! I am on a diet…but for a normal male waistline circa 1985.
When a guy reduces his waist from 38″ to a 35.5,” he can’t help but develop a little attitude.
And start asking himself if it is time to look into buying a pair of “skinny jeans.”
And feels a smug superiority toward men who sport a 36″ or 37″ inch waist.
A big thank you to The Wall Street Journal for including me in the recent article, Spring Shoes for Men Step Brightly. The piece discusses how men’s footwear is trending toward colorful uppers or soles and “statement” elements like spikes and wild patterns; my advice on how to incorporate this trend into your wardrobe is included at the end of the article.
After speaking with the WSJ reporter, I had an outfit brainstorm, and below I share with you a few specific looks that incorporate Spring 2012′s shoe trends.
1) A great Spring combo would include a pair of neutral shoes with a neon sole like the bucks, above, from T&F Slack. Pair them with white straight-leg jeans and a denim shirt for a casual night out.
2) If the shoe itself is brightly colored, like Tods’ royal blue Competition Shoe, go with a dark wash, straight-leg jean, a grey henley shirt and a navy vest.
3) If neon shoes are too much of a commitment for you, you might dip your toes in the trend by adding color via your laces, as with the Esquivel shoes above. Because the color pop is not too prominent, you can play around by incorporating other colors into your look. Pair these boots with dressy jeans and a sport shirt that has some yellow in the pattern, like the one below from Polo Ralph Lauren. The reason yellow and purple work together is that they are complementary colors, meaning that they live opposite from each other on the color wheel. When used together, complementary colors intensify each other and create a harmonious color scheme.
4) For a shoe where the detail (as opposed to the color) is the statement, like Jimmy Choo’s “provocative paisley” slippers above, you want to keep the rest of your look tailored and simple. Wear these with a midnight three-piece suit for a posh night out, or for a more casual event, try a medium grey dress shirt and black or charcoal grey pants. The important thing to keep in mind with shoes like this is that they need to be in line with your personality, and wearing them with confidence is key. (As an aside, check out this fun Bond-style video detailing the Burlesque silhouettes hidden in the print.)
You want the latest when it comes to skis and other equipment, but do you look the part when it comes to your ski clothes?
Even if you’re not arriving via helicopter (à la Fiat Group founder Gianni Agnelli), there are plenty of ways to stay stylish on the slopes.
If you look like the Michelin Man when you ski, it’s likely you haven’t rethought your attire since the late 90′s. Fortunately, along with advancements in skis, poles and other gear, there’s a lot new in the style department with plenty of excellent options that serve both form and function. Ski-wear designers have been heavily influenced by the more fitted cuts on the runways. And new fabric technologies allow for close fits that still provide warmth and flexibility. Bottom line: you can project a flattering physique on the slopes while staying warm and maintaining mobility.
When dressing for the slopes, you should wear a baselayer, midlayer, insulating layer, and coat or shell. Below are my suggestions within each category, plus accessories.
A baselayer is skin tight (or close to), thin- to medium-weight, and synthetic or wool. For wool, try brands like Ibex and Icebreaker. And for a high-performance synthetic, check out X-Bionic products, which are moisture-wicking, anti-bacterial, and designed to optimize circulation. All three brands even make boxer shorts. (Better safe than sorry.)
A midlayer is a sweater, fleece or thicker base layer like a turtleneck. Dale Norway (above left) makes very sharp-looking ski sweaters. And for something sportier, check out the half-zip options from Kjus (above right).
This is a thin, light down jacket worn beneath your shell (note: this layer is not always needed in non-frigid temps and/or if your winter jacket is very warm; it can also be a vest as opposed to having full sleeves). I like Kjus for this, along with Peak Performance.
For heavy-duty insulated pants, try Peak Performance’s Supreme Aosta. They’re highly wind- and waterproof and also have ankle guards, which is good if you ski with your ankles together (most intermediate or advanced skiers do). A good-looking lighter-weight option with more stretch and ankle reinforcement is Frauenschuh’s Alex pant.
For your outermost top layer, you can’t go wrong with a Canada Goose duck-down parka (above left). If you’re not a fan of logos, Moorer (above right) makes absolutely gorgeous, luxurious (and splurgy) parkas that sacrifice nothing in terms of protection from the elements.
Gloves or Mittens
Black Diamond is by the far the highest-ranking winter company for accessories by outdoor enthusiasts. These mittens are warm in sub-zero temps, are fully waterproof, and have removal liners, which is great because you can use them on warmer days without the liners. Liners are key also if you’re skiing multiple days because you can dry and/or wash them more easily. For gloves, if you’re really popular, these are integrated with Bluetooth technology and a vibration alarm for incoming calls.
A single layer is best because it preserves the “micro climate” between your foot and boot, circulating air and keeping your feet warm. Go with 100% wool. DarnTough is great quality and has a lifetime guarantee.
You can’t go wrong with one of these in a color that coordinates with the rest of your gear.
Wear a beanie like this one above under your helmet.
In very cold weather, it’s nice to have something that goes over your face, like this face mask or buff. If you wear one of these, you may not need a scarf.
Smith I/O Recon goggles have a micro-optics display where you can view your speed, real-time jump analytics, weather and buddy tracking, GPS mapping, and even a music playlist mode.
A note on combining: don’t go nuts mixing too many colors. If you wear a pop of color like bright red or orange, have it be on either top or bottom, with the remaining colors in the look neutral and coordinating with one another.
PSA: make sure to wear sunblock when skiing. The sun reflects off the snow onto your face, so you need to take extra precaution. I like Armada Sport 70 for all outdoor activities.
Are you ready to hit the slopes in style? I’d love to hear what you’ll be wearing – let me know in the comments below. And if you’re more about hot chocolate than black diamonds, stay tuned for an upcoming post on one of my favorite activities to style: après-ski.
A lot of guys have a “uniform” – something they wear throughout the year, no matter what the weather is. I know one guy (not a Rath & Co. client) who wears the same logo’d windbreaker everyday to work over his dress shirt and keeps it on all day. On really cold days, he wears another jacket over it. Oh, and did I mention he even wore it to a holiday party I attended at his home — with shorts and flip-flops? He’s evidently missing the chip that handles distinctions for situational dressing.
To say the least, the “uniform” of the guy described above has room for improvement. However, in some cases, having a set look serves a positive purpose and is even desirable, but only if it’s well thought-out and well-executed. I get requests for this quite often from prospective clients – they want their own personal, iconic look, à la Steve Jobs. I get the appeal of this. First of all, it streamlines their getting-dressed routine. Also significant is that it can help cement one’s identity and give a solid sense of self both internally and outwardly with others. My only caveat here is that this needs to done in a way where a) it’s not boring (perhaps there are slight variations within what you wear each day – black v-neck sweater vs. black turtleneck sweater), and b) even though you’re sticking with the same theme each day, it shouldn’t look sloppy or as though you don’t care about your appearance (think Mark Zuckerberg’s hoody).
Matthew McConaughey in his signature fitted Dolce & Gabbana suit (he appears in their fragrance ads).
How to develop that look? Well, that’s easier said than done and, I’ll be honest, you may need help from a professional. But I’ve outlined four steps below on how to move toward creating your own.
1) Make a list of words that describe the look you’re going for and how you want to be received by others. Then narrow that list down to three or four. If you’re not a wordsmith, spend quality time on Google looking at images of other guys who embody what you’re going for. Then describe that look verbally. You may also want to consult the thesaurus for ideas once you come up with an initial word or two.
2) If you haven’t already found visual examples of others who give off the same vibe you’re looking for, do that now. Then ask yourself, what are the identifying characteristics in those outfits that create that sensibility? It may only be parts of different looks (the shirt fabric, or the way patterns are combined, as two examples) that resonate with you. Make a list of those items. This is the source list that you’ll be pulling from when you test things out.
3) Using the list above, test each of these things out one at a time. If your financial resources are limited, you can do this in a dressing room without purchasing items. Ask friends whose opinions you trust and who you know will be honest whether the look works for you or not. (Generally, this is not going to be a store salesperson.) Doing this will allow you to narrow down your source list to your final choice(s). A word of caution: if the elements you’re trying out make a really bold statement, like brightly colored bracelets or socks with a standout pattern, limit yourself to a max of 3-4 items along these lines per outfit.
4) Whatever you go with, have CONVICTION about it. This is important because if you don’t feel confident about your appearance, most likely others won’t either. And remember, everyone looks at himself more critically than other people do (honing in on specific perceived flaws like a thick midsection or short legs – which others might not notice as acutely as you do), so try to take a more macro approach as I mentioned in this article on defining your personal style.
I know this can sound like a big undertaking, but if you follow these steps above and get advice from a professional or people you trust, you can absolutely achieve it. If defining your style is something you’re working on, let me know how it goes for you. I’d love to hear about your hits and your misses.
From This is KC:
3 reasons why Kansas City’s “Sockpreneurs” started off on the right foot
By Kathryn Jones
It’s been the general rule for centuries that a gentleman can’t go wrong with a well-cut suit. But for those who like to spice up the monotony of their 9-to-5 uniform, the options are fairly limited. Ties are the obvious choice (particularly the retro skinnies popularized by the characters on “Mad Men” and the beautiful bowties sported by Mayor Sly James), and you can add a little flare with a pocket square. But that’s pretty much it, right?
Wrong. According to Jason Grill, there is one accessory often overlooked: socks. As far as he and his fellow “sockpreneurs” at Sock 101 are concerned, a dresser drawer full of nothing but black GoldToes is better left to Grandpa. “Men who like to dress well and are looking for ways to step up their style can wear colorful socks—it’s OK,” Grill assures. “In fact, it’s very trendy right now.”
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Sock 101 presented at 1 Million Cups during Kauffman Foundation’s 2012 Global Entrepreneurship Week and made a splash right out of the gate. In less than two years, the company has generated quite a bit of buzz both locally and nationally. In addition to making the rounds of the KC media circuit, it’s been featured in Forbes, Accessories, Modern Fellows and Killerstartups.com. The always fashionable Mayor James, UMB President and CEO Peter deSilva and former U.S. President and self-described “sock man” George H.W. Bush are alleged fans of the brand.
It should also be noted that Sock 101 is 100 percent self-funded. “We have investors come up to us after [1 Million Cups], but we have not taken on any outside equity investors,” Grill says. “We don’t feel the need to at this point.” So what’s the secret behind this local startup’s success? Well, there are a number of factors that come into play.
1. Sock 101 founders were already rock stars in the business community.
Grill, the visionary and “face” of the company, is an attorney, former member of the Missouri House of Representatives, owner of JGrill Media & Consulting, a political analyst for Fox 4 WDAF and host of the Entrepreneur KC radio show on KMBZ.
Dave Feyerabend is co-founder and managing member of startup incubator D&K Ventures and CEO of Renuva Back & Pain Centers. He handles company operations and logistics and co-presented the concept with Grill at 1 Million Cups.
Lea Bailes is an attorney and marketing specialist who’s worked in and/or owned businesses in the areas of law, construction real estate, consumer products, fitness, fashion healthcare and technology. He’s responsible for general marketing and legal work for Sock 101.
Kelly Yarborough built his career in wireless and is now business partners with Feyerabend for both D&K Ventures and Renuva Back & Pain Centers. He’s involved in day-to-day operations at Sock 101, including customer service and sales.
2. Sock 101’s concept, product and business model are solid.
As Grill mentioned, colorful (but not cartoonish) socks in high-quality fabrics are a growing trend among fashion-savvy professionals. They appeal to men and women of all ages but are especially popular with the Millennials currently making waves in the creative and tech realms. “If you want to buy a nice pair of colorful socks at places like J.Crew or Banana Republic, you’re going to spend $12 to $15,” Grill says. “We wanted to make socks more affordable for the 20 to 40-something young professional.” Sock 101’s maintain the same caliber of quality, he says, but are sold at a lower price point: $7.
For $9 a month or $108 annually (shipping included), customers can sign up for the Sock of the Month Club at sock101.com and have a pair delivered to their doors. “Of the Month” clubs are growing more popular by the day because consumers love receiving a “surprise” gift in the mail in the sense that they already know what it is but aren’t quite sure when it will come or what exactly it will look like. “It’s a good feeling having a sock shipped to your house every month. We want to make sure our Sock of the Month Club members feel special in that they get a new design each month before our other customers,” Grill remarks.
Sock 101 also has a corporate sock offering whereby it will custom-design 50+ socks with a company’s logo. The KC Convention Center & Visitors Association, for instance, ordered custom socks featuring its trademark blue logo. “It makes for a unique marketing gift or a giveaway for an event or a celebration item for their clients and employees,” Grill says. “We hope more businesses will make custom socks with us.”
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3. The company knows how to market its brand.
Socks are a relatively simple and straightforward product to push because they’re a universal necessity. Everybody buys them. Customers want the best quality at the lowest price point, and successful companies deliver on that promise.
But quality and price aside, the companies most successful at marketing their brands are the ones that ultimately dominate the marketplace.
Lesson #1 at Sock 101 was to build a campaign on Kickstarter.com in order to raise funds and school the competition. “It really opened my eyes to how the whole crowdfunding process works; it takes a lot of dedication,” Grill says. “We included custom socks in our Kickstarter campaign, which helped us reach our fundraising goals.”
When it comes to spreading the word, “you really have to work your network hard,” he says, “whether it’s through your email list, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram. You have to continuously post content. With socks, it’s all about the photos. A lot of people share their photos, which makes marketing and social media easier for us.”
Sock 101 initially targeted male professionals in the Gen X and Y age range, playing up the idea that purchasing a pair in a particular color pattern would demonstrate pride for their alma mater or favorite sports team, and that the sock can be paired with a suit or a more casual outfit.
“Each sock tells its own story,” Grill says. But consumers decide what the story will be. The black-and-gold striped “Truman” sock, for instance, can be a tribute to Truman the Tiger if you’re a Mizzou fan. Or if you’re a KU fan, the same sock can be an homage to Harry Truman instead.
When photos of ladies wearing their boyfriends’ Sock 101s spread throughout the company’s social media network, it became apparent to the sockpreneurs that “women were stealing our socks from their boyfriends, so we might have to do a marketing campaign about that at some point,” Grill muses.