Facing uncertainty can be challenging – being a business owner facing uncertainty is tougher.
Red Direction helps you [fast track and] grow your business – authentically, pragmatically, and resiliently.
Starting the conversation:
More than just influencing outcomes, how you make decisions impacts your next step, your relationships, and also tests your values. Leaning into your personality and strengths, recognizing your weaknesses as a leader — all inform how, when, and what you do when showing up for your company and employees. Bew White, Executive Chairman at Summer Classics/Gabby, shares insights about the impact of business decisions.
The more you actively seek out information and ask questions, the more you will be able to sense the difference between fads and trends. Such knowledge gleaned from experience as well as analysis is important to the way you choose the right opportunities for your business.
In this show, you will learn how to recognize if you are taking enough risks. This will include three vital steps to handling mistakes; what it is like to know you are ready to give up everything to take big action; and three key areas to watch to prevent your business from failing. Jess Dewell talks with Bew White, Executive Chairman at Summer Classics/Gabby, about how the best experiences can be hard and messy, yet worth it.
Host: Jess Dewell
Guest: Bew White
What You Will Hear:
Trends or fads? Learn to sense the difference.
Trust your gut and seek information and statistics.
Present yourself well, and portray your personality consistency.
Building a business you may also consider yourself to have an MBA in Mistakes.
The reality of what happens when you start over.
Three steps to handle mistakes.
Ensure you focus on having integrity in the little things.
Use your brain AND gut combination day-to-day.
When you know it is real, you are willing to give up everything you have for it.
Pay attention to subtleties.
Additionally, for the Fast Track Your Business Today Uncut conversation:
Hiring changes happen as scale happens.
Ready to hire versus hiring to match growth.
The true impact of your effort.
Three things to watch to make sure your business does not fail.
Time is the most precious gift, so understand where you spend it – in every area of your life.
Accept you will need help and acknowledge when it is time to ask for it.
True partnership means deeply connected relationships.
Don’t give up, push through and learn from mistakes.
It is BOLD to trust your gut to make decisions.
Find out more about how to Fast Track Your Business.
Jess Dewell 00:00
I know you’ve never made a mistake ever in all of history. So what would you tell those of us who are always making mistakes? How do we handle those mistakes?
Bew White 00:11
Well, I made a $30 million mistake one time, no.
Welcome. This is the Bold Business Podcast. Your business has many directions it can travel, the one true direction of your company creates the journey for you to move toward a new, exciting level. We call this the Red Direction. In today’s program, we delve into one idea. The idea will support you as you work on ever-present situations, including how to stay competitive in a changing market, how to break through the business plateau, and how to anticipate the changing expectations of your stakeholders. Jess Dewell is your guide. Jess brings you a 20-year track record of business excellence, where strategy and operations overlap. Your path comes from consistently working from the special place. Your unique True North. Now, here’s Jess.
Jess Dewell 01:07
Welcome back to the Bold Business Podcast. We are talking journey we are talking challenge we are talking triumph, sometimes without failure. First triumph, we are talking all we can think about and get into this small amount of time that we have today, from somebody who’s done it from somebody who has been there, figure things out along the way. Didn’t know there wasn’t any other way to do it, except for the way that it got done until after it was done. Right. That’s what most of us are doing. And I have to say, the business that view YT has built with summer classics speaks for itself. And its longevity company, the culture, the growth, the contraction, to get to more growth, the buck puckering challenges to get to where we are today to be able to have this conversation with you and talk about what he’s been doing in the world. That is what I am most excited about today on the Bold Business Podcast. Before we talk about that he has written a book, he has three kids, two of those grown kids, one of which is the CEO in his company. And they both started other companies as well. Each of us, right, we all have a journey that gets us to where we are. And there were a couple of things in your past that seemed really pivotal that allowed you to end up here without knowing this was the destination. Is that a fair thing to say?
Bew White 02:40
Yeah, the mistake thing.
Jess Dewell 02:41
Yeah, the mistake thing. The good ones. And the not-so-good ones. One of the things that we share in common is the desire for style. I don’t know if I have an eye for style, but I know if I’ve got style, or I don’t have style, you may know if their style or not style, in addition to having it yourself. But that’s a big part of where you began. And probably I think what, what gave you the idea for your first furniture line too.
Bew White 03:07
Well, I was actually selling outdoor furniture. And I knew everybody made in the whole marketplace and kind of went you know, I don’t like what I’m selling and it’s okay. But I don’t like what anybody else made. I wonder if anybody would like what I like. The other premise was, I want to get off the road. Some way to get stopped driving 60,000 miles a year and never been at home and I have three small kids and I’m like, I’m I gotta fix this somehow.
Jess Dewell 03:33
And you come from a background of noticing things, right?
Bew White 03:36
Genesis a quiet said very little detail that makes something either good or saleable or not. I mean, that’s a part of design lintec We’re working on some things that were done back in the 1930s right now, and I’m kind of going, we’re gonna I can’t tell you what it is. But we’re gonna reinvent this and start over. And everybody went, Wow, that’s a good idea. I was like, Yeah, okay, this is gonna work.
Jess Dewell 04:04
When you can see those differences. And you can reimagine and when you can update. How do you know today, after all of the experience you have, whether it’s going to be a trend, or it’s going to be a fad.
Bew White 04:15
You want to start at the beginning?
Jess Dewell 04:16
Bew White 04:17
Let’s go there. So 1970 Well, actually 1966 as my date myself, I started in the clothing business. I was a kid, I’m 16 years old. And so started selling clothing. I was actually in prep school, and I got to like clothing and so I started selling clothing in a high-end clothing store in a kind of a bespoke clothing store. A trend came in then you’re young enough where you wouldn’t even remember this why ties came in.
Jess Dewell 04:45
I do not remember that.
Bew White 04:46
It could have been a fad, but it was a trim and I kept going to the owner of the store going dude, we’re missing this and you got to Frederator 50 steps away. I’m sending your customers over there. And I could probably sell them the shirt because all your shorts have these small collars that don’t fit this gorgeous tie everybody wants to wear now, oh, and they have two button suits. And all you have is three button suits and jackets. So you’re you’re missing the time, but the time back then everybody will change by the way. And so it became a trend. And everybody literally threw away their ties except for their wide dives. Wow. That’s how big of a trend that was. And so he didn’t see it. And guess what happened?
Jess Dewell 05:29
I believe that we all need to be able to be dressed up, we have to be able to be comfortable in things that we’re not typically comfortable doing. And today a perfect example of that actually is dress clothes. Do you dress to go to a business meeting? How do you dress to go to a business meeting? What is a fad? versus what is the trend versus what gives you credibility versus what are you trying to portray? All of that comes through as in a person, doesn’t it?
Bew White 05:57
About 10 years ago, I read George Washington a life by Ron Chernow, if you’ve ever read anyone turn on his books are long, 1000s 1000 pages. Anyway, it spends an incredible amount of time on the fact that George Washington State in uniform all the time, designed his own uniform, had it made in England, made it different than the British uniform. And he always looked his best. And certainly, if you read that book, it’s like, well, we wouldn’t be here without George Washington. But this whole thing about his clothing, gave him that as a leader. And I think even the word, if you look at the pictures, or the drawings, they want pictures back then great pictures or drawings of the Continental Congress, everybody else would be have on these clothes that are typical of that time, and he would have a uniform on.
Jess Dewell 06:45
It goes into so many factors. And in fact, I’m working with my 11-year-old son to get used to this. He hates it when I make him dress up. He goes, Mom, I look like a waiter. And I said actually, no, you look different from everybody else. And I said we can fix that. We will get you a different color jacket and your pants. No problem. And do you wear a tie? Do you not wear a tie? Do you have a pocket square? Do you not have a pocket square? And that’s just awesome. Young men. You have a pocket squares? Yeah, so yeah, you know what it’s about? Yeah.
Bew White 07:14
About the word no ties. Yeah, pocket square.
Jess Dewell 07:17
And I think that that’s great. Because you can do so many things and be just as dressed up without feeling stuffy and still being able to move and go with whatever is appropriate in the moment, you have to start to trust your gut around that I’ve achieved it, I know it, people can expect it, I see this, if I dress this way I know what I’m portraying. And that also then is true for product. When I see it, I know it is that something that’s true for you, you have that gut?
Bew White 07:42
Well, more of the history. So I then moved into the fabric business moved to New York City. And I discovered Ralph Lauren when he was first getting started. And so I got to know his business model. And I met with his brother several times, he could actually meet our minimums on our fabrics. But that’s a business model. Because he didn’t really make anything he was very much like Apple or Nike is now where they design product, concentrate on the branding, change their designs based on where the market is going. They’re following the market are constantly smelling the market. And they’re not so focused on running a factory that may or may not make what the client wants. And so that’s kind of the model built a business around. And I’m not bragging, but we’ve grown 40% this year. And it has a lot to do with the business model, which is your factory.
Jess Dewell 08:32
If I remember correctly, it also goes to your international connections, right? Whether that is South America, whether that is China, your ability to partner with people that have factories compared to being the factory and what were some of the key decisions in that was it specifically talking with the Ralph Lauren company was it specifically, you had already had this idea and you were testing it out, or trying to poke holes in it by soliciting that information?
Bew White 09:02
The key for me is that you have to have symbiotic relationships, where the factory depends on you, and you depend on the factory. So they’re willing to make the quality standards you won’t because if you look at Asia, it’s really set up for the masses. So they have to be willing to meet these really high-quality standards, I would say well like leave a ton and outdoor furniture, although the bindings probably are you’ve got to hit certain specifications. Think this is gonna last outside for 20 years. So that’s a very high-spec product but like you don’t keep your car for 20 years but in this case, you could keep your own overnight or that long. And that’s what it really interestingly enough. When I started it, I kind of went this is going to take a really long time because people are not gonna want to pay for a once they do and they have it for 15 years and they go wow, I still like it and it still looks like I bought it and then maybe replaced by Christians. once or twice, for the rest of it looks pretty good. And I don’t want to change.
Jess Dewell 10:04
What is the purpose of what we’re doing? And what do we want people to know us for. And it sounds like quality and timelessness. And that’s actually true and true of everything that we’ve talked about in the past everything that I’ve read about you, that’ll be a deal breaker and business relationships for you.
Bew White 10:18
Yeah, it’s a trend right now towards modern, I started in modern, that’s how I got started, didn’t really in the classics, the Mies van der Rohe of the stuff that was designed by architects primarily back in the 50s. Frankly, a, I don’t know if you know, these guys, they designed a lot of unique, sort of modern furniture for the time and it got redone. And that’s how I got started selling to the crates, and barrels, and the storehouses and Workbench on the these some of these have gone out of business. But back then there was a contemporary group of furniture stores that are opening all over the United States. And so I took that, and then using that now to come out with modern furniture, but we’re like the last people that have some traditional left in our line.
Jess Dewell 11:03
You might have to educate me on what that actually means. Because I recognize that there are traditional houses, the last house that we lived in, had molding above all the doors and all of the windows instead of the crown molding around the ceiling, and I didn’t like it, I wanted it to be cleaner and planar so that if I wanted traditional furniture, it would go great in the room. If I wanted modern furniture, it would go great in the room. And by the way, I have some of each and they go really well together, too. But if what’s around, it doesn’t match, it’s really difficult to do. So understanding those style pieces, I think, is important because it actually I mean, what you’re doing today, you know, you were said, we’re talking about this new thing. I can’t wait, I can’t really tell you a whole lot about it. But we’re really excited about it. When does that actually come to fruition? I mean, is that in, is that in the next 12 months, or is that like 24 months or more away.
Bew White 11:56
2024. It’ll get introduced maybe next summer, and production will start shipping in January of four, or maybe later.
You’re listening to the Bold Business Podcast. We will return to the show soon. But first, I want to take a moment and give you a peek into what additional services and solutions you could access to Fast Track Your Business. This program was created to develop your capacity on demand by sharing insights, tips, as well as lessons learned by business leaders, unedited and uncut. And we don’t just stop there. There are three additional benefits to help you reach your growth goals. You will also have unlimited access to one, hearing tips and insights to develop yourself as a leader to get better results more often. Two, experiencing viewpoints from many different business leaders. Three, receiving frameworks to build core competencies and to more effectively focus on business growth and leadership. Altogether, The Fast Track Your Business program will allow you to face uncertainty, anytime, anywhere. You can access what will become your most versatile tool in your toolkit by going to FastTrackYou BusinessToday.com. Now back to Jess.
Jess Dewell 13:13
So in this world of instant gratification, nothing changes that fast. I mean, whether it’s housing prices, whether it is styles of houses, whether it’s the styles that people decorate inside their houses because we have all of that stuff for a long time and outside of their houses, right the outdoor furniture, those trends don’t change fast, you still have to know the trends and have some concept of how to sniff out what will keep you competitive and exciting to your existing and repeat customers almost two years in advance.
Bew White 13:44
Here’s how you fix that patient. So we have 21 stores right now. And you go in a store and what you see is the four sample. So what you get is anything you want. So you can literally design your own furniture, which is what most people do, we do have probably can get right away. But for the floor, it’s set up a certain way. And you’re not married to that colorway. And you kind of if you don’t like a car, don’t walk away from it. Because if you like the group that you can get it any colorway you want it and you can trim and different throw pillows, and so it becomes your product. And that’s really what I call owning Suzy because we design our own fabrics. So we’re designing fabrics, and they’re exclusive. And we found the furniture and it’s exclusive. And then it’s how quality level. And so Jessica is in the store and sees this stuff and falls in love with a particular fabric and it’s ours, and she puts a certain trim on it and she goes home and she can’t quit thinking about that she’s dreaming about it at night. So I call it design your own furnitures.
Jess Dewell 14:54
When we’ve done something as long as you’ve done this, it becomes second nature and it rules To off of our tongue, and we just know, and we feel very confident in that. And sometimes we’re rocked to the core. And sometimes we have to start over. There’s a hard reality to that. Tell us about that?
Bew White 15:12
Well, 2008 is that we don’t say I have a Ph.D. or MBA and mistakes go through, I think thinking that you’re an entrepreneur is a problem. And so from that standpoint, I was doubting the fact that I’m an entrepreneur. And there’s six traits to an entrepreneur, they have to have all six of them are your, and I didn’t know this, I read about it in the Eos. Gino Wickman wrote about it. And I was like, wow, I hope I have all these because I’ve been doing this a long time. If you miss one of those you can’t even do it sounds like so one of those is risk-taking. And it’s the one that most people go, I can’t do that. I can’t, I can’t bet my house every year, which is what I was doing, I was like going, I believe in myself enough to take all the equity out of my house every year and put it in my business. And it’s a big dice roll. It’s hundreds of 1000s of dollars dice rolls, the end of the year rolls around, and you made more money, but you didn’t make enough to get the bank happy. And therefore you didn’t have to put the money back in every year, you’re like, This is tough, man, I don’t know what I’m gonna get out of this. The day.
Jess Dewell 16:21
And there’s some stamina to that, and some perseverance that’s required.
Bew White 16:26
I think it’s also having support, you’ve got to have the support of in my case, it was my wife, but you got to have enough people around you supporting and believing in what you’re trying to do that you can do it, you can do it. Don’t give up. ever read anything about Churchill, there’s never give up, go,
Jess Dewell 16:42
Oh, I know, I’m gonna just chip at it, chip at it, we’ll turn it around, and we’ll chip at it, we’ll turn around, and we’ll chip at it. And sometimes it’s the 11th hour, I gotta keep going, we’ve got to keep going. Absolutely.
Bew White 16:53
He kept thinking he was gonna be Prime Minister. And he was like, Well, I guess I’m not going to be Prime Minister away. And then it came around World War Two. And he was right, he kept saying Hitler’s a terrible, and in boom, he becomes prime minister because they need some hire like that. Even though great leader at the time. It’s just, that’s a case of a guy that has incredible perseverance.
Jess Dewell 17:14
It’s true. And being okay, with not being part of the mainstream. I was actually having this conversation with a young company. This morning, they were talking about how they’re getting pulled in all different directions from what they want their product to be versus what their customers are saying their product needs to be what I thought was really interesting. They were saying over here, we’re building this strategy, and we know what to do. And we’re in this for the long game. We can’t get our customers on board because of whatever, whatever, whatever. And I actually said to them, I said, you know, one of the things that you will have to decide on and you could be completely wrong, it still has to be decided is what do your customers need that they don’t know they need? What is your product trying to do to help them solve the problem of something that they’ve been trying all of these things, and they’re coming to you with all of these ideas from all the things they’ve tried that haven’t worked? But you’re doing the product? You’re given that listen to them? And what are they really telling you and tell them what they need?
Bew White 18:18
It’s generally hard to get the customer to tell you what they need. So if the customer is telling you what they need, I would tend to go in that direction. That would be
Jess Dewell 18:25
Yeah, exactly. But to give you an idea, it’s more like a service product. So it’s like give me this feature, this feature and this feature because I saw it over here or I cobbled it together in my own process. If you’re saying this is the cornerstone of why this product is the solution, then that problem is, is actually solved this way now instead, not that it’s not being solved, not that I won’t solve it. But hey, have you thought about it like this and being able to facilitate that conversation is kind of a tough thing. So we’re going from that two-year range to 48-hour, maybe six months of a change. companies get in a lot of trouble, because they listen to Well, yeah. And they can’t filter through. And that’s actually something I wish we could recognize and slow down a little that instant gratification piece is such a, it’s a hard thing to navigate.
Bew White 19:12
I got so frustrated with the customers, I’ve started turning up in a mountain sores. Look at that, believe me, the customer did not like that. I mean, they were like, Yeah, we’re gonna open a store in my city and you think I’m gonna buy from you? I said, No, no, I don’t You don’t have to buy from me. However, if you don’t, yeah, you can’t. So if you decide to drop a line, I’m not going to sell it to you again. What happened is, I would come in open a store, all these people would come in looking for the product. And they will say, we can’t get it and they leave. And they’re like, Oh my God, and they call and say, Please sell us and I was like what I told you. It’s like, anyways, you’ve got to be so bold like that. They can’t open their own store. That’s a service community but.
Jess Dewell 19:57
No, but they have to make a choice like that. they have to say, this is what we’re gonna do, period. And so from this, how do we solve that problem, which is probably different than new, and hopefully novel and exciting and easier than anything you could have ever come up with that you’ve been working really hard and not getting the solution you want for.
Bew White 20:15
If you think about what Ralph Lauren and Nike did on Apple, opening their own stores, and they blatantly say, we’re frustrated with the dealer base, they only buy my knit shirts, or they’re only buying my suits. And I’m selling a look. And the only way I can present it is either have a shop and Bloomingdale’s on store. And this is identical to me. Yeah. And then we started licensees, and that became really what’s driving the brand. Now people understand the product and it builds a brand better and.
Jess Dewell 20:48
Oh, well, it’s Jim Collins flywheel in a sense, right? That whole concept of when you’ve got one thing and it starts to catch, and it starts to move, other things get to move to and when they’re working in concert, you actually move farther, faster, and they propel themselves. I know you’ve never made a mistake ever, in all of history. So what would you tell those of us who are always making mistakes? How do we handle those mistakes?
Bew White 21:20
Well, I made a $30 million mistake one time. No, it was so bad. The customer service department was coming to me saying we’re gonna go out of business. And I said, No, we’re not going to get to this watch. I’m coming up with a plan. And we’re going to get through, it’s not going to be easy. There’s gonna be a lot of negative conversations with clients, but we’re gonna get through so we worked on the plan, we warrantied the product, that was a problem. Sherwin Williams wouldn’t stand behind the problem, which I thought would that thought that was my solution. And after I gave up, I said, Well, they’re not gonna stand behind some, I’m gonna have to deal with on my own until they agree to or whatever, which they never do. Anyway, so I just came up with a plan to help the customers through a period of time with a warranty and got through. Yeah, I have every year it seemed like we had something come up, that our guy went okay, well, here we go again. Let’s tell you what happened now. Yeah. About all the mistakes and pushing through. One thing is, I was doubling every three and a half years. So what you need if you’re growing that fast, you got to have cash, lots and lots of cash.
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