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Nick V. interviews Paul Grangaard, CEO, Allen Edmonds

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by Nick V., Sep 20, 2011.

  1. MyOtherLife

    MyOtherLife Senior member

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    Thank you Nick and Paul both for your time; a most assuring and enjoyable read. Paul, thank you also for your fierce conviction to a great company, product and standard.
     


  2. erk

    erk Senior member

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    :satisfied:
     


  3. bings

    bings Senior member

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    tremendous interview.

    proud of my current AE's and looking out for more.
     


  4. mr.orange

    mr.orange Senior member

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  5. countbaron

    countbaron Senior member

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    Just read this interview by chance.

    I can't understand how the replies have been so consistently positive. This guy is clearly just giving shallow anodyne answers that are right out of the PR department. He is clearly an 'all business' private equity guy that happened to drop into the shoe business, just as he could have dropped into whatever Westlake Hardware do.

    This is not in anyway meant to be against AE, I have nothing to say about their shoes, as I have no experience of them or knowledge of their history etc- It is just that the answers all sound so fake that it looks bad

    My favorite is

    How would you describe the morale in the factory?
    Excellent. We do a lot together—summer picnic, holiday lunch, raffle drawings, quarterly town hall updates etc etc


    Picnics....:D what about things that really matter like pay levels, medical insurance, job security, etc etc. Maybe it sounds OK to an 'American hear', but it sounds pretty fake to me

    PS: This is also not meant to be against Nick V., I don't know what were the circumstances in which he conducted the interview (email, phone, live, etc) and of course it would be probably impossible to squeeze anything meaningful out of this eel
     


  6. TheWGP

    TheWGP Senior member

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    Just catching up with this posted stuff that I missed... ^^;

    I've had a PM conversation directly with Paul over on AAAC, and seen him both there and on SF responding to customers and genuinely trying to get feedback. Designs have been altered or selected based in part directly from the feedback on these fora. If that's not listening to your customers I don't know what is. My impression of Paul is that he is the CEO and he's aware of the responsibilities with that, but that he genuinely cares about the company in a way that's surprised many people both inside and outside AE. There's no way he ever intended to end up heading the company, and the responsible, successful way he's managed it has been key to their growth and "recrafting" as a company, as an earlier poster put it. Sure, he has to be somewhat circumspect in interviews - he's the CEO and he's right that one big advantage of being private is that not all moves have to be up on the scoreboard for everyone to see. At this point, though, I think AE has earned a certain amount of trust - as someone put it earlier, 9 out of 10 things they've done recently have been good decisions

    That Dalton boot at the end is one of the most phenomenal products AE makes in my opinion... now if only a shell model were to pop up! :devil:
     




  7. AlexE

    AlexE Senior member

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    First Nick: Thanks for putting the effort into this!

    One hint: Interviews are usually more interesting if you mix up some critical questions with uncritical or neutral ones. This is something missing in this interview. For my taste this whole thing is too much of an unchallenged hooray on the work of the Paul as CEO. He might have done a good job in general and I am in no position to doubt that (I have not seen any financials and KPIs and doubt they are available for AE in the first place). However, one point, which should have been disputed, is the "our quality is better than ever". Frankly, I have not talked to anyone (sellers, cobblers, long-term customers) who does not think that quality of materials and manufacturing have declined over the past few years when Paul was in charge.
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2011


  8. AllenEdmondsCEO

    AllenEdmondsCEO Active Member

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    Thanks for the feedback. I think if you were to monitor posts here and on Ask Andy going back several years. the most consistent assessments of declining quality at AE preceed my tenure by quite a bit. As a board member and customer in 2006-07, I agreed. Raising our quality consistency was therefore one of the first main initiatives we pursued aggressively starting with my arrival in August 2008. As I described in the interview, we built a much larger QC team and now utilize more sophisticated processes and statistical analyses under the leadership of an senior outside hire with significant QC experience. We've also released the passion and knowledge for superior quality of some key employees who have decades of shoemaking experience. Raising the bar again here was a welcomed move, I'm glad to say. Fortunately, we do have empirical data about quality levels in 2011. We just had our annual meeting at the Nordstrom Quality Center to review our performance. As you all know, Nordstrom sells thousands of our shoes and their quality expectations on behalf of their customers are extremely high. Their Quality Center performs an intense review of all their major suppliers, utilizing store personnel observations, product returns statistics, inspections of returned products, customer complaint data and new product testing. Our quality scores for the last year were the highest in our history and the NQC leaders consider us an exemplary supplier, worthy of emulation. Our own customer complaints as a % of shipped shoes and sales in our stores are also at recent historical lows, real low. We have had some specific issues nag us this year as we added over 100 people to our Port Washington production lines and also put stress on our heel and sole suppliers with significantly increased orders to keep up with demand. We appreciate customers holding us to high standards and pointing out when we fall short, so we know to fix the problems. We're not perfect, but we're pursuing perfection in order to get as close to it as we can. We're working to turn around every opinion of those you talked to. We're going for 100%.

    Thanks,
    Paul
     


  9. AllenEdmondsCEO

    AllenEdmondsCEO Active Member

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    Sorry to disappoint you. I've gotten to know Nick personally over the past couple of years (I sought his advice) and thought I knew what he was asking. I do write my own material, so don't blame our PR people for it. I don't know how you approach leadership or if you are in charge of a company culture, but the things I listed are part of the history and fabric of this place. People do like them and our turnover is very low. As for pay levels and job security, the success in turning around declining sales (we're up about 25% so far this year and were up 20% last year -- at current pace this year will be a new record for AE) have meant people's income is up substantially for their work here. And we've added a number of new employees, many of whom had been laid off from other manufacturers. We do provide solid health insurance also. As for your assessment of my motivations and "all business private equity guy" approach (I was in PE with a 20 person firm for all of 3 years), all I can say is I'm sure we've never met nor have you spoken to anyone who would know. My favorite number in our stats is our employment growth, my second favorite is our sales growth because customer choices determine how we're doing. I realize that most business books about "execution","KPIs" and management techniques don't talk the way we do. I think it's how long term successful businesses run, though -- focused first of all on product and on the customers who buy it and the employees who make it, on the suppliers behind it and on the community that supports the company. It's capitalism, so we need to make a fair profit. Taking good care of the product development and the other groups of people first, however, usually works out very well for the owners as a derivative effect. Sorry if that seems fake to you, but it's how we run here.

    Paul
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2011


  10. jrd617

    jrd617 Senior member

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    ...
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2011


  11. Nick V.

    Nick V. Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Thought I should comment here....
    First, I am not a journalist nor do I profess to be. I am simply a guy in the shoe business.
    Over my 35 years in the business I have had the privilege of meeting many upstanding people in the business. So, although my interviews do not meet the standards of traditional journalism, they are not intended that way. The intent is to share with SF by bringing out the realism of some of these people and the true passion for excellence they strive for. Nothing more.
    While the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive the PM's, phone calls and, comments from SF members that have become Friends are greatly appreciated as well.
    As Paul mentioned, we've gotten to know each other personally over the past couple of years. I also know salespeople, store managers and, have had the pleasure of meeting other executives at AE. They ALL share the same passion, commitment, energy and, excitement for the brand that Paul does. Something that's very rare these days. I can only attribute that to the Guy at the top.
    When I read a post from a guy that admits he "has no experience with them (AE) or knowledge of their history etc" then trashes the man in a personal way, and his motives, boggles my mind. This while hiding behind the guise " This is not in any way meant to be against AE"
    So, let me get it straight you never owned a pair of their shoes, have no knowledge of anything yet think it's fair to post your opinion including your accusation's and insults?? Yes, we are all aware of CEO's, Presidents, MD's that subscribe to the culture you refereed to. However, for you to categorize a person admitting you have know knowledge is unfair speculation on you're part.
    Accordingly, I consider your comments as merrit-less, reckless, and, have zero credibility. They offer nothing constructive with any basis.
    You may want to attain some knowledge and then comment.
    That is of course, if you happen to read this post "by chance".
     


  12. adt 1984

    adt 1984 Member

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    Nice job Nick. What a comprehensive interview. It was a combination of GQ meets Harvard Business Review. Keep up the excellent work
     


  13. AlexE

    AlexE Senior member

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    Well maybe I have just been lucky with my purchases in 2007/08/09 and unlucky with my purchases in 2010/11. With the latter ones I have seen a decline in leather quality, shaping of the soles (not a great sign if you need to see a cobbler to grind of heel material in order for the rear of the heel to touch the floor) and especially durability. However, maybe I only got the ones which slipped through QC.

    What really irritated me in your statement is following quote: "We have had some specific issues nag us this year as we added over 100 people to our Port Washington production lines and also put stress on our heel and sole suppliers with significantly increased orders to keep up with demand." Frankly, you must have been very naive if you believed that stressing suppliers and adding 100 untrained employees (that must have been around 15-20% of the existing workforce, right?) would not lead to quality issues.
     


  14. AllenEdmondsCEO

    AllenEdmondsCEO Active Member

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    Alex - We stand behind our products and would be glad to address directly with you any quality issues you've experienced. As mentioned, we achieved our personnel increase (of which we're quite proud... most of our new employees had been laid off from other manufacturers and were in need of work) and still also achieved the highest quality scores in our history at Nordstrom. Our operations team has decades of shoemaking experience, so we're not naive and we provide excellent training.. It's a handcrafted manufacturing process with a great deal of human involvement, so we're not perfect either. We shoot for perfection, though, and work to fix it when our customers are not satisfied. As the Deutsche Bundespost used to say when I lived in Germany in the 1980s, "Ruf doch mal an." wobei ich meine, Sie brauechten einfach unsere Kundendienstabteilung anzurufen, um irgendwelche Probleme zu loesen.

    Paul
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2011


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