Wednesday, October 14, 2015

a toast to you

Don't get me wrong - I love those long, lazy brunches that seem to have a never-ending bottle of champagne and menus so extensive they should require a table of contents to guide you through the plethora of plates and options.  But sometimes, I just like a wonderful piece of toasted bread, with butter or jam, and an espresso to drink.

A few years ago I was the sales and clientele manager for Williams-Sonoma.   While there, we had the opportunity to participate in various contests. And if you know me, you know I'm incredibly competitive, especially for my teams.  We must win.  One of the prizes I was gifted was a beautiful see-through toaster from Magimix. And of course, the first thing I wanted to do was celebrate and have a "toast party" with The Nana and The Grandfather.  So with a little coordination, we somehow ended up with nothing short of a feast - beautiful breads, fresh fruits, jams and spreads, juice and various vini, and even a super special 20 year aged balsamic vinegar with white truffles. 

I'm sure the last words you'd associate together are "toaster" and "party" - but it was a celebration indeed, and had really nothing to do with the toast.  

This was a party for life.  For spending time with those you love, doing things you love.  Abbondanza in Italian means more than just abundance - it implies a richness, an overwhelming sense of love and comfort.

This festa con brindisi fuels part of my passion and thoughts for retail.  If we minimize the options, but maximize the quality, integrity, and emotional connection of whatever goods and services we're selling, we've guaranteed clients for life.

At first glance, a trip to Billy Reid  might give the impression of a very limited selection.  If you're looking for an orange polo shirt, you may scan the store quickly, not seeing what you had hoped for, and quickly exit.  But if you're looking for the most incredible quality, where no detail is too great, and everything has, not just a purpose, but a story -- you've found the right place.  Each Billy Reid store oozes authenticity, from vintage books and artwork as props, to fresh flowers and candles for ambiance.  There's nothing manufactured or sterile feeling.  A polo style shirt from Billy Reid might cost around US$125, but the quality, durability, and attention to fit and feel far outweigh the competition.  And over time, that more expensive shirt will last much longer than their cheaper, mass produced cousins, realizing a beautiful return on investment.

I'm not a minimalist when it comes to fashion.  While I appreciate the clean lines and aesthetic of Jil Sander and Theory, sometimes you need the opulence and over-the-top ornate detail peppered in your life.  While not a minimalist, I am definitely in favor of minimizing distractions, wasted resources, and meaningless action.  And this is exactly my approach to building a strong clientele.  Your relationships should always be genuine, coming from a place of love, quality, and inspiration.  I know this sounds counterproductive to business, but I'd much rather a client come visit the boutique 20 times and buy one small leather good they're in love with, than amassing a wardrobe of products they'll never wear or use, purchased out of obligation and not because they loved them.  These purchases on a whim aren't purchases at all, but soon-to-be returns.  Part of building a strong clientele is establishing trust, leaving your clients with an air of elegance and education for the brand. 

Every time I eat toast, I think of that incredible moment I shared a few years ago.  There's so much meaning, so much inspiration, so many overwhelmingly positive emotions kneaded into every piece of toasted bread.  In a business setting, especially within the luxury industry, the exchange of time is the ultimate luxury.  It's my hope to encourage other business leaders to define their expectations, establish a corporate culture that creates a dynamic environment to clientele, holding their associates accountable by constant feedback and coaching-in-the-moment, celebrating successes, overcoming opportunities creatively, and ultimately realizing better-than-expected results while using less resources.  Together, we can break bread.  Find your own toast. Make your own party.  And always remember that moment. 

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