Men’s Wearhouse fired a hero of mine, George Zimmer. If you don’t live under anything igneous or sedimentary, you already know this. If you’re like me, you thought George still owned the company outright (not for any real reason based on logic, just because I see his bearded mug guaranteeing me that I’ll like the way I look), and might have been surprised to know that the board fired him. It sounded like somewhat of a power struggle, and sure enough, there looks to be fire behind that smoke.
From what is reported in this article on Yahoo Finance, Zimmer got a serious case of seller’s remorse. Owning only 3.5% (approximately) of the stock, his ability to make binding decisions was gone, and, at least from the point of view of the article, he started making some moves to try to get that control back. I find these kinds of fights fascinating for a whole host of human behavior-related reasons, but that’s not what I want to talk about today.
Like I said, Zimmer has always been a hero of mine, having started the company the hard way, selling wares from the trunk of his car. To get where he is now took a very strong Brand Vision, and any truly effective Brand Vision depends directly on a clear understanding of your customers and what problem you solve for them. George had that in spades. What’s more, he stood directly behind what he sold, another trait I admire in entrepreneurs. Somewhere, that got lost. Taking his eye off the Brand Vision he established, he made the same mistake lots of small business owners make.
Brand Vision is the paramount concern for any small business owner, C-level executive or board member, and it can’t take a back seat to anything else. Your marketing messaging, value proposition and sales process all fall directly from what you see as your Brand Vision. We talk about SEO, PPC, Social Media and a myriad of other marketing topics and tools, but all of that falls far short of the value you will get from having an unbending Brand Vision. Knowing your customers, market position, etc… all goes into how you define that vision, but it’s still the most important facet of your business.
For whatever reason, George Zimmer forgot that. He believed, evidently, that he could push the company in any direction his short term vision dictated and customers would keep coming (you have to believe that if you’re making a move, because if you think customers will quit coming, you don’t make the move, right?). Recent moves by brands like JCPenny, Abercrombie & Fitch, etc… say this is not true.
Know your customers. Know your Brand Vision, and don’t depart from it. Test it, prove it, stay the course.
photo courtesy of nndb.com