Friday, July 12, 2013

When You're on the Wrong Road, Turn Around

Pam and I spent the July 4th weekend in New York City, one of our favorite venues.  We saw the musical Kinky Boots, a virtual documentary on a family business.   Great cast, great book and great fun.    

Charlie Price's dad dies early in the first act, leaving him with a multi-generation family business -- an English shoe factory -- near bankruptcy due to cheap foreign imported shoes.  Charlie is beset by guilt, realizing that if he shuts down the factory, not only his family's legacy will be dissolved, but dozens of employees in the English Midlands will be out of work.   

So far, a pretty common family business story.  Add to that a fairly common scenario - Charlie has no passion at all for men's shoes, the staple of the company's product line.  Actually, Charlie doesn't give a damn about men's shoes, and would like to be as far from the shoe factory as he could get.  Sound familiar?

Charlie remembers his dad's admonition, "When you're on the wrong road, turn around."  He just can't figure out where to turn around to. 

In a peculiar scene, Charlie is involved in a brawl in an alley and becomes acquainted with a London drag queen.  Yes, strange, but fortunate (this is theatre).  In classic entrepreneurial fashion (DNA counts for something), Charlie realizes the stylish, "kinky" boots preferred by drag queens are made for women, and won't hold up under the weight of men.    

He challenges his technical team to come up with a steel-reinforced high heel that will handle the weight of a man and also hires Lola, the drag queen, as his designer.    

Fast-forward through the big shoe fashion show in Milan where Price and Sons' "kinky boots" are all the rage.  Having found a defensible niche, the company is saved, Charlie has his own legacy, and dozens of employees have jobs.   It's the perfect strategy - a specialized, defensible product niche with a price-insensitive customer base.  

Charlie heeded his father's advice, as have many companies who reinvented themselves - sometimes out of necessity -- "If you're on the wrong road, turn around."   

If you have a company reinvention or defensible niche story, please click "Comments" below and share it with others. 

To forward this to a friend, Click Here

Terry Weaver

Chief Executive Boards International
Chief Executive Boards International: Freedom for business owners & CEOs -- Less Work, More Money, More Freedom to enjoy it

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments to CEBI Blog articles are moderated to ensure member privacy and control spam. All comments except those deemed inappropriate should post within 24 hours.