The phrase “Think Global, Act Local” rings true when seeking that elusive commodity called business leadership.
We’ve looked up to leaders all our lives, many of whom are worthy of the praise: Founding Fathers (Washington, Jefferson), humanitarians (MLK, Gandhi), titans of industry (Jobs, Branson). But there are examples closer to home we can look to for practical relevance. In the world of business, what does it take to truly lead a company and make it thrive and prosper?
In his article of October 29, 1971, “LEADERSHIP,” L. Ron Hubbard summarized rock-solid basics:
“In order to get his job done, an executive must be someone from whom others are willing to take orders.”
“Understanding, added to competence, is probably the most ideal character of an executive.”
It is significant that Mr. Hubbard did not cite one’s connections or merely hard work. Any true leader’s personal output is often staggering, but when one can get groups of people moving effectively toward a common goal, we see real leadership taking shape.
Harry’s: New-Century Leadership, Old-World Quality
In March 2013, a startup called Harry’s entered the field of men’s grooming, spearheaded by entrepreneurs Andy Katz-Mayfield and Jeff Raider (co-founder of $1 billion–valued eyeglass brand Warby Parker).1
Harry’s manufactures and sells quality men’s razors and shave products. In an industry where giants Gillette and Schick have had a grip on the $17 billion men’s grooming category for more than 100 years, Harry’s created a disruptive force with an innovative business model—a 35-employee startup now grown to a 600-person operation spanning 40 countries with two million customers.2
Words that come to mind when describing Harry’s and how they do things are DIGNIFIED, SIMPLE, PRECISE, CLASSIC.
After extensive research, the Harry’s team discovered a unique razor design with precision-ground edges of high-grade steel, called the Croma, manufactured by a German company called Feintechnik.
In central Germany lies the town of Eisfeld; population about 5,600. Known for its medieval castle, Eisfeld is also home to the Feintechnik factory, which has been producing quality-engineered double-edge razor blades since 1920.
It took months to secure a contract with the factory to produce the blades to their specifications, but Raider and Katz-Mayfield knew early on that Harry’s and Feintechnik had the same discerning standards of quality.
Their next move was even bolder and unprecedented.
In January 2014, Raider and Katz-Mayfield demonstrated rare drive and commitment by securing the purchase of the Feintechnik plant for a reported $100 million. By taking responsibility for the entire production line, Harry’s was now vertically integrated and could control the entire process from design to manufacturing, from marketing to delivery—with exceptional quality and reasonable pricing.
With revenue projected to surpass $200 million and plans to double its production capacity, Harry’s is a story of sharp, focused leadership based upon competence and understanding.
Paint Nite: A Stroke of Brilliance
Bostonians Daniel Hermann and Sean McGrail founded their company, Paint Nite, in 2012. Inspired by trivia nights at the local pub, they built the company on a licensing model and now work with a network of 250 managers (“creative entrepreneurs”) and 1,100 artists all over the United States and beyond.3
The ticketed events are often attended by groups of friends (primarily women) looking for a creative outlet beyond the typical sitting in a bar. With 100 employees at their Massachusetts headquarters, Paint Nite organizes events at more than 2,500 bars and venues where participants take a two-hour painting class, complemented by drink and laughter, proudly walking out with a work of their own composition.4
A Paint Nite “class” is a step-by-step lesson in community and creativity. The artist as teacher orients the painters to brushes, canvas and tools, and tells them to place a hand on their blank canvas and recite the “Paint Nite Oath” of relaxation, fun and zero judgment. Paint Nite contributes to dispelling the “starving artist” stereotype by giving a local painter an additional revenue stream while immersing attendees in what is more akin to a party than a class.
The company now also sponsors Plant Nite in 55 cities. Plant Night answered the call for something unique, laid back and off the beaten path, where guests build a miniature ecosystem—a terrarium of dirt, cacti, stones and moss, customized with toy lizards, dinosaurs and quirky denizens.
Paint Nite reached #2 on the Inc. 5000 list for 2016, made $55 million in revenue for 2015, has sold over three million tickets, and grown over 36,500 percent in a three-year period. More than 200,000 people attend 4,700 events monthly in 1,500 cities all over the US and as far away as Buenos Aires, London and Johannesburg.5
It takes a distinct brand of leadership to elicit the cooperation of well over a thousand people in disparate cities nationwide and turn it into an organized and continual series of events. It is one thing to have a great idea, quite another to make it a reality, and on a different level entirely to make it wildly successful. The founders of Paint Nite demonstrated all three.
Harry’s and Paint Nite serve as examples of leadership applied to innovative business models in the digital age. Perhaps your role models are even closer to home, someone in your family, your partner, your boss—or the person staring you back in the mirror.
By Prosperity Editor
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