Building a Luxury Brand

A Firmsconsulting Original Strategy Training Series.

“The Promotion” is an original Firmsconsulting program which teaches you how to apply all the skills a McKinsey, BCG et al. partner would use to launch a start-up and build a profitable business from a zero base.

In this series, called “The Start-up: Building a Luxury Brand” we will help Tatiana, a Wharton MBA graduate and scion of a prominent Asian family, build an ultra-luxury brand from literally nothing. Tatiana is a recent graduate who is avoiding overtures to rejoin her family’s business. She wishes to build a new luxury brand, yet she has no experience running a business, no plan and no brand concept.

Our goal is to work alongside her while building a business that remains true to Marvin Bower’s central belief, “Business properly conducted could be as high a calling as anything.”

This is a live show. Episodes will be uploaded in real-time. Firmsconsulting Insiders will have a way to download content and we will post special Q&A episodes in response to member questions.

We will document everything done to build this ultra-luxury clothing brand.

Background

After completing her Wharton MBA, Tatiana worked in a bulge bracket investment bank for ~2 years. At the start of the show Tatiana must consider her father’s suggestion that she return to the family business. Tatiana, however, wants to prove herself independently of her family.

She wants to be her “own person” and launch a luxury label. Her father is hesitant while her mother is quietly apprehensive given that Tatiana has never before run a business.

Not knowing how to realize her goal of a thriving business is the source of worry within her family. Despite his reluctance, her father has committed seed capital and Tatiana needs to make a critical decision: does she proceed despite his concerns or return to the family business. She is apprehensive and worried about failing.

In effect, she is launching a luxury brand start-up in a sector which prizes elegance, exclusivity, heritage and legacy. These are enormous barriers to entry. The very attributes that have made start-ups successful in almost every other sector in the world tend to be viewed as a liability for luxury brands.

Tatiana was initially declined in the Firmsconsulting Case Interview Program. Though, not at all due to a lack of skill and charm. While we thought she was an exceptional candidate, and would make an outstanding McKinsey associate, we did not believe she truly wanted to be a consultant. Since then, through her time in banking, we remained in touch and mentored her. This is how we learned of her true passion for luxury clothing.

What you will learn

The series begins when Tatiana’s father asks for her decision on joining the family business. He suggests Tatiana take a few months away for a vacation, think about her future and at least consider returning to the family business. Despite a strong family relationship, Tatiana is concerned that she will never step out of her father’s long shadow if she does not do so at this very moment.

The window for change is also closing fast. If she returns to the family business, she would need to commit at least 3-4 years to making a meaningful contribution. That will push her past the age of 30 at which point changing her career will be even more difficult, given possibility of marriage and potentially children. The opportunity costs get higher and higher with each passing year.

Since this is a live series, with episodes posted as they are produced, we cannot predict what will happen. We may fail. We begin with no designs, no designer, no theme, no target market, no website, no distribution, no e-commerce system, no material, no sourcing, no presence in the world’s fashion capitals and very little capital for a sector that eats it.

We plan to differentiate this series for its depth of coverage, similar to Season 1. We will attack the problem with a radically different strategy, because that is what we will need to do to survive. Yet, we will also pay stunning attention to detail when it comes to the product and brand because execution is the most essential element. We plan to unpack, dismantle and reassemble every single assumption in this sector. This is really and truly about building a great product. Unsurprisingly, a complex task requiring a blending of design, form, function and R&D.

Building a luxury brand is not all fashion shows, champagnes, A-list events and first class travel. That is the outcome of harnessing the chemistry (yes, actual chemistry with beakers and flasks), automating highly mechanical processes and meticulously sourcing pure raw material from a very special lamb in Italy. We plan to use an unusual approach to technology, the law, procurement, design, especially marketing etc. to upend a sector that believes it is immune to change.

Female CEO

This program is also unusual because we are developing a female CEO. As you will notice in our explanations, the process to mentor a female leader is significantly different. This makes the program unique.

Tatiana also faces very unique personal development challenges. Her parents assume that having grown up with more than they had, Tatiana needs little support. Her peers assume that since she has more support and resources, they tend to be more demanding of her. She also comes from an accomplished family which implies the bar to perform is much higher. Due to these assumptions and demands on her, she ends up having less support than she needs and suffers from a fear of failure.

We firmly believe that enthusiasm should exist in a business, even when very hard work is needed. As humans, we do our greatest work when we are rested, calm and respected, yet diligent and disciplined. Fear, crazy expectations and bludgeoned egos should not be needed, and should not be the norm for a new business. A masterpiece cannot be created in an atmosphere of stress.

A masterpiece begins with asking what we want customers to feel when they see and touch the product. That is the only thing that matters.

You can follow Michael and Tatiana as they build the business. We will break down the numbers in incredible detail to ensure you understand why the company performs as it does. You especially want to see Michael get into the nuances of stitching technology, and even the metal used on the stitching needles, to explain the dramatic impact on the break-even curve. That attention to detail is needed to thrive among clients who demand attention to detail.

Due to client confidentiality we have altered some of the details.

Disclosure: Like all good parents, Tatiana’s were primarily interested in her personal development. They wanted her to learn about business in a healthy setting, grow personally, improve her confidence and develop her leadership skills, while building a successful business. Given our mentoring of Tatiana during her banking career, they had seen how much she had grown professionally and this engendered trust in our approach. They invited Michael to become deeply involved, mentor Tatiana and manage the process. As a result Firmsconsulting is an equity owner in the business.

Access to this Program

This program is exclusively available to Firmsconsulting Insiders. Note that we may release this program earlier than scheduled.

Our commitment to client confidentiality requires some details to be altered.

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WANT TO LEARN FROM FORMER STRATEGY PARTNERS? REFER TO THE FIRMSCONSULTING ORIGINAL TRAINING PROGRAMS.

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