When turning around a legendary company, a leader needs to count on his team, and his team needs to count on him, his leaders and a business philosophy.
Paul Grangaard became the CEO of the legendary Allen Edmonds Shoe Company during the company’s and the economy’s toughest times in 2008.
Paul had experience with other consumer companies and brands, but not with the shoe industry. What emboldened him to lead and succeed with Allen Edmonds were his Six Key Commitments. He asked himself, his leaders and his team to make these commitments.
The Commitments are a synthesis of a mission statement and business philosophies. Turning to six commitments was a byproduct of an earlier career setback when Paul was passed over for a promotion. He first heard these commitments as he listened to his colleague and friend, who was promoted over him, address the division that he would now lead. Paul was humbled and inspired by them and made them part of his leadership repertoire.
The Allen Edmonds commitments guided the company to become “The Great American Shoe Company” and now “An American Original” as it now dresses men head to toe. When he revealed these commitments to the company, Paul encouraged his Allen Edmonds leadership team to memorize them and be ready to recite them at upcoming meetings. They have done so admirably.
Paul shared these commitments with me in a recent conversation:
- Decisive Team-Oriented Leadership – I believe that participative dialogue and teamwork are the best ways to achieve great success in any modern organization. We work hard to develop a “partnership roundtable” among my leadership team and to be action-oriented together. When consensus isn’t obvious, I also believe the CEO must be clear and decisive within the team to drive the business.
- Premium Value Products and Premium Quality Service – Allen Edmonds is a great American company, which means that we go above and beyond the call of duty for our customers in every way every time! Our quality and styling must be noticeably superior to any similar shoe in the price range. Our personal attention and service to our customers must be the best in the business. We have a great reputation for quality, but I want us to dedicate ourselves to strengthening that reputation. Quality initiatives will be key priorities in coming weeks across design, manufacturing, wholesaling and retailing.
- Laser-Like Focus on Market Positioning and the Competition – We’ll greatly increase our success by intensive focus and superior insight into what our customers want in each market segment we serve, what the competition offers to them and how we WIN. To achieve our long-term potential, AE needs to be expert at customer segmentation and to expand our market penetration significantly through on-target, breakthrough product development. Plans are already underway to address customer segmentation more directly with products designed for younger customers at the right price points to attract them to Allen Edmonds. Going forward, we will raise the bar for required minimums in new product sales and have a “winners only” mentality.
- Balanced Dedication to Direct and Retail Strategies – We have evolved our direct business substantially, while developing a new retail look and a state-of-the-art e-commerce business. AE has huge sales growth potential on both sides of our business, wholesale included. But we can control our destiny best in our own channels. When I arrived eight years ago, we actually favored wholesale above our own channels and our business was in decline. Taking control of our own destiny has worked for us.
- Allen Edmonds People Deserve High Expectations – Allen Edmonds is a fantastic company with a fabulous history and huge opportunities in front of us. I’m extremely proud to be a part of it. Together we honor each other and the company with high expectations as we pursue our goals. All our great people doing their best work is key to our success.
- Positive Culture –We have fun at work through common dedication, through achieving success together and through friendships with colleagues. I’m a big believer in the power of a strong culture that includes a friendly environment and open communications. Communication is critical and you can expect to hear from me.
Just before Paul and I began this interview, he learned that fellow “Minnesotan” Mary Tyler Moore had died. While he was saddened, he decided to play her show’s theme song to the millennials in his Minneapolis office who had never heard it before. He wanted them to know of an actress who broke ground with her role as Mary Richards, a single woman blazing her path away from home in a male-dominated world. Now that’s a commitment to a fun and a positive culture.
Paul has lead a complete transformation of Allen Edmonds based on these commitments. The company grew in its offering and size and has become a better known American icon, with 70 stores open around the U.S. and ten more on the way. They’ve grown from a strong shoe company into an increasingly popular lifestyle brand and specialty retailer. Less than 2% of the shoes bought in the U.S. last year were made in this country. Allen Edmonds has stood against that trend and not only has survived, it’s thriving with its Six Key Commitments still working.
I was fortunate to work with Paul when the brand introduced its Honor Collection of golf shoes and its Jack Nicklaus golf shoe collection.
What commitments are you making to grow yourself and your brand and business?
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