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3 Motor City CEOs Share Lessons From Their Biggest Hits And Misses: 'Always Be Ready To Shoot Your Shot'

3 Motor City CEOs Share Lessons From Their Biggest Hits And Misses: 'Always Be Ready To Shoot Your Shot'

"CEO" is one of the most challenging job titles in the world of business.

When a firm is performing well and things are going well, the praise goes to the top.

But if things go wrong and a company isn’t closing deals or bringing in enough revenue, the consequences of missed opportunities are perhaps more bitter than the rewards for success are sweet.

I interviewed three CEOs to spill the beans about their biggest hits and misses.

Quikly CEO Shawn Geller

The company: "An engagement marketing platform that uses a combination of scarcity, anticipation, empowerment and competition to capture consumers' attention and enable marketers to acquire, activate and retain consumers.”

Hit: “One deal that immediately comes to mind is when we first started, we started doing some testing with Pets Supplies Plus. Their CMO came down to the office and said, ‘we have this acquisition focus, we need new customers in our stores. We’re spending about $150 to acquire customers.’

"We got them to take a shot on us, basically on a whim. It initially was a very small pilot for a couple of campaigns, and we were able to show them that we could get their spending down to about $25 for acquisition, which was a huge win. That relationship between us has continued on to this day.”

Lesson Learned: "Even in the early stages when your company is just starting out, always bet on yourselves and be willing to take on new challenges. You never know when a shot in the dark can become your saving grace."

Miss: “Back in 2014, Foot Locker, Inc. (NYSE: FL) had a major problem with people coming into their stores and malls to get new Jordans, Yeezys and whatever else. The problem was that they had tons of people waiting in lines for hours to get these products, which lead to reports of violence and just chaos. Long story short, I got connected with them and said ‘you guys need a way to create online reservations, or else malls and other shopping centers are gonna start fining you and banning you from their spaces.’ "After a yearlong process of pitching to different people from the local junior marketing people to the CEO and president of Foot Locker, we had everyone bought in. Then, at the 5-yard line, they went with a different company that bid us out and knocked us out of the deal.

“At the time it was a major blow to the ego and the business and we lost millions of dollars. But looking back on it, it would have put us in a totally different business then we’re in today and it probably wouldn’t have been the right move for us.”

Lesson Learned: "When operating a business, not every deal is going to go your way. That’s simply the nature of business. But if you stick to your guns and do everything in your power to put your company in a position to succeed, the right opportunities will present themselves in due time. What seems like a loss can actually be a blessing in disguise."

See Also: A Day With Detroit Bruce: 'The Opportunity In This City Is Endless'

Fathead CEO Robby Hogle

The company: “At Fathead, we capture those special moments that make life awesome. We do this by creating beautifully designed and simple-to-use wall decals that bringing joy, smiles and amazement to the world.”

Hit: “Most of our notable moments are from renegotiating old deals as opposed to closing new ones. By restructuring old deals, we’ve been able to develop some pretty profitable licensing deals that were not so profitable in the past. We’ve dramatically lowered costs from printers and manufacturers, allowing us to lower prices for our consumers and quadruple our volume in sales.”

Lesson Learned: "While new deals and partnerships are always exciting and gratifying, sometimes what you need to take your company to the next level is right in front of you. The inches we need are all around us."

Miss: “A big focus of Fathead has been a new removable wallpaper product called 'Guild and Grace.' The idea to create the wallpaper brand came in early 2018. Unfortunately, we have spent way too much time on developing a website for the product. Our existing online infrastructure was a mess, and we should’ve gotten a third-party website builder to develop it for us. Instead, we tried to use our internal resources and have exhausted time that could have been used on marketing and promo on just making the website.”

Lesson Learned: "As important as it is to be conservative in terms of expenditures, it’s also crucial that things be completed in a timely manner. It’s best to keep a healthy balance between the two as much as possible without sacrificing one or the other, because time equals money and money equals time."

See Also: The American Dream In One Minute: 'Shark Tank' Casts A Net For Entrepreneurs In Detroit

Ash & Erie CEO Steven Mazur

The company: “We offer the absolute best fit (clothing) for guys 5-foot-8-inch and under. Period.”

Hit: “Our biggest deal definitely came from being on 'Shark Tank.' We ended up getting a deal on the show from Mark Cuban. I think what’s really exciting about Mark Cuban’s team is that they’ve invested in so many companies and have seen quite a few different problems and challenges, and so they have a lot of suggestions based on all of their experience and exposure.

"It was definitely the biggest hit deal for our company. It’s hard to think of another deal that was more impactful than that opportunity. We got to do business with a billionaire and share our brand with millions of people on television. It was a fun moment in a lot of different ways, and it was exciting to have the belief and support from someone like that.”

Lesson Learned: "Always be ready to shoot your shot. If you have a brand that you have been working hard to build and genuinely believe in, push forward full-throttle without any fear or hesitation. Share your story, spread your message and reach out to investors when the time is right. As you can see, it could lead you to grand opportunities, like a deal on 'Shark Tank!'"

Miss: “I don’t think we have any really big missed opportunities. I will say, though, that at the end of the day, we really believe in our business. If the Sharks didn’t see it, then we would’ve been OK, because we know that our customers love our products, our consumers love our brand and that’s why we do this.

"There are 30 million men 5-foot-8 and below in the U.S. that don’t have clothes that fit them. We know that we can help make their day better and help them look and feel their best by providing them with the best possible clothes and shopping experience.”

Lesson Learned: "If you have a truly good product that is of value to someone, there is no such thing as failure. Whether you are on 'Shark Tank' or not, success is never out of reach with a good product in your hands."

Ash & Erie founders Steven Mazur, left, and Eric Huang, in downtown Detroit. Photo by Dustin Blitchok.


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