Great communication is key in taking a good company to great. I spend an inordinate amount of time thoughtfully communicating to all my teams. I operate with complete transparency and truthfulness …
Telling people the truth instead of what they want to hear creates the most growth and ultimately builds the greatest teams. It’s tough, to sometimes call teammates out, but no one ever grows or learns without hearing the truth. It takes a lot more time and in my opinion shows a lot more love and respect if you share the honest truth with people even if it’s not necessarily what they want to hear.
As part of my series about the “How To Take Your Company From Good To Great”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kay Sides, Founder/CEO of Hatch Inc. and R0AM.
Kay Sides is a respected force in the fashion space, known for her keen expertise as a brand builder, a tastemaker and visionary creative innovator. Her acumen of developing products, brand strategizing, merchandising, and integrating marketing, messaging, and distribution has been demonstrated throughout her career.
Kay has had the pleasure of revitalizing the Lacoste brand for the US market in the early part of 2005, debuting Alexander McQueen’s McQ in the US, launching Yohji Yamamoto coming soon, building Soludos from a concept to a large scale business, as well assisting James Perse with design direction and strategy since 2005 — just to name a few.
Kay founded R0AM a year and a half ago with the commitment and passion to produce an incredibly well made, comfortable shoe that embodied performance attributes as well as being fashionable, cool and uber comfy. The shoe has been widely celebrated in the fashion community, and fashion editors have featured R0AM in both print and digital publications including Glamour, PopSugar, Refinery29, Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar, to name a few.
Aside from fashion, Kay is a former ballerina, lifelong vegetarian turned vegan, yoga teacher, and proud mother who guides her team to live full and dimensional lives.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I have the great honor of owning HATCh, one of the few multi-dimensional fashion agencies in the US with locations in NY, LA and Dallas. We have the privilege of helping to build some of the largest young designer and contemporary brands in the US and globally. We create an integrated sales, marketing and distribution strategy for each project and then integrate and manage it step by step. ROAM was created 2 years ago out of my own need in searching for a cool, fashionable dimensional shoe that was really well made and affordable. I wanted something with luxury details but didn’t cost a fortune. I also wanted something that I could wear to the gym, to work, to meetings, to walking my dog, school drop offs, grabbing coffee and something that would work as an option for the luxury, streetwear or contemporary customer.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
It was a steep learning curve for sure. As much as I knew exactly what I wanted which was very unique, I didn’t know anything about manufacturing shoes. Obviously, lots of tries and restarts to get the product exactly how I had it envisioned in my mind. It definitely takes a while when you are creating something from just an idea. I never thought about quitting as I Just kept my focus and eye on the bigger picture. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t get tough, working nonstop, no monetary gain as everything just goes back in (if you’re lucky). Gratefully, I have always been a really disciplined and hardworking individual. I grew up playing a lot of sports and also trained as a very serious ballerina from the time I was 5. My mom and dad were always extremely supportive but also made me figure out a lot of things on my own even as a very young child.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I hope we stand out because of the amount of meticulous detail that goes into our shoes…a lot of it is done by hand….everything from our custom molded foot beds that are both comfy and supportive, to being wrapped in neoprene for breathability and wicking to creating this innovative technique that involves inserting memory foam into the uppers so our shoes mold to your feet. Each shoe has a ROAM signature fit or really giving your feet a hug! Many styles are backed in fleece for even added comfort and there is a custom matte waxed trim that surrounds the outer edge of each shoe. We also have a recycled flex tread that is both cool, durable and super comfy.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
If it’s someone that is starting their own brand from an idea or inception, if it’s something honest and truthful to you — no matter how much work, or how hard it gets you won’t feel like it’s work because of your true passion for it. I think the burn out happens when people try and do something that really isn’t aligned or chasing other brands or businesses …when the integrity is not there, that takes a lot of energy and burn out happens. We are super clear and focused about who we are, as it’s always been this way, and we don’t look over our shoulder and just stay in our lane creating and working on constantly getting better.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I have so many people I am grateful to in starting HATCh and ROAM. For ROAM I am grateful to my team — we are a super small team but everyone just cranks next level and we all have each other’s back.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?
I think a good company is one with potential and operates and functions. I think a great company is one that has potential to become a brand that leaves a legacy and impacts others by more than just fiscally generating.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.
- No one makes it alone, you need a strong team and team culture. To do so you have to lead with action not words. There’s nothing I don’t ask of my team that I don’t do myself or then some. I also don’t need to talk about what I do as they see it, day in and day out.
- Lead with gratitude and appreciation as your beacon. We have an amazing team culture for both HATCh and ROAM and that is because there is constant communication of appreciation to each other, to our clients, to our customers.
- A great company has teammates that are completely accountable. You have to allow people the space to rise to by giving them a lot of support, creating a safe environment, making expectations clear and creating an environment where mistakes and mishaps are embraced for learning and growth.
- Great communication is key in taking a good company to great. I spend an inordinate amount of time thoughtfully communicating to all my teams. I operate with complete transparency and truthfulness …
- Telling people the truth instead of what they want to hear creates the most growth and ultimately builds the greatest teams. It’s tough, to sometimes call teammates out, but no one ever grows or learns without hearing the truth. It takes a lot more time and in my opinion shows a lot more love and respect if you share the honest truth with people even if it’s not necessarily what they want to hear.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?
I have always incorporated service into our business platform. For HATCh — we have raised over hundreds of thousands of dollars for different organizations over the years and have aligned in a multitude of ways. I can’t speak for other businesses but again, it’s just who I am and how I was raised. My mom was very service driven and we were raised to just be purposeful and think of others. It doesn’t matter what kind of business, you can make an impact in so many ways. For ROAM, our social impact is focused on taking as many children as we can outside to have an experience in nature. Sadly, we had to cancel all of our initiatives this year due to COVID but I can’t wait to hopefully do that. This is also something super truthful to me and how I was raised and how I raised my daughter. I grew up in Hawaii and was fortunate to spend 95% of my time outdoors in nature. I raised my daughter back packing, climbing, camping, trekking and I know firsthand what an incredible teacher nature is on so many levels.
What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?
Don’t look outside for inspiration — you have to inspire yourself otherwise you are in no position to inspire others. People are always quick to point the finger at a teammate or boss if they are not inspired. It’s actually each person’s responsibility to figure out how to stay fresh and inspired.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
Be nimble, put your ego away, pivot, focus on efficiency, stay open and you have to be willing to put in the work nonstop.
In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Communication and efficiency. I see it with all the brands we manage — if there is poor communication from the leader no matter how amazing the product or brand is, it will reach a limit. As for efficiency — amazing efficiency is directly related to an elevated and aspirational experience. Too many brands and businesses underestimate this and the successive impact across all channels.
As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?
If you have an authentic and truthful product you will create an authentic and truthful engagement. Everyone knows when it’s not really aligned and that’s when things go left. People try all kinds of gimmicks to boost sales but it’s not lasting…It all has to start with the truth from the inception.
Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
Be who you say you are.
Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?
Efficiency is number one. We go to great lengths to immediately respond to DM’s, customer service emails, and also really take our time to thoughtfully respond to each client or customer. They know how much we appreciate and care about them.
What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.
Again, if you are not who you say you are you should be concerned and if you are who you say you are you should not. The greatest brands in the world have trust.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
They think that because they are an owner, they don’t need to work. You as an owner need to be working the hardest of anyone on your team …all the time
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
What if everyone picked up just 1 piece of trash a day? With the world’s population at 7.6 billion people, even if 1% picked up ONE piece of trash every day, that would add up to over 27.7 billion pieces of trash a year. I don’t know about you, but I want to be part of that 1%.
How can our readers further follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!