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Do You Have What It Takes to Work for a Fashion Entrepreneur?
Do you have what it takes to work for a fashion entrepreneur and is it a good career move for an aspiring Chief Executive? Nicola Wensley, Director Fashion at Page Executive looks at the challenges of working for a founder-owner.
This article was published on Drapers online on 5 April 2016 – see the original article here.
Of the Drapers most influential people in fashion for 2015 over one third were entrepreneurs. The likes of Sir Philip Green, David Reiss, and even Victoria Beckham are examples of those that have the ability to spot opportunity, develop a brand and drive a business through their vision; they clearly have total defiance and utter resilience to create their own successful brands against all odds. But is it a good longer term career move to work for a fashion entrepreneur? And if so, what skills do you need or could you acquire in working in such an environment?
Over the last ten years, I have seen good people move from a more corporate background to work for owner-founders and vice versa that have struggled to succeed in this new environment. Some have lasted as little as six months in a new role. There are many reasons for this. Entrepreneurs have a tendency to hire a candidate predominantly based on the chemistry during the interview process. They are drawn to people they feel they can trust, and those who appear to align their goals with the vision of the business. However, when in place and the glow of the chemistry has faded those who prefer to have a more influential role within a company and enjoy structure have struggled to fit into this slightly more chaotic way of working.
If you have the drive, organisational skills, and patience to interpret the ever-changing priorities and achieve the vision of an owner, you will last a lot longer. In reality, I have found that the candidates who succeed within owner operated businesses are those with the humility to allow the owner to take complete control. They mirror the entrepreneur and accept that work becomes their life, their boss is part of the family and they thrive in going above and beyond their job description.
So if you manage to transition, is it a good career move? On one hand yes - the exposure to such genius will enable you to gain skills and experience that you wouldn’t be exposed to in a more corporate organisation – for example raising and managing finances, taking unmitigated risks, working beyond your role and outside of your comfort zone, and managing and influencing varying eccentric personalities. These are all skills that will undoubtedly aid success for a leadership role. However beware, to stay and gain the number one role is very rare. Often promised, but not delivered. Owners rarely relinquish control unless absolutely necessary and they are don’t take note of the normal retirement age! However, on the rare occasions they do look for a successor, this person has usually been groomed internally as they need to be entrusted to eat, breath and dream the same culture as the owner.
Ultimately I think that having achieved longer term success in various ownership of companies provides a good skill set and experience to help your career path to the top; just ensure you have thoroughly considered the transition and try to stick it out for more than six months!
Are you looking to take the next step in your career? Are you looking to hire executive fashion talent? Or are you simply looking for some further advice on the fashion recruitment market? Contact Nicola Wensley for a confidential discussion.