This straight-talking entrepreneur has taken SKINS from a sportswear company on the brink of bankruptcy to a global brand worn by a raft of high profile teams and sports stars, including the Wallabies, The English Cricket team, AFL star Daniel Cross and NRL player Jonathon Thurston.
The road to the top hasn’t been easy though, as Fuller took on the likes of Nike, Puma and Adidas when launching and growing his compression sportswear range, and had a run in with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in 2006 over a TV advertising campaign.
All these experiences have made Fuller into a shrewd business operator though, and he tells Dynamic Business what he wished he’d done differently and the need for entrepreneurs to be willing to take risks.
Q. How important is it for an entrepreneur to be prepared to take risks?
Vital. This is how dictionary.com defines entrepreneur:
‘A person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.’
The critical part being the last two words. Anyone who sees themselves as being an entrepreneur must be comfortable with risk. If you’re not, don’t bother trying.
Q. Is a business’ brand as or more important than its products?
There is no easy answer for this one; it depends heavily on the business concerned. I can say however as far as Skins is concerned that whilst product is king, brand building is crucial in creating a scalable and global business. I have always maintained that it’s like a wedge. The product and the technology are at the thin end and the brand comes up behind it (pretty quickly). We need the technology along with the product to break through but after a short period of time the activity around the brand starts to overtake.
Like all good businesses we strive for a healthy friction between the Product and Brand teams, competing for attention and wanting to take the lead.
Q. Looking back, what do you wish you’d done differently in your journey as the Founder of SKINS, if anything?
There are too many to list all here but here’s a couple.
My personal philosophy has always been bite off more than you can chew and chew like buggery. I took this philosophy into this business and at times it’s worked really well for me and at others it hasn’t. We’ve expanded too quickly in some places yet we’ve also been a little too conservative in others. In growing too quickly at times I’ve put too much faith in some individual’s abilities and have been let down. You have expectations that people can and will think like you do but it seldom happens. Sometimes things that seem so logical and basic to one person are anathema to others. We all live and learn I guess.
Oh yeah, I’d have definitely handled the problem I had with the ACCC very differently.
Q. Do you think an entrepreneur needs to be prepared to ask for help?
Absolutely. Two things I have learnt. 1) Surround yourself with much smarter people than yourself and 2) Do what you can to make yourself redundant.
1) That’s always been my goal. The tricky part is finding the great people and this takes time; not just time to find them but time to assess them and make sure they are the right fit and have the right values as well as capabilities and work ethic. When you do find these people, never be afraid to say “I don’t understand”. At times I have sat in a meeting thinking that I am the moron in the room only to find out that no-one else understood what was being said. This is invariably brought to light after I ask the question, what the f*** are you talking about?
2) As for making myself redundant, it should be every business owner’s dream.
Q. What one piece of advice do you wish someone had given you when you were starting out?
- Listen to your gut
- Grow bigger balls
- Remember this is a marathon and not a sprint
- One mouth, two ears. Use them in that ratio too
- Enjoy the ride
– You can read more about Jaimie Fuller in Nokia’s online book, In Hindsight.