Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: Stop The Trash Talking

Growing up, I often heard this from my mom, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”  I too say this to my children because it is one of those sayings that is always spot on. You may be wondering where did this come from and why is this blog titled Stop The Trash Talking?

It recently came to my attention, from very reputable sources, that some people or a person in our industry is talking smack about the Jaftex companies and other fabric suppliers to try to make their own products and company look better.  Not only are they talking smack, but what they are saying isn’t even true.  In other words, they are lying.  To me this is such an underhanded and weak way to try to sell fabric.

When I sell fabric, I sell based on the positive attributes of the products that I offer for sale.  That makes sense, right?  A great design, a popular designer, excellent quality, beautiful projects and so on and so forth. Those are reason to buy a product.  I never put down my competition to try to make my product or me look better. To me, that is just immature and so unprofessional.

At the same time, I believe that the fabric buying audience is not stupid either.  They don’t need me to tell them that this technique of bad mouthing another company to try to benefit themselves doesn’t really work.  In fact, it probably backfires and it makes the speaker look bad and reflects poorly on his company. Moreover, the audience probably wonders about the positive attributes of the speaker’s products because they tend to leave that out by spending so much time bad mouthing others.

I know times are hard people, but let’s cut this nonsense and start calling out the culprits on the spot.  Next time you hear someone bad mouth another company to try to make their own company or products look good, you should call them out and say WTF (WHAT THE FABRIC?).  Not only that, but you should consider not doing business with people who are so unprofessional.  Just saying.

Have a great week.  My big guy gets home from camp tomorrow which unfortunately means that the summer is coming closer to the end.  WAH! Wish me luck.

No Smack Talking Scott

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Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: All The People I Meet

I hate when people cancel on me, so I rarely ever cancel on others unless I have a legit reason.  It’s just not my thing and drives me absolutely crazy. With that, I kept my promise to speak at the fabric retreat thrown by Scarlett Wells of the Fabric Cobbler in Forsyth, Illinois. Scarlett did give me the “out” when she heard my uncle passed away, but I didn’t want to let down all the attendees or my friend, Scarlett.

Once and awhile it’s nice to be the only guy in the room.

Above you can see the great picture that was taken with myself, Scarlett (red head to my left) and the rest of the Cobblerstock Crew of 2017.  The thing about the fabric business is that my customers and the ultimate consumers are spread out all over the country and world.  So it isn’t like when I was in finance and all the people that I worked with were a stone’s throw away.  That makes it really hard to build relationships as I am sure you can imagine.  That being said, when I attend events like this, I truly bond with all the people in attendance.  By the end, we are exchanging info, joking around and connecting with each other on social media and such.  When it is all said and done, I hope to have made a lasting impression on each and everyone of the attendees.

The people are shockingly listening to everything I am saying. It’s amazing what the offer of some free fabric can do to get peoples’ attention. Works every time! Too bad my kids are not that in to fabric.

This isn’t very different from when I attend quilt market.  Year after year, I meet people at the market where we work together and bond over our mutual interest of fabric.  Perhaps the customer and I have a meal together, run in to each other at a schoolhouse, say hello in passing, grab a drink together at the bar or see each other in the am at the gym. However, it is sad to say that this may be the only interaction that we have with each other during the entire year since most of the customers have their own sales rep for their territory.

The thing is that I wish I could be in touch with all the people that I meet in the fabric industry because they are all truly so nice to me….especially as compared to those Wall Street guys from my prior life. The kindness was clear from all the cards, emails, blog comments and social media comments from people expressing their condolences when my uncle died. Also, when I recently blogged asking people to help me to collect sewing machines for my local JCC. I was absolutely floored about how many people stepped up.  There were so many offers that I think we will have too many sewing machines and nowhere to store them. Go figure.  Thanks for your kindness.

The bottom line is that the fabric community is full of kind and special people.  I appreciate you all and hope you appreciate me a modicum of how much I appreciate all of you.  With that, I would like to challenge you and I would like you to challenge me to try to stay in touch more throughout the year instead of just at quilt market or at a speaking engagement.  An email, a call, a note, a social media interaction what have you.  I will take what I can get and I will appreciate it.  It’s so easy to communicate nowadays, so let’s make this happen because I am not going anywhere any time soon (I am turning 45 in December and my grandpa worked until his early 90’s.  Even if I work until 70, that is still another 25 years.  OMG!)  In other words, the sooner we start, the better.

Stay In Touch Scott

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Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: Speechless

Not so happy Monday folks.  Today I am taking a break from being happy boring Scott.  It is not by choice, but rather out of circumstance, so hopefully you will understand and can make an exception this one time. Last week’s trip unfortunately didn’t turn out as planned.  A little wrench was thrown at me when my uncle (Michael Brod) finally passed away from brain cancer.  I knew it was coming (as did my loyal blog reader’s), but who is kidding who, one is never fully prepared for the death of a loved one.

The thing is that for me (excluding my grandparents), this is the first death that has rattled me to my core and really hit home.  I mean seriously, I am an emotional wreck every time I think about Unc or Uncsy as we liked to call him.  All the memories.  All the love.  And now the void. I am totally speechless.

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: On The Road Again….Illinois & The Fabric Cobbler

Happy Monday everyone! I hope you had a fabulous weekend.  It’s been a little while since the last time I got my butt out of my chair and hit the road to visit customers on sales calls.  Shame on me! I guess I have just gotten so bogged down with paper work or maybe I have just been lazy and avoiding the dread of travelling these days. The truth is that the office stuff is boring. There is nothing I love more than being out on the road selling, meeting customers and seeing all the different quilt shops out there. Needless to say, I am looking forward to this trip and whatever it might bring.  Stay tuned.

With that, I wanted to tell you what I have going on this week. Wednesday night I will be flying to Chicago.  Thursday and Friday I will be travelling with my local sales reps to about 3-4 shops.  I truly look forward to meeting some of her customers as I have not traveled to shops in Illinois in a long time.  And you know as well as I do that the shop owners can’t wait to meet this famous schmata salesman and blogger extraordinaire.  I mean, come on.  I think I am up to like 25 avid blog readers and I am ranked in the top one million blogs on Bloglovin.  Fame is all relative.  I digress.

Now the really exciting part.  Without going in to too much detail (feel free to read this story with more background about Scarlett “S”), several quilt markets ago I met this truly amazing quilt shop owner who also happens to be a vet. A vet who defended our United States Of America. Her name is Scarlett Wells and she owns the Fabric Cobbler in Forsythe, Illinois.  Since that day at market when we met, we have formed a lovely friendship and work relationship. So when Scarlett invited me to speak at a customer dinner that she was hosting, I of course had to oblige.  You know me, Scott the “yes man.”

The truth is that I am excited to speak at this event as it has been a little while since my last speaking engagement in North Carolina last year. When I partake in speaking engagements, I usually don’t like to give a long boring speech where everyone will fall asleep.  I prefer to give a little intro and then let the conversation develop based on audience member questions and participation.  So for all of you Fabric Cobbler fans attending the dinner, please make sure to bring your questions related to fabric, family businesses, selling, buying, marketing, social media, 4th generation and so on and so forth. Please don’t be shy because the better the questions, the better and more informative the night will be for each of you.  In other words, we are all in this together.

I can’t wait for Friday night and I sure hope that my glossophobia (fear of public speaking) doesn’t kick in.  Finally, for anyone else who might be interested in inviting me to speak at a fabric related event, make sure to send me an invite because there is a good chance that I will surprise you and actually say “yes.”  The good thing is that I usually come bearing gifts.

Public Speaking Scott

 

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: Camp Visiting Day & Sibling Love

My Monday blog was so important (CHARITY) that I didn’t want to muddle it up with my camp visiting day report.  Many of you emailed me and wished me luck before I went (thanks!) and even emailed me after to see how it was (thanks again!), so I figured I would mix it up with a mid-week blog report.  

The truth is that there is so much to discuss about visiting day, but I don’t want to bore you with every single detail.  The day is an emotional roller coaster from the beginning to the bitter end for everyone to say the least. Let’s just leave it at this….it was a great day and Aaron is doing amazing. Happy Aaron equals happy parents.

Please allow me to show you some pictures of the most important thing about visiting day because this is truly what it is about.  Please enjoy!

Brothers A&B seeing each other for the first time in 3 weeks.
Big bro holding back the tears and little bro wailing. They were overjoyed to see each other.
Slowly changing from sadness to happiness.
And finally, we have this….brotherly love at its finest.

That is what it is all about folks…the love that 2 siblings have for one another.  During Father’s day, my Uncle Michael was saying that there is no more important relationship than that of 2 siblings and he was so right.

With all that being said, I would like to urge you to reach out to your sibling/s.  Pick up the phone.  Get in the car.  It’s never too late to get back in touch with a sibling because there is always a special place in their heart for you and one in your heart for them.  Life is too short folks. XXOO to my siblings, Jill & Greg.

Let me know how this works out for you!

Sibling Scott!

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: Share The Love Through Charity

“A man’s true wealth is the good he does in the world.”

I am a board member of my local JCC (SJJCC) which is one of the most impressive charitable organizations around town.  In short, the SJJCC is an extremely well run and well financed organization that offers so much to so many in all different states of need (the list is endless).  It is the JCC that all other JCC’s aspire to be and I am not just saying that because I am on the board (it’s only been a couple years)…this place is the real deal and has been for a very long time. With that, this week I want to discuss my planned visit and sponsorship of the Camp Kehilla carnival and see whether you can help me by donating a sewing machine to another great SJJCC cause.

Camp Kehilla is the SJJCC’s camp for kids with special needs….an amazing place to say the least.  This is the second year that I am sponsoring the carnival.  It is this coming Thursday and I am looking forward to watching all the kids in action, smiling, laughing and having a blast. There is no feeling more rewarding than when the kids come up to me to thank me for the great day they are having. Even if they didn’t thank me, I would feel great. Let’s just hope that the weather cooperates.

Speaking of cooperation, I need some help from all of my quilting peeps. I don’t know if you remember or not, but back in August of 2016, I blogged about the naming of the Andrea & Robert Fortunoff (my parents) Art For Community Program endowed to the SJJCC. Here’s the link to that blog if you want to refresh your memory and the aim of the organization is immediately below:

“Art for Community provides opportunities for children and families to participate in meaningful community service projects creating beautiful and functional items made from fabric to be donated to those in need.”

So here’s the deal.  After a recent brainstorming meeting, the team came up with two great ways to incorporate the fabric donated by the Jaftex Companies (A.E. Nathan Co., Inc., Henry Glass Fabrics, Studioe Fabrics & The Blank Quilting Corp.) in to giving back. The thing is that we are missing one very critical ingredient: sewing machines. That is why I am here today to ask you if you could find it in your heart to donate a gently used (or brand new), portable and fully functioning sewing machine for two upcoming drives and future drives.

The first drive is to make as many pillow cases as possible for a program called Ryan’s Case For Smiles.  This program distributes pillow cases to kids in hospitals in order to help them relieve some of the stress that comes with the traumatic and frightening experience of being in a hospital and all that goes with it.

The second drive is to make place mats for the first ever SJJCC Thanksgiving Community Luncheon for people that are socially isolated. Not only will the attendees get a great meal and not feel socially isolated for the day, but they will also get to take home what I am sure will be a beautiful place mat made with a sewing machine from YOU!

With all that, if you could find it in your heart to donate a sewing machine, please email me at scott@jaftex.com and we can work out the details.  I will even pay for the shipping.  If you help me, I will be forever indebted to you.  You will also become a VIP in my book and I am sure the book of so many others.

XXOO
Sewing Machine Scott

 

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: Oh Yeah, I Forgot To Write A Post May Quilt Market Blog

Happy Monday,

I can’t believe that it is July 10 and I never posted a blog about the May Quilt Market.  Better late than never though.  I am not going to spend a lot of time chirping about the Quilt Market because I am saddened by the continued downturn taking place before my eyes.  I need to continue to be happy boring Scott and talking about Quilt Market will make that extremely challenging. I can only hope that the October Quilt Market in Houston has a better feel.  Let’s say a prayer together and make that happen….AMEN!  I will be there in my smaller booth with a big smile, as always, and hope you will come and keep me company.  I will make sure to have candy for us to share and water to wash it down.  I don’t share Twizzlers though, so bring your own.

So you know that invite that I put out to the world on my blog to come to dinner with the Jaftex peeps?  Yes, it was real!  In fact, we quickly went from 20 people to 50 in a very few days once I mentioned Ruth Chris and steak.  Some people actually took me up on the offer. Imagine that?  Not only that, but they had a lovely evening…or at least that is what they wrote in all the thank you notes.

The crew schlepped their way over to Ruth Chris and I bet they were all very surprised that us Fortunoff boys could throw a p-a-r-t-y.  The drinks were flowing.  The photographer was photographing all the big hitters in attendance.  I really don’t want to name names because I don’t want to make everyone jealous that was like, “I should have emailed Scott about dinner, but I just didn’t know if he was serious or not.”  Come on people, this kid doesn’t lie.  An April Fool’s joke here or there, but a dinner.  I don’t mess around when it comes to food.  In any case, next time I put out an invite, hop to it.

While eating appetizers and having cocktails, everyone mingled.  After that, we sat for some brief speeches from my brother (the hostess with the mostess), Larry Reichenberg (Henry Glass President), Cliff Garfinkel (Studioe & Blank Sales Manager) and yours truly.  In between, salads were served and then our main courses which of course included a lot of tasty steak.  It was made even more delicious for the guests because it was FREEEEEEE!  After dinner, we really stepped it up a notch with a comedian/magician. We joked in the office that this was going to be like my second Bar Mitzvah, but this time we were pulling out all the stops for our valued customers.

The entertainment was great.  The guy managed to get a lot of the audience involved with his schtick.  To be honest, the guy had me in stitches so bad that I went home with a headache from laughing so hard. After the comedy/magic routine, we all had dessert.  The grand finale is that everyone got to go home with a limited edition Jaftex beach bag with some precuts inside.  That was all she wrote folks.  Thank you to all that attended as we greatly value your friendship and partnership.  If you want to be invited to the next big dinner, you are going to have to keep an eagle eye on my blogs for the elusive invitation.

Have a great week!  I am off to camp visiting day next weekend.  I am not sure which emotions will be in control after the weekend, so Monday, there may or may not be a blog waiting for you to read.  Wish me luck!

Scott

PS…here’s a picture of the giveaway bag.  I have a couple left that I might be willing to giveaway if you say the right thing when commenting on this blog.

 

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: Happy Independence Day!

Happy Monday Folks!  It is the summer, so every chance I get to sneak away with a lazy boy blog, I take it.  Sorry folks, but happy boring Scott is also trying to enjoy his summer and the nice long weekend.

Anyway, we should all take a moment to relish the fact that we are now an independent nation.  This is a great country that we all live in and we should all be very thankful.  With that, please make sure to eat a lot of nitrates, red meat and sweets….bearing red, white and blue of course. Also, make sure to have a couple of cocktails to celebrate the special day…if that is what you are in to. Personally, I don’t drink much, except on days that end in Y.

Finally, I wanted to say that in spite of me being lazy this week, I do have lots of blogs in the cue.  I did realize that I never wrote a post quilt market Jaftex dinner blog and I need to post that among a lot of other stuff on my mind.  Stay tuned.

Be safe and be smart.  Don’t drink and drive.  And don’t drink and sew either.

Have fun!

Summer Scott

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Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: Camp Update & Mergers & Acquisitions Discussed

So, my son finally left for camp with a huge smile on his face despite all the tears emanating from the rest of us.  He was so brave!  And notice how I use the word finally.  It was time for him to go.  He went.  The rest is history and now I feel a lot lighter with this weight off me.  Now, let’s pray together for 46 1/2 more days of smooth sailing.  Next subject!

Over the 87 years of being in business, Jaftex has had nearly 20 companies under its umbrella and almost all of the companies were purchased from someone else. I wanted to discuss the manner in which most of these companies were acquired because I thought it would be interesting for you to learn.  But also, I think we are on the precipice of a lot of M&A activity about to occur in our industry.  Yes, this is me predicting the future without any inside scoop.  The reason being is that companies can gain more efficiencies by purchasing others. Basically, the total sales volume can increase and the overhead (expenses) on the combined company can decrease due to redundancies and other cost cutting measures.   For example, you don’t need 2 book keepers, secretaries, offices, warehouses, etc.  There is also purchasing power when you buy more stuff, so that too can result in lower costs and higher profits.

Many of the companies that we purchased had been struggling before we purchased them. In most cases, the owners were very relieved to have the life line.  Typically, the purchases were inventory based. Essentially, we and the seller evaluated the inventory and valued it based on the original costs and age of the fabric. This is a simplistic description as other factors did play in to it, but I don’t want to bore you with the minutiae.  We then buy the fabric.  In addition, we take on all the essential employees that we need to maintain the continuity of the business.  We also take on a portion (or all) of the obligations that exist including the sales.  So maybe we take on paying the insurance for the employees, but not the rent for the office since we don’t need the space anymore.  We like to think that we can be value-added to the company and turn it around by implementing methods and processes that have worked for us so well over the years.   It usually takes a year or so for us to get the company running on all cylinders.   We have been fortunate to mostly have asset purchase deals, but not all deals are the same.

Not all companies are purchased while they are in trouble.  Some are purchased at a time when the company is doing great and we wouldn’t be afraid to pay up for the right company if the opportunity arose.  In this case, the owner may want to sell out because he or she wants to retire, go in to another business, try to get out of the business at the top and/or maximize profits and the list goes on.  In this scenario, a simple inventory purchase won’t work.  This person is thinking, show me the money!  The owner will want money for his or her good will, the brand name, future booked sales, websites and so many other things that took him or her time to build and perfect.   The buyer may want a multiple of earnings.  For example if the company earned $1 million last year, they may want to be bought for $5 million plus the cost of the inventory.  That would be 5 times earnings and the buyer would be paying up.

The thing is, what multiple would you use to evaluate a textile company?   It isn’t a biotech company or tech company where the multiples could be 15% or even higher based on the huge growth potential.  Dream on if you think you are getting 15% or even 5% in the textile industry.  For this industry, I would say low single digits would be more reasonable.

It’s not like it isn’t easy to go out and start up your own fabric company. There are so few barriers to entry.  Case in point, Sue & John Linam, formerly of Fabric-Quilt, are now starting a brand new fabric business.  So why would someone pay a double-digit multiple?  If you are thinking about selling and are fantasizing about double-digit multiples, I would start thinking again and fast because it isn’t going to happen.  Once you start merger and acquisition discussions, you will learn very fast what someone is willing to pay and I would guess that the number is under 5%.

Hopefully one of these days I will have a new deal to report to you about. In the meantime, let’s see if my prediction about M&A comes to fruition.

Happy Summer Scott

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Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: Family First, Then Fabric

Happy Monday and happy belated Father’s day to all the fathers out there! I hope everyone has recovered from what should have been an amazing day with family and friends celebrating Father’s Day.  I had a lovely day with my family and some delicious Italian food too.  It was Father’s day and I am a father so why not stuff my face with pasta, pizza and so….so much more?  My belly isn’t so happy today.

Even though Father’s day was a special day for me as a father, I have other much more important things on my mind.  For one, I am so sad that my only uncle has to battle brain cancer.  On the other hand, I was so happy that he and my aunt made the trek out to my house to spend Father’s day with the family.  It truly made it one of the most special Father’s Days and I am sure it was special for him too.  The memories will certainly last forever for everyone.

The other thing that is on my mind and eating me up inside is that my oldest son (8 years old) is going to sleep away camp for the first time. Yes, sleep away camp for 49 long days.  Time is flying too fast.  I could literally remember changing his diapers.  Next it will be college.  In any case, emotions have been high in my house of late with my wife, other son and I all struggling to wrap our brains around the void that will exist in our house this summer.  Needless to say, despite being in a little bit of denial, I am an emotional wreck.  Pass the tissues please!

Thanks for listening.  Too hard this week to write a blog about anything else.  Until next week.

Sad Scott

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