Dennis Scully: From our headquarters in New York City, this is Business of Home. I'm your host, Dennis Scully. Every week, I'll be talking to leaders and innovators from all corners of the home industry. I hope you'll join me.
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Dennis Scully: Rumor has it there's a curse against the third generation business owner. One fed by outdated systems and a lack of product innovation, but that doesn't hold true for George Matouk, who's grown the textile company launched by his grandfather in 1929 to an annual revenue of more than $35 million. Managing new retail channels and category extensions has proven just as challenging as enduring nearly a century of economic and political shifts. I sat down with George to learn how Matouk not only coped, but thrived through each.
Dennis Scully: Company started back in 1929, is that right?
George Matouk: That's right, my grandfather was an immigrant from Damascus, Syria. He left Damascus in 1919 after World War I, moved to Italy where his brother was in the textile business exporting handmade lace that was made in Italy in convents and places like that, and he spent 10 years, and that became his business, and then he moved to the United States in 1929 and he started-
Dennis Scully: Which was a great time to start a new business in the US, right?
George Matouk: Perfect time to start a business in New York.
Dennis Scully: Absolutely.
George Matouk: His timing couldn't have been better, and I figure if he couldn't mess up the business in 1929 there's no way that I could mess it up [crosstalk 00:02:04]-
Dennis Scully: Yeah, pressures really-
George Matouk: ... a lot of pressure on me. He started his company here, and he was importing the same handmade lace into the United States. It was a very carriage trade situation, suitcases of samples, and showing them, and then writing an order and putting it in the mail, and by steamship to Italy, and a year later or so these things would show up, and that's how Matouk started.
Dennis Scully: Amazing.
George Matouk: I know, it's pretty crazy.
Dennis Scully: Yes. So, who would he go and call on? Who would he bring his suitcases to, and was his customer base?
George Matouk: I never knew my grandfather, so a lot of this is legend, and I don't really like to do celebrity driven stories but there is a story about Mrs. Edsel Ford in Detroit being one of his first customers. So, I take that as a fact-
Dennis Scully: Sure, who's gonna argue that?
George Matouk: Who's gonna argue that. I like to think of my grandfather in Detroit at the Ford mansion with a suitcase full of lace samples-
Dennis Scully: With is lace, yes.
George Matouk: ... and walking out with an order and high fiving himself on the way out.
Dennis Scully: Absolutely, fantastic. Was he a one man band, was it just him at the beginning?
George Matouk: I think so. I think at the time it was a one man show. My grandmother, who he married a little later than that, was actually also in the linen business in a different kind of company as well. So, my fathers family was all about these linens growing up. He grew up in Brooklyn, and that's how the family tradition started in the United States.
Dennis Scully: So, by the 1960s what had the business become?
George Matouk: At that time the business was more of a domestic manufacturing table linen company. So, during World War II it became impossible to trade with Italy and my grandfather started a factory in New York City making table linens, and rather than those intricate handmade products that were coming from Italy, he was making more the kind of table linens that maybe a lot of us grew up with around the dinner table. Things that were nice but that you could throw in the washing machine and dry, and not have to iron, and that wash and wear type of table linen identity was a lot of what Matouk was in those days. I think that he was a pioneer in that world, and I think really importantly in that generation of the company was when we became a manufacturer, which is really core to our identity to this day.
Dennis Scully: So at that time the manufacturing was actually here in New York?
George Matouk: Yeah, I think it was either one point it was in Newark, and at one point it was in the garment district, but yeah, it was around this area, absolutely.
Dennis Scully: Okay, and when do you show up in the family business?
George Matouk: Well, I like to say that my first memory in the family business was in the 1970s when I came home from school one day, I was probably 10 years old, and found to my horror, satin sheets on my bed.
Dennis Scully: Oh my goodness.
George Matouk: That was a Matouk hit product in the 1970s, I don't know if you know that.
Dennis Scully: No, I did not know that.
George Matouk: Yes, yes. It's a source of a lot of anguish for me.
Dennis Scully: I'm sorry.
George Matouk: I remember not letting my friends into my bedroom. I didn't want them to see my satin sheets. I'd wake up in the middle of the night and the covers would be on the floor, I'd be shivering. So, I was traumatized at that time by the family business, and never imagined myself-
Dennis Scully: At that point you said, "I will never be involved in this business."
George Matouk: I said I'm gonna flip baseball cards, and do stuff that I-
Dennis Scully: Whatever I have to do.
George Matouk: I'm never gonna be in the family business, but then lo and behold, here I am, but we don't have satin sheets anymore.
Dennis Scully: Got rid of those in the line?
George Matouk: We got rid of the satin sheets, it's true.
Dennis Scully: Okay.
George Matouk: Yeah, but as my father would say, satin sheets sent me to college, so I should be kind.
Dennis Scully: So there was a time where satin sheets were all the rage.
George Matouk: Satin sheets were all the rage, I guess in the 1970s, and Matouk was at the forefront of that. It was obviously a different day, and my father would say, "They weren't just satin sheets, they were nylon satin sheets." So they were really good.
Dennis Scully: Oh, yes.
George Matouk: We had lots of colors, and there's still some funny advertisements sitting around our archives-
Dennis Scully: How great.
George Matouk: ... of people luxuriating in these chocolate brown satin sheets or whatever.
Dennis Scully: Yeah, they were big.
George Matouk: Yeah, that was part of who we are, and it's funny to talk about but what was happening there was Matouk starting, I think, under my father's direction to really develop an identity beyond the table linen and entertaining space. So, while my grandfather had done some bed linens it wasn't really part of who we were, and I think that that was one of the key legacies. My father at that point in time was going outside of this table linen only history, and finding a place to succeed in the bedroom, and a little bit later in the bathroom, as well.
Dennis Scully: Right, okay, and we're gonna get to that, 'cause that's a big category for you as well. So, people started living a little bit different too, and that was part of what was affecting table linens in general, right?
George Matouk: Yeah, I think so, I mean, if you fast forward a little bit to the 1990s, we were still majority a table linen company, but it was getting harder, and it was for a number of reasons. The primary one, which you alluded to, was that families were eating in the kitchen and not using table linens anymore, and if they were using table linens they might buy one tablecloth a year right before the holidays or something. So, that business was really going away, and then what was left of it that was becoming really casual ... printed, more lower quality kind of stuff was disrupted, if you will, by globalization. So, in the 1990s we were selling printed table linens to middle market companies, JC Penney, Bed Bath & Beyond were our largest companies back then.
Dennis Scully: Oh, interesting, okay.
George Matouk: Yeah, and then all of a sudden they found that they could go to Hong Kong or Taiwan and buy the same thing. They were retailing these products for less than we could sell them at wholesale for, and suddenly we found ourselves in kind of an existential dilemma regarding what we were offering the market, and what the market was interested in consuming.
Dennis Scully: So, that's ... we're talking the mid to late 1990s?
George Matouk: This would be in the late 1990s. Let's say like 1997, 1996 something like that, yeah.
Dennis Scully: Okay, so the business was hard hit, if I recall?
George Matouk: Yeah, I think my father always ran a really solid business. It wasn't like we were in financial straits or anything but there was definitely no growth, and there was certainly the appearance, or the possibility of contraction. I mean, when you're selling product that's uncompetitive in the market that's not really being used in the homes like they were before you've got a problem. I think that that's a crossroads that a lot of multi generation businesses run into, no matter how great you were at one point in time, the world's always changing around you, and I think this is why a lot of ... there's a cliché about third generation businesses never making it, or that their generation's always messing it up, but family owned businesses, even traditional ones in the textile industry like ours, have to evolve too. That was a point in time where we could've folded up tent or we really had to do some serious thinking about who we were, and who we wanted to be in the future.
Dennis Scully: So, products moving over to Asia, lots of the textile is really in disarray at this time, right?
George Matouk: Yeah, I'd say-
Dennis Scully: A lot of American manufacturers leaving?
George Matouk: The sewing factories are leaving, when the sewing factories leave the fabric finishers have nobody to sell fabric to, they go out of business. The weavers follow them-
Dennis Scully: So, the whole supply chain-
George Matouk: ... and the whole supply chain falls apart.
Dennis Scully: Right, okay, okay.
George Matouk: That's what was happening.
Dennis Scully: And that's what was happening, and you were experiencing that in real time with this?
George Matouk: Oh, we were absolutely. In 1997 our fabrics were 100% made in the USA, and it's not an exaggeration to say that once a month a supplier went out of business at that period of time. So, now today, none of our fabrics are made domestically. Now, that's not something we're proud of necessarily, but-
Dennis Scully: Right, it speaks to the [crosstalk 00:10:47]-
George Matouk: ... in order to just survive, we had to seek our supplies, our fabrics, build our supply chain overseas, but over that same period of time, we've invested tremendously in our domestic manufacturing and created a lot of manufacturing jobs here. So, our manufacturing expertise, skill, flexibility all of that, over the last 20 years has grown enormously, but it's grown based on our ability to source fabrics overseas.
Dennis Scully: Right, that's just a given.
George Matouk: Yeah.
Dennis Scully: So, back to 1997-ish, you and your father were having a tough conversation, I guess, about what to do with the business, and what direction to go in?
George Matouk: Yeah, I think that my father was always reluctant to invite me into the business for this reason. He never pressured me, in the end he was happy to have me in the business, but he was always very careful to say that he didn't know what the future was like, and he didn't want me to make any mistakes based on his pressure, et cetera, et cetera. We always had a great open relationship, and still do. My dad ran the business from New York City, and our manufacturing at that time was in New Bedford, Massachusetts, which is a small historic town on the Southeast coast of Massachusetts, known for whaling, Moby Dick was written there, and a long tradition of Portuguese immigration that fed into a textile industry.
George Matouk: So, in the 1980s he had closed his workroom in Manhattan and moved it to New Bedford, Massachusetts and he had stayed here. Our workroom up there in New Bedford had really talented crafts people with a lot of skill that could be utilized for the American market, but the factory itself wasn't organized in a way that was leading to a profitable forward thinking operation, if that makes sense.
Dennis Scully: Okay, okay.
George Matouk: So, it looked like ... it was in an old dusty mill building, and it looked like one of the factories that you would expect to go out of business.
Dennis Scully: Okay, and his decision to stay here in New York and have someone else run it was that an indication of what he was thinking was gonna happen with that factory? I mean, was he-
George Matouk: You know, I think that my dad was older at that time, my dad has never lived anywhere besides New York City his whole life, so he wasn't gonna move up to New Bedford, Massachusetts [crosstalk 00:13:21]-
Dennis Scully: I can relate, it's very traumatic when you leave New York City.
George Matouk: I know, I grew up here too. I think that he didn't look at the manufacturing as this jewel in the Matouk crown, or this seed that was waiting to be nurtured and grow into something magnificent, I think he thought of manufacturing as a necessary part of the operation, but yeah, it wasn't really the core of what he was interested in probably as a business, but definitely to my dad's credit we had that manufacturing, and they were making really great product, and we built the next generation of the Matouk story around it.
Dennis Scully: So, how did that story begin? What were the decisions you had to make at that point, and where did you start to make the changes?
George Matouk: Well, the key decisions at that point were, number one, we recognized that the bedroom and the bathroom, but the bedroom in particular, were much better places for us to profit in the future than the dining room. Obviously, homes have multiple bedrooms, and people were starting to get acquainted with this idea of cocooning, and our skills could be really easily translated from table linens to bed linens. The really simple calculation, I'll share it here, that we discovered was that even though we were in the textile business the bed linen business was much different than what we think of as textile business which is mostly apparel, in that we're talking about very large pieces of high cost material that typically don't take that much labor to turn into a finished product.
George Matouk: So, if you think about the size of a king size sheet, it's like the size of a wall, and for the most part it just has zip, zip, zip hem on three sized and something pretty on the top, and you've got yourself a king flat sheet. If you compare that to a shirt, or a jacket, or a pair of pants you have a small piece of fabric that has a lot of labor that has to go into it to convert it to a finished product. As we started to buy these fabrics overseas and focus on the luxury market we realized, well, what's the point of manufacturing overseas? We buy these fabrics wherever they're made, we bring them to the US, and then we convert them in a super high quality efficient, but relatively low labor intensive way, and we found all of a sudden that we were really competitive in that market.
George Matouk: That's led to a long course of investment in our manufacturing, modernizing new equipment, new organization, new buildings, et cetera, et cetera, which brings us to where we are today. I think the other key realization about that period was that we had a story to tell. Matouk didn't have a brand really at that point, we were known in the trade as a special kind of company, but consumers didn't really know Matouk. If you look at any degree of packaging and labeling that we had there almost every package that I find has something a little bit different, little index cards with handwritten tablecloth sizes. It was that kind of thing. So, building on that truly authentic history of our heritage, to make a luxury products brand was a real opportunity for us, and I think we've been able to capitalize on what my grandfather did, and my father did after that, in a way that we never had before.
Dennis Scully: So, you decided, I mean, you consciously decided to become a luxury brand, right?
George Matouk: Right, right.
Dennis Scully: And to become a luxury bedding and bath brand?
George Matouk: That's exactly right. We decided to become a luxury bedding and bath brand, although we didn't really have an avenue into bath at that time, but we were interested in the bath, and we decided that we were gonna build a luxury bed and bath linen company around core manufacturing expertise that we were gonna maintain in the United States, and that we were going to focus on the US market, and we were going to get to know that customer better than anyone, and we were going to serve that customer better than anyone.
Dennis Scully: Who was that customer? Who were you reaching out to, to be your source of information about what customers were looking for?
George Matouk: Well, the truth is at that time it was really retailers. I think we were so early on in our thinking about marketing we didn't know who the consumer was or what the profile was necessarily, but we knew who the retailers were at that time that these customers were selling to. So, our job in those days was to convince those retailers, now we would call it the business to business relationships, to carry Matouk, and to do that we had to prove that we not only had a product that would sell, but that we were going to provide a level of service that nobody else did, and that didn't just include delivering stuff on time, although that was part of it, it didn't just include answering questions over the phone when they needed to be answered. It included this level of service that we got really, really good at, which is providing custom solutions to retailers and interior designers who had no other way to do that, and needed that to compete against some of the larger big box retailers like Bed, Bath & Beyond that were emerging in those days.
Dennis Scully: Okay. So, a lot of the feedback that you got was people wanted customization, people-
George Matouk: Yeah, they wanted something different, they wanted quality, they liked history, they wanted something that you could live with. I think a lot of companies were, and still do think about bed linens like they do fashion and they think they can make something beautiful, and put it on a bed and sell it, and that's just not the way that the home furnishings industry works. Anybody who buys sheets or a duvet cover typically already has wallpaper, or a rug, or an upholstered headboard, and these products have to live within an environment that's already been defined. So, I think a lot of manufacturers didn't really understand that, and were just making products that they wanted to, and not products that the customers really wanted to put on their beds in their homes.
Dennis Scully: Okay. Oh, that's interesting. Okay so, that's what you identified as an opportunity. At what point do we move the factory and sort of overhaul the production process for you?
George Matouk: So, we were investing, we were in New Bedford. The company started growing, it was great, and then this really fortuitous thing happened when the Pillowtex company, which owned the Fieldcrest, Royal Velvet and Charisma brands, liquidated overnight. In those days, and this would've been like 2002, 2003 before there were Matouk towels, and Abyss towels, and other luxury towel brands there was Royal Velvet and Charisma. That's what everybody had.
Dennis Scully: Sure.
George Matouk: And for good reason, they were good towels, they were made in North Carolina, they were relatively inexpensive for what they were, and the customers knew these brands, but what happened was that they were owned by the Pillowtex company which liquidated. Not just Chapter 11, but Chapter 7 liquidation overnight, all of a sudden the market had no towels.
George Matouk: That was the opportunity that gave Matouk an entrance into the towel market. We happened to be developing a relationship with a couple ... one main supplier, but a couple others in Portugal, and we were ready. A couple of retailers gave us a chance, and we got into the towel business, and it grew really quickly. I don't mean just in revenue, I mean in like the number of boxes and the volume of these towels. We quickly had no space whatsoever, so that real explosion of our towel business back in 2003, 2004 led to us moving into a more industrial type of facility in Fall River, Massachusetts in 2005.
Dennis Scully: Okay, so the explosive growth in the towel business precipitates moving to manufacturing facilities that can handle this, and-
George Matouk: Yeah, manufacturing and distribution, and we needed better administrative space, and as a manufacturer we started to learn more about it, we realized well, if we were in ... it's pretty on the outside to be in an old mill building, but if you're in a building that was build for manufacturing you could do a lot more, a lot better, and a lot faster.
Dennis Scully: Right. Were there some key partnerships at the time that made the growth possible, that became the big companies that you worked with?
George Matouk: Well, the first company that really believed in us was Neiman Marcus, and Horchow, in those days. There was a buyer there, Boo Powell, who anybody in my generation of luxury linens would know, and Boo was the one who gave us a chance to have that double page spread in all the Neiman Marcus and Horchow catalogs, and there were a lot of them back then, with our first towel. I always think of Neiman Marcus, and Horchow, and Boo really fondly because they really took a risk on us, and I'm really fortunate that somehow we were able to bootstrap it together, and hang onto that business, but once we started selling towels, and working with suppliers, and learning more about it we found a lot of other opportunity as well.
Dennis Scully: So, and at that point ... so, you make very special towels.
George Matouk: I'd like to think so, yeah.
Dennis Scully: Yes, and I mean, I'm amazed at how many people remark on that when I say, "Oh, I'm gonna be talking to George Matouk.", they're like, "Oh, I love their towels." So, at that time, were your towels what they are today? Had you perfected whatever this formula is that you've created, or was this still before you had figured it all out?
George Matouk: It was before we had figured it out. I mean, we started to ... one of our first towel programs was called Cairo, and it's still in the product line, and in that program we actually buy the terry by the meter, and we import it on the roll into the United States, and we cut it and sew it. We have hundreds of different colors of piping, and we have monogramming. So, that was the first real Matouk towel program. It took a long time to scale up, but that's still the core of a lot of what we do today is that Cairo towel program.
Dennis Scully: Got it, okay.
George Matouk: The programs that came a little bit later, are a little bit more solid color type of towels, fully manufactured overseas. For us, the magic in those is the yarn selection, the construction, the colors, the other details, the weight, the pile, the softness, all of that stuff that goes into it to make a towel special. Ultimately, we have more great towels than we can sell at this point, so we never introduce a towel unless we feel like it's got something totally unique. The way that we know that it's unique, and not just from our own engineering, of what makes a great towel is we use them. So, we use them, we wash them, we give them to customers, we test them, and we make sure that they stand up to what we would expect out of a Matouk towel.
Dennis Scully: Okay, okay. I got to become familiar with Matouk towels as a former Waterworks employee, so anytime that there was an employee sale I made sure to stock up on-
George Matouk: Waterworks was an early believer in Matouk, and a great partner for us, and I admire Barbara Sallick and her husband-
Dennis Scully: Robert Sallick.
George Matouk: ... Robert Sallick who started that company with this real product driven ethos that is the origin of a lot of luxury companies, I think. Peter Sallick, who runs the business now, is a really intelligent, and I would say modern thinker who understood where the world was going in digital and other ways before a lot of other companies did, so they've been a real role model for us.
Dennis Scully: Well, it's interesting that the timing is very similar too. When waterworks chose to start carrying towels and some soft goods, in addition to the plumbing and tile, it was a great time for you, it sounds like, because you were just getting into all of this business yourself, right?
George Matouk: Yeah, the timing was great for us, and Waterworks has a challenge that a lot of home furnishings companies have that are focused on permanently installed things in peoples houses, which is when you get into a construction project it's great, but then how do you stay in touch with that customer on an ongoing basis after that? They're not buying another vanity, or bathtub every year, but they love Waterworks, and so accessorizing with towels and other bathroom accessories like they did made a lot of sense, and I think is what a lot of companies tried to do as well.
Dennis Scully: Well, and I think it was interesting that it was a way to let a lot of people who couldn't necessarily afford at the time to buy Waterworks fixtures and fittings, but own the brand in another way through the soft goods and such, and you've done something similar. I mean, so you've made Matouk available at different price points through different partnerships, whether its One Kings Lane or some other partnerships that you have?
George Matouk: Yeah, I mean, we don't think about it as a price driven thing necessarily, although obviously that's part of it. The way that we look at the bedroom, or at the home, is that the primary place where the brand association is formed is in the master suite. That's where the decision maker is living, and that's where the most compelling emotional material is, and that's where we can sell the best product that we can possibly make. The great thing about the home, and the bedroom and bathroom spaces are that same customer has a guest room, or children's rooms, or other rooms, or a second house, or maybe even a third that need product, and that customer feels differently or wants to feel different in his or her bedroom when they're in their year round house or when they go out to the beach for the summer.
George Matouk: So, we try to imagine all of the different ways that that customer wants to use our product in different environments throughout the house. So, yeah some of those would be price oriented because even the most affluent customer is gonna spend less in their five year old daughters room than in their master bedroom, but it's the same quality, it's the same fabrics that we use all the way across, and we don't think of it as cheapening the product at all. We think of it as going everywhere where our customer wants to live with the product.
Dennis Scully: So, who do you think of as your customers today? I mean, you've got all these distribution channels today, when you think about building things, making things for your customer, who is that customer?
George Matouk: I think our best customers are customers that love the home, and they have a passion for home design, and they want to live in a meaningful way with products they really care about, and feel connected to. Ultimately the home, especially the bedroom and the bathroom are deeply personal spaces, they're very intimate for any number of reasons, and homemakers don't only buy the product for themselves, they buy the product for people that they love and care about, whether they're family members who live there, or guests who are coming, and that's how we think about our customers, as someone who's not just in an economic demographic but lives a certain way, and cares about certain things in the same way that we do.
Dennis Scully: Mm-hmm (affirmative), okay. When you made the transition ... so, we talked about the late 1990s, we talked about the early 2000s becoming the era of towels, and getting into the bathroom for you, what were the ... and you were starting to see good results from all of this, it sounds like, right?
George Matouk: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Dennis Scully: So, product was doing well.
George Matouk: Yes, yes.
Dennis Scully: You've been self funded-
George Matouk: Yes, that's right, that's right. Always self funded, and we're still privately held company-
Dennis Scully: Still privately held company you and your wife, Mindy, right?
George Matouk: Yes, yes, Mindy and I own most of the company, my sister and my father as well, so that it's completely family owned.
Dennis Scully: Completely family owned, and was that ever a challenge for you along the way? Was it a challenge in the late 1990s? Was it a challenge when you were trying to meet these big orders for Neiman Marcus, which you sort of alluded to, they were patient with you but, I mean-
George Matouk: Well, honestly the biggest challenge was around the financial crisis when ... 'cause we were relying on banks to finance the growth of the business, and suddenly all of the banks were getting quite nervous about their portfolios, and we were a textile manufacturing company.
Dennis Scully: So if anyone was gonna have a problem they would think it'd be you.
George Matouk: Right. What commercial loan officer is going to get a promotion going to his boss and saying, "Hey, I want to loan $1 million to a textile manufacturing company in Massachusetts."? It's not really a great sell. So, what we have to do, and had to do was to convince people that that's not exactly what we were. That we were actually a luxury products brands. That we were a force in the home furnishings industry. Yes, we are a textile manufacturing company as well, but that's not the essence of who we are, and the truth is over time we diversified our supply chain significantly. We already talked about making towels in Portugal, we do a lot of manufacturing in the Philippines where we do a all the really highly crafted applique work. So, it wasn't just a made in the USA only story, it was more a sophisticated supply system that we felt like was delivering the best product in the market to the US customer. Once we got to tell that story then the right banks were interested in helping us out again.
Dennis Scully: Okay. Okay, so you were able to ride out the financial crisis?
George Matouk: Yeah, we rode out the financial crisis, obviously we learned a lot of hard lessons. None of us had every been through anything like that, but we'd been growing a lot until that point, and yeah, I think that that was ... we made it through, it was scary, but like a lot of companies we tightened our belts a bit, but also I think critically positioned ourselves for the future, and anticipated a recovery would happen. So, rather than waiting for the economy to get better, and then start to invest we actually started to invest and prepare before the recovery came, and that sling shotted our growth after 2010 even with greater velocity than we had experienced before.
Dennis Scully: So, what were some of the things that you were investing in at the time that seemed like a big risk for you but you were counting on the recovery?
George Matouk: Well, the first thing we did at that time was in 2009, so this is the depth of the financial crisis, our roof gave out in Fall River. So, as you can imagine, we did not have a lot of expendable income to fix the roof, and it was a pretty depressing thing. It was a big project, it's a big roof, but an article came across my desk, or an email, or something like that about the Obama green energy incentives-
Dennis Scully: Oh, okay. Solar subsidies?
George Matouk: Yeah, and as it turns out we said, "Well, as long as we have to replace the roof, why don't we look into this?" Well, it turned out that the roof that we were replacing was the wrong roof for solar because it has air conditioning units, and it's pitched in the wrong directions, but we had a solar company come out, and they looked at the roof of our warehouse, and said, "You know what? This is a really ... this is the perfect roof for solar, so go ahead and replace the other roof and do solar back here.", and we decided to do it.
George Matouk: It was a really ... so this was in 2009, at the time it was the largest solar installation in all of Southeastern Massachusetts, and it was a really invigorating experience because a lot of people inside the company were worried, they were depressed, there wasn't a lot that we could do to grow our market because customers weren't buying yet, but this was an investment that we could make that really helped define who we wanted to be as a company, not just to ourselves, but to the outside world as well. I think it was inspiring to a lot of people who were looking for a good story to see like, wow, this is this old textile company and they're not only still in business, but they're actually 40% powered from renewable energy-
Dennis Scully: Putting solar powers on their roof.
George Matouk: ... and yeah, I mean now solar panels are all over the place, as they should be. In those days it was a little bit more novel, and I think that that was one of the big investments that we made that helped us define who we are today.
Dennis Scully: Well, and what a great message, I'm sure, to send to your employees at the time who no doubt were feeling nervous, and I'm sure there had to be some belt tightening during that time, I don't know if there were layoffs or what have you, but-
George Matouk: Yeah, we had our share of layoffs, not huge, but we reduced hours, and we cooperated in furlough's, and we tried to preserve as many jobs as we could, and the solar panels are a real tangible symbol of our commitment to the future.
Dennis Scully: Sure, yeah.
George Matouk: I mean, you don't put solar panels up so you can get one year worth of energy, right?
Dennis Scully: Yeah.
George Matouk: They last 25, 30 years. So, and not just to the future, but also to a future that we could be proud of, and that's another thread that goes through the Matouk story of manufacturing was going from what was sort of an old fashioned type of manufacturing environment, not one that we necessarily could be proud of or put on the homepage of your website [crosstalk 00:37:16]-
Dennis Scully: Sure, I've heard you talk about it.
George Matouk: ... to what we think of as actually a model for what manufacturing should be like in the 21st century, especially for a textile company that where the perceptions, for whatever reason, are always so low.
Dennis Scully: Yeah, yeah. Well, I've heard you talk about how uncomfortable you were with the original facility, and I know you don't like to use the term "sweatshop" but it sort of felt that way a little bit to you at the time, what did you have to do to modernize a facility to really make it a good environment for the workers, and for the business?
George Matouk: Well, I mean, the first thing that you have to do is you have to prove that you belong in the manufacturing business to begin with, and that's not just like, "I want to manufacture, but I can do it here, and I can make money doing it, and there's a reason to really invest." So, you really do ... it's not just a folksong, you need an economic model that justifies investing, because it's not inexpensive when you think about the size of a factory, and the mechanical equipment that's needed to support it, the machines themselves, the inventory and everything else do it. So, you need a viable profitable business model, but then on top of that you need the perspective to say that just because I'm a manufacturer that doesn't give me the right to treat the employees like they're parts of a machine. I think that one of the most important things that I learned at business school, which I deliberately had to unlearn, was that all business practices were justified as long as they were made in the name of shareholder value.
Dennis Scully: Oh, right.
George Matouk: Right, and that was literally what people talked about in business school, it was like, "It doesn't matter that the jobs are going here or there, blah, blah, blah, it's so and so at home who has the AT&T shares and is couponing the dividend, and blah, blah, blah." I think a lot of business owners made unethical business decisions based on that kind of philosophy. So, you need to put your employees first. You need to imagine, is the kind of factory that you would want your sons and daughters working in, and if it's not then what are you doing? What are you really doing? What message are you sending to the world about your business and your product?
George Matouk: That's just something that at Matouk we're not gonna tolerate. We have all different levels of skill in our manufacturing operation, but everyone works now in a really clean, organized, I think it's beautiful, environment, and some of those things are just commitment, they're not even money. It's painting the walls, it's keeping it clean, it's organizing the plant in a thoughtful, meaningful way. All of those things are ... every thing that touches an employees experience are things that, as business owners, as executives, we should pay attention to.
Dennis Scully: You have demonstrated that, to your point, the business can still be profitable and run an American manufacturing facility at that level, you've still got the margins in your product that can run a profitable business that way?
George Matouk: Yes, I think so. I think if there's anything that we're proud of at Matouk, it's the fact that not only have we proven that we can manufacture profitably in the US, that we can invest, be a technology leader worldwide in what we do, but that we also have shown that we can do that in a modern somewhat enlightened manufacturing environment, and to whatever extent anyone else who's out there that comes to Matouk and sees it is influenced by that, and makes decisions about their own manufacturing or otherwise facilities around what we've been able to do, I think is a great role that we can play in society.
Dennis Scully: That's fantastic, and do people come and visit your facilities, and do you-
George Matouk: Yes.
Dennis Scully: ... educate them about what you have done, and what they too could do?
George Matouk: Yeah, yes. We have a lot of visitors-
Dennis Scully: That's fantastic.
George Matouk: We welcome people in even if you visit into the [crosstalk 00:41:52]-
Dennis Scully: Okay. I've gotta make my way up to Fall River.
George Matouk: ... store or something, there's big windows and you can look into the manufacturing environment, and see what it is. I don't want it to sound like we've got the whole world figured out. There's a lot of things that Matouk could do better than we're doing now, for sure, but I do enjoy walking people through the plant and seeing them open their eyes a little bit, and appreciate that not only is there manufacturing still in the United States, but it's done in an environment that they could actually see themselves working in too. That's really fun.
Dennis Scully: Yeah, I'm sure that's very rewarding.
Dennis Scully: We're gonna take a quick break for a word from our sponsor, but we'll be right back.
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Dennis Scully: I know at one point to sort of improve the efficiencies and perhaps find some additional cost savings, and bring more structure to the business, you partnered with Salesforce, and have found some great success with that. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
George Matouk: Well, I don't think that Marc Benioff at Salesforce is thinking about his Matouk partnership every day necessarily.
Dennis Scully: He takes every sale very seriously, he-
George Matouk: But I love Marc Benioff, I think he's a great business leader, and-
Dennis Scully: He's got you on his website, I mean-
George Matouk: ... that's another story.
Dennis Scully: Yes.
George Matouk: But yeah, we use Salesforce, I think, in unique and innovative ways, and the truth is that I don't want to sound pretentious about it, but we think of Matouk as a technology company. We're not selling technology, but we're powering our strategies forward with the innovative use of technologies, both from an internal point of view, how we manage our production, how we forecast our inventory, how we set performance goals for success, and order fulfillment, and quality, and things like that, to how we use technology to communicate with our business to business partners, and support their businesses, to how we use technology as well to communicate directly with consumers, and through our ecommerce shop, and social media, and other ways.
George Matouk: So, the use of technology is fundamental to almost everything we do now, and we feel like to reach our goals and to be competitive, we can't just be consumers of technology ourselves, but we have to be innovative thinkers of technology at the same time.
Dennis Scully: Okay, okay. That's interesting, and that's often one of the biggest challenges that legacy companies have, right?
George Matouk: Yeah.
Dennis Scully: Is bringing ... not only bringing in technology, but really embracing technology, and making it part of the entire business, and it seems like that's been a priority for you.
George Matouk: Yeah, it has been a priority for us. Sometimes it's difficult. Matouk ... I think of us as a old company that's also a young company. I don't, again, I don't want to sound pretentious and say like "We're a startup, or something.", but we're a change oriented kind of business, and so we've had people who have had trouble with that because sometimes it's hard to adopt new technologies. I mean, just the idea of cloud based technologies compared to what people were using 10 or 15 years ago, is like, it's almost unthinkable. I can schedule production in the Matouk factory from the Acela on the way down here from Providence, Rhode Island this morning, I mean, it's really amazing what we're able to do now. It's important to have change oriented people in leadership positions in the company as well, because some of these things can be really difficult to adapt for people who aren't ready to do that. So, we've had growing pains around us, just like a lot of other companies have.
Dennis Scully: I'm sure, but it sounds like it really dramatically changed your manufacturing processes and efficiencies, and cut your lead times?
George Matouk: Yeah, we put in a new MRP, manufacturing resource planning system, a year and a half ago, and the results have been staggering in what we've been able to do. Just manufacturing lead times in our Massachusetts have been reduced from four to five weeks, if that, to around eight to 10 working days. We're able to measure on time performance in ways that we could never have imagined doing before. We launched a quick ship monogram program this year where we promised delivery of any product in the Matouk product line monogrammed in less than two weeks, whereas before it was a four to six lead time, just strictly through the technology and the information we have, the data that we can manage and track, and we have something like a 99.5% on time delivery rate. It's just ... it's really been rewarding, and amazing, and I think instructive to see how a company like Matouk in the home furnishings industry can use data in meaningful ways like we read about much larger enterprises doing.
Dennis Scully: Sure, sure. To give people an idea of the scale of Matouk can you share with us what revenues ... 'cause I know revenues have grown dramatically for [crosstalk 00:47:52] recent years.
George Matouk: Yeah, sure we're forecasting $35 million in revenue this year. That's ... from the beginning of the story, the turnaround story in the late 90s, that's about 10, 11 fold revenue increase from what we were then. We had 30 employees in Massachusetts then, now we've got 130. We have 10 full-time here in New York, and I'm proud to say that we support the employment of hundreds, if not thousands of people in other parts of the world through the Matouk supply chain. So, it's part of what I feel is our role as an American company, the way that we look at being an American company, is not just our commitment to what we do here in the United States, but our commitment to hopefully be a force for good everywhere that we work.
Dennis Scully: Right, which leads me, unfortunately, if you think about America first as a policy here in the United States right now, and I do want to touch on what I'm sure must be some challenges for you right now in the current political and economic environment, whether it's the issue of tariffs, whether it's just how America is being positioned in the world in general.
George Matouk: Well, there's lots of different facets to this conversation. Certainly the immigration crisis is a major economic problem from my point of view for the United States. The country is dependent in all different industries on the best and the brightest from around the world coming to the United States, and I think that this is a real threat to this core of the American identity that the people around the world are not gonna wanna come to the United States because of the way that immigrants are stigmatized and treated here. We're part of the Massachusetts Business Coalition for Immigration Policy, we're a founding member of that group trying to lobby for sensible immigration reform to protect not only our history of immigration, but also the businesses and the economies that we have that are dependent on immigration. So, there's that aspect of the world right now that's troubling.
George Matouk: The trade war, I don't understand it really from a business persons point of view. You might be surprised to know that the US government is doing things to dis-incentivize manufacturing itself through our own tariff and duty system. So, to give you an example, when we buy printed sheeting in Italy we pay a 12% duty rate to bring it into the United States. That's sheeting that we produce in Italy to bring here to manufacture and create jobs in the United States. If we bought a printed sheet in a package, never touched by anyone in the United States we would pay an 8% duty rate for that item. So, the fact that we're creating weird trade wars and instability in the world to protect manufacturers when the existing US system already is broken and is ... and this isn't a Trump thing, this goes back to Obama and Clinton, Bush, everybody before, it's like, it doesn't make sense to me either.
George Matouk: There's lots of intelligent ways to promote manufacturing in the United States, which I think is a good thing, not for selfish reasons but because we should be a country that can make things without doing it through a trade war. So, I find all of that instability, the picking and choosing of industries that are gonna be advantaged or disadvantaged to be nonsensical and complicated from a business point of view. I probably sound political, so be it, but I think the environment could be ... I don't think that if the government was really gonna work to support the growth of American manufacturing and other industries, that this is the best way to do it.
Dennis Scully: Well, General Motors is certainly learning today the challenges of announcing that you're changing some of your manufacturing, or moving some things around, but when you think about the challenges that do exist for you in the landscape today, so obviously we touched on the political, but I'm assuming that a much bigger challenge for you is all of these direct to consumer brands that are coming along, all of these digitally native brands that have come along, is that something that you pay a lot of attention to, or how do you think about positioning Matouk relative to some of those companies?
George Matouk: Well, I wouldn't say that that's a threat for Matouk. I could talk about what I think the biggest threats for Matouk are in the future, but I think that the subject of the direct to consumer companies comes up a lot, and I think that there's a big misperception in a way, because you can't paint all direct to consumer companies with a single brush. In fact, Matouk is a direct to consumer company. We're a direct to consumer company, and a business to business company, and we're also a business to different kind of business company. We have multiple customer segments that we're selling into. National accounts like Bloomingdale's, interior designers, independent retail stores, hotels, et cetera.
George Matouk: So, the world is a complicated one, and I think that to sort of pit the direct to consumer companies against the legacy companies, ours is probably an oversimplification that's been created by sloppy journalism in places like Fast Company, or whatever, where all you have to do is tell a story about going to a party and starting a towel company, and then all of a sudden Fast Company writes an article about you being the [Warby Parker 00:54:14] of towels.
George Matouk: I mean, the whole thing I find to be a little bit ridiculous. The thing about cutting out the middleman makes me laugh, like I want to stand up for the middleman everywhere, here I'm doing that right now, but if you are a "middleman" you have to add value, you have to have a reason for being and what you do. We don't consider ourselves to be middlemen at Matouk, we're manufacturers, and we also do some importing, but we're creating extraordinary value of retailers by doing what we do, and those retailers are delivering products to consumers that consumers want to buy.
George Matouk: So yeah, we've learned a lot from the direct to consumers companies. I mean, I think they've shown us really interesting ways that you can build a brand, for example, that you can take advantage of digital spaces, and some of them I like a lot, and other ones I think are less interesting and robust. I would draw contrast with that and the direct to consumer companies that only compete on price.
Dennis Scully: Right, like?
George Matouk: You could name them yourselvf-
Dennis Scully: Okay.
George Matouk: ... you can listen to satellite radio and you'll hear the advertisements, and they'll tell you what the promo code is ... and listen, if they're doing great for themselves, that's awesome I wish them the best, but that's why I don't think of them as threats, they're not luxury companies. Luxury companies don't compete on price like that. In fact, there's no promo code box anywhere on the Matouk website. We've never sold a product on matouk.com on sale ever and we won't, and we're proud of that because a lot of people have said forever that in home furnishings you can't sell at full price. We just don't think that that's the case. We think that if you deliver a product that has real value from a brand that you can trust and you protect it, then you don't need promo codes to drive customer acquisition and other metrics. We're lucky, we don't have venture capital companies that are looking for the next round of-
Dennis Scully: Breathing down your neck.
George Matouk: ... financing ... that's right, we can make decisions for the long term, and we do. So yeah, it's a really interesting space, and I have to say that there's ... we've learned a lot from some of the better direct to consumer companies, and maybe they've learned from us too.
Dennis Scully: Hopefully they have, and I think that your point about learning from a marketing perspective what a lot of these companies did a very good job of, how they rolled themselves out, how they positioned themselves, and what they're able to do with online marketing that's impressive, as you say, at the end of the day do they have a profitable business model, which is also a question for Wayfair, speaking of-
George Matouk: Of course, absolutely.
Dennis Scully: The jury is still out after 16 years as to whether that company's gonna be profitable.
George Matouk: Yeah, I think it's really interesting. I mean, the whole "cut out the middleman model" was built around not having to have a retail margin, yet now a lot of these original cut out the middleman companies are opening their own retail stores [crosstalk 00:57:37]-
Dennis Scully: Opening retail stores.
George Matouk: ... yet they can't sell anything online without a promotional code. So, I think that's a tough situation to be in. I think if you've got a price driven model, good luck, 'cause eventually you're competing against Amazon, and I think that part of what companies like Matouk are trying to do is, no disrespect to Amazon, but to own the channels where we can be profitable, and part of that is protecting the value of what we sell.
Dennis Scully: Well, it's interesting that you mentioned the many different kinds of distribution that you have. So, you're selling to stores like E. Braun, here in New York, right?
George Matouk: Yeah.
Dennis Scully: And at the same time, as we mentioned you're selling to interior designers, you're available through One Kings Lane, so you've got all of these different channels, and you've got some direct to consumer, or D to C as everyone likes to call it today, so D to C, is that a big part of your business? What's the biggest part of your business?
George Matouk: Well, the biggest part of our business is our partnership with Bloomingdale's, and Bloomingdale's been an amazing partner for Matouk. In fact, we sold our first towel to Bloomingdale's in 2010. So, having built ... and I was always told like, "Oh boy, be careful.". or there was always this idea about working with Bloomingdale's, I just want to say the opposite. My experience with Bloomingdale's been amazing. They're a great partner for Matouk, and it's because they care about home furnishings. They put the stuff on the floor. The home furnishings department on 59th Street is the best of any department store in the country, and that's why their home furnishing business is good, and why they can sell better product. So, that's the biggest part of our business.
George Matouk: After that, independent retail stores, and interior designers, and then our direct to consumer ecommerce and our hotel business would come after that. They're growing at different rates, let's say, they're all important. You're speaking about channel conflict, which is something that we deal with all the time. There's certainly retailers that we have that wish we didn't sell directly or which we didn't sell to interior designers, or et cetera, et cetera.
George Matouk: So, what we try to do in this world is put the consumer first, and make sure that the consumers that want to buy Matouk product can do that in the place where they want to do it, and to the extent that along the way that we can provide meaningful value to the retailers that we sell to, and to the interior designers, everybody wins, but it's not easy to pick and choose in a rapidly changing environment because where the consumer's going right now might not be the same place where they're going in a couple of years.
George Matouk: One thing I can say is that we've been able to use our manufacturing system to mitigate that because we can do customized product for different channels so that there are places like One Kings Lane that are selling product that's not available anywhere else, so that they can truly say that they have an exclusive product, and don't have to worry about someone else pricing it differently, or selling it somewhere else. So, having control of your supply chain is really critical in being able to service multiple customer segments effectively.
Dennis Scully: That's really what it sounds like you think is allowing you to be nimble, and agile, and roll with these changes as they're coming along, at a much more rapid pace than they were years ago, right?
George Matouk: Oh yeah, I mean it's incredible how fast everything is changing. I mean, hardly any of our top 10 customers were Matouk customers 10 years ago. Maybe one, Neiman Marcus, and that would be it. So, things are changing rapidly. Certainly, you want to have the assets to deploy to respond to a changing market, and you definitely need the perspective, you need that ability to think, and rethink, and clear your head, and change, and let go of some paradigms that you think are the rules of the industry, because as you know as well as anyone, what is true today is not gonna be true two or three years from now.
Dennis Scully: It's so interesting that you say that and then Bloomingdale's, a department store is your top customer right now, and that's fascinating and would be an unexpected or counterintuitive answer at a time where everybody's distribution has changed so much, and where retailers, particularly department stores have gotten such a bad rap, and they don't have the right model, but to Macy's and Bloomingdale's credit they've gone to great lengths to overhaul their own operations, and focus on the things that they're really good at, like home furnishings, right?
George Matouk: Exactly, exactly. I mean, I can't comment on the overall financial condition of Bloomingdale's as a store, but if you look at what they're doing in home furnishings there's a reason why they're successful, is because they're committed to doing something that nobody else is doing, and they have been now in a meaningful way at a luxury level for about 10 years, and it's paying dividends because people want to go and touch and feel, and experience this product, and they can do that at some place like Bloomingdale's, and they can't do that at Saks, or Neiman Marcus, or Nordstrom. So, it's true that more and more commerce every day is going digital, but it's also true that in touch and feel type of categories with customers who really want to learn, not just about one brand, but about multiple brands and find their favorites, Bloomingdale's the only that place at the luxury level where you can go and do this in multiple home furnishings categories. So, I think it's ... you think of department stores as being old, I think of Bloomingdale's approach in this way as being modern and committed.
Dennis Scully: As you say, it's a touch and feel kind of product, and it's hard to believe that it won't always be despite the growth in digital. You mentioned earlier that all of these direct to consumer, that that's not really the threat that you're worried about, it's really other things that you're much more concerned about. So, what are some of the things you're more concerned about?
George Matouk: Well, the biggest concern that I have honestly is the environment and the planet, and how the global supply system for cotton and fabrics is going to be affected by climate change over time. I mean, I think the other threats that we're talking about, whether it's like a really good competitor, or a new technology, that those are all threats that we can deal with. The threats that are outside of our control are ones that cause me more distress, and I think that all of us should be thinking more about, and I'm not gonna pretend that I'm far along this journey, and I have a lot of really compelling things to say about it. As a company we've talked already about being committed to utilizing green energy, we also expect and have had success in working with suppliers overseas who share the same values, but what happens if in spite of all of those efforts there are major agricultural disruptions in the cotton industry? 98% of what we sell is made out of cotton. Those are the kind of threats that I think should keep all of us up at night.
Dennis Scully: And they're coming soon, but luckily, again, the administration is all over it. They are addressing those concerns and they have an eye to the future. I'm eager to have you just sum up what you've learned that legacy companies can do, because when I think of the fabric industry for example, a business not dissimilar to your own in many ways, right now that industry is trying to figure out how to get to the future, and the distribution channels are challenging for them online, and ecommerce doesn't seem to be a solution for them. What do you think? What's the advice you give?
George Matouk: Well, I think that the rules for success for all companies and all segments of the home furnishings industry are probably a little bit different, and I don't know that exactly what we've learned at Matouk is applicable to other companies necessarily, but I will say that accepting that the world is rapidly changing, and accepting that the major change from a commercial point of view is the fact that the consumer has all of the power right now, is the place where you start. You can't pretend that the good old days are coming back. They're just not. The technology that's been put at the consumers fingertips is only accelerating, and so rather than bemoaning the situation, and how difficult it is, and giving up, I think that the real exciting part of the world we live in right now is getting to know your customer better, and making sure you're in that right place, and then working closely across distribution channels to help your valued partners understand why you're doing the things that you're doing.
George Matouk: I've lived the same movie as all of the other companies in the industry, there's a lot of channel conflict, and it seems like every decision you make is offending someone that you really like, and overall I think you just have to look at the big, big picture and say that, "I'm gonna do everything I can to support my partners, but if I do so at the expense of the consumer who ultimately is either gonna buy Matouk when they want sheets or go to a competitor if they can't find Matouk, that we're gonna have to live in this world that allows us to do that." If you stay that course I think it's actually good for everyone. I can honestly tell you, and I'm not bragging, it's just relevant, that every single one of those categories that we sell into is growing by double digits this year. So, I think that the moral of the story is that it might be bumpy, but if the consumer wants your product and respects your brand then you can support multiple distribution channels in making sure that you're in the right place at the right time.
Dennis Scully: Okay, okay. Now, you're a very young man, obviously-
George Matouk: Obviously, thank you-
Dennis Scully: Yes.
George Matouk: ... for saying so.
Dennis Scully: Handsome as well-
George Matouk: Well, I'm blushing.
Dennis Scully: ... and obviously you're not thinking too much about the future and succession, but you've got three daughters, yes?
George Matouk: Yes.
Dennis Scully: Have any of them expressed interest in coming to the family business? Do any of them get involved?
George Matouk: Yes, yes, unlike me who couldn't stay far enough away. Mindy and I have never traumatized our daughters with satin sheets the way that I was. They are young, rhey're 11, and 13, and 14 years old, and they have grown up around the business, and they like the factory, and they like the product. They all have their favorite towels-
Dennis Scully: That's great.
George Matouk: ... and that's kind of part of our family culture. If that family culture translates into any one of them being interested in working at Matouk as a career, that would be great, and if they want to do other stuff that would be great too. We look at our obligation as continuing the Matouk legacy, if you will, or at least making it available to the fourth generation like it was available to me. So, we have a longtime horizon, and it's healthy for the business because we can make decisions that can pay back over a long period of time.
Dennis Scully: But you'd love nothing more than for the kids to one day get involved, right? I mean, nothing would make you happier.
George Matouk: If that's their destiny, and that's what they want to do-
Dennis Scully: That's what they want to do.
George Matouk: ... more than anything else in the world then I will not stop them.
Dennis Scully: Well, as you pointed out earlier, usually it is the third generation that screws up the business, so-
George Matouk: Okay, well hopefully-
Dennis Scully: ... you have kept it together very well-
George Matouk: Thank you. Hoping not to jinx it through this podcast.
Dennis Scully: No. No, no. I think it's very encouraging. You mentioned, as we wrap up, you mentioned the environment's one of your big concerns. What's one of your big focuses as far as whether it's the growth of the business, whether it's changes that you're continuing to make to the business. What are you working on right now with regards to the business that you're eager to see to fruition?
George Matouk: Well, that's a great question. As the leader of Matouk my job has changed a lot over the years from running a smaller company that did one thing to running a somewhat larger company that's doing multiple things. I think that what I'm really focused on right now is continuing to build the leadership team that's gonna get us from where we are now to where we want to be five years from now. Some of those pieces of the puzzle are in place, and there's other big searches that are underway for new members of the Matouk team, and also thinking about how we're configured as an organization for success for the future, and that includes me, making sure that I have the tools that I need to be able to make good decisions for an organization at this scale, like hopefully I was able to do when it was at a different scale.
George Matouk: So, I think that as ... I always wondered when I was younger and the business was smaller, "What if we got to $35 million, how would we grow by 10%?" 20 years ago that would've been like doubling the company in one year. What I've learned over time is not a secret, the way to do that is to hire amazing people who are intelligent and driven, and who feel vested in the success of the company, and motivated by the product, and motivated by the culture that we're building at Matouk, and right now that's the most exciting thing that I'm working on, and in a way, I want the company to not need me anymore, and to be an amazing successful company no matter who the CEO would be. That's my goal for the year.
Dennis Scully: Okay, well that's a great goal. Barbara Sallick, who we mentioned earlier from Waterworks, always used to say to me, "Dennis, hire people that are smarter than you.", and I'm assuming that's difficult for you, but is that what you try and do as well?
George Matouk: It's not difficult for me. It's hard for me to hire someone who talks less about Matouk than I do.
Dennis Scully: That I got.
George Matouk: I definitely wear the crown for sure, but smarter, more experienced, no problem. Better taste, definitely.
Dennis Scully: Well, you carry the brand well, and you're obviously very proud, and you obviously have a great deal to be proud of.
George Matouk: Thanks Dennis, I appreciate you saying that.
Dennis Scully: Yeah, yeah. No, I've really enjoyed our conversation.
George Matouk: Me too.
Dennis Scully: My guest has been George Matouk, CEO and third generation owner of Matouk.
Dennis Scully: Thank you again for joining us. The show is Business of Home and I'm Dennis Scully. If you like what you hear, please feel free to subscribe, tell a friend about the show, and most of all, leave us a review on iTunes. Thank you again to our sponsor and our producers. You can find us at businessofhome.com or on Facebook or Instagram. We'll see you next week.