JF1206: He Doubled His Business In 18 Months After Losing $30 Million In Contracts with Carl Banks
After a very successful career in football, Carl continued his success trend in business, launching G-III Sports. With his new business, he made outerwear for the NFL. Until one day when reebok bought the licensing rights to make the outerwear. Rather than giving up, cutting costs, and downsizing, Carl and his team hustled working with smaller shops and in return only lost about 10% of his business. Carl knew that Reebok could not make the outerwear as good as they could, and in 18 months G-III Sports was awarded the licensing for outerwear again, which now doubled his business vs. what it was before. If you enjoyed today’s episode remember to subscribe in iTunes and leave us a review!
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Carl Banks Background:
-2x Super Bowl Champion/NY Giants Legend, NFL’s 80’s All-Decade Team, and Michigan State University Hall of Famer
-President of G-III Sports, the largest licensed sports apparel company in the world that produces for the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, etc.
-Founded G-III over two decades ago and responsible for bringing back the iconic Starter satin jacket.
-Travels with NY Giants as an on-air broadcast analyst and serves as a mentor to the team
-The Carl Banks Foundation raises money for a variety of causes, most notably autism research
-Based in New York City, NY
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Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how are you doing? Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Joe Fairless, and this is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast. We only talk about the best advice ever, we don’t get into any fluff.
With us today, Carl Banks. How are you doing, Carl?
Carl Banks: I’m doing well, thanks for having me.
Joe Fairless: Well, my pleasure and nice to have you on the show. A little bit about Carl – he is a two-time Super Bowl Champion with the NY Giants, he is a New York Giants legend, he was on the NFL’s 1980’s All-Decade Team, and he is a Spartan from Michigan State University. He is a Michigan State University Hall of Famer. You’re from Flint, Michigan, right?
Carl Banks: Correct, yes.
Joe Fairless: I was born in Flint, Michigan.
Carl Banks: Really?
Joe Fairless: In fact, in about a month I’m gonna be in Flint, visiting my grandmother who is 102 years old.
Carl Banks: Oh, that’s awesome.
Joe Fairless: She’s still living in the same house that she’s lived in for 60 or 70 years.
Carl Banks: Boy, I know there’s some stories she can tell.
Joe Fairless: Oh, boy. Yes, yes, yes. So Carl – not only from the football background, we’ll put that aside for a second… Holy cow, Carl has been busy post-football career; he founded G-III Sports, and G-III Sports is one of the largest license sports apparel companies in the world that produces for the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL. They’re the number one outerwear sports licensing company, and we’re gonna talk about that, as well as some other entrepreneurial endeavors. He also still travels with the New York Giants as an on-air broadcast analyst, and serves as a mentor for the team… So here’s my first question for you, my friend. Well, first off, welcome to this show!
Carl Banks: Thank you for having me.
Joe Fairless: You were a grave-digger in high school… How did you get into that?
Carl Banks: Well, there’s a few cemeteries in Flint, Michigan. Gracelawn Cemetery was the one that shows me, I guess, there was a really great — I call him a community leader. His name was Peter [unintelligible [00:04:20].13] and he tried to make sure that all the young athletes around town just kind of stayed out of trouble; he would offer summer jobs. He was at one of my games, and it was probably my junior year, going into the summer – it was the summer league basketball – and he said he had a job for me.
I came, and he gave me a shovel, pointed me in the direction to go, but… There were a lot of us out there, but it was so interesting because the whole grave-digging thing, with the people that you work with… I think there was kind of a method to his madness, because he had us working with people that were just out of incarceration, so people that were trying to get their lives back together…
So you’re sitting there and you’re digging graves, and you’re having these long conversations with people that are giving you really great life advice… Because people are saying “You don’t wanna do these types of things, you don’t wanna be with these types of people. This is what got me in trouble”, and some of these young men — my father was a corrections officer, so he knew some of them. So it was really interesting, but it was a great character-building experience, so much so that I continued to do it throughout college. It was great.
Then Peter was just awesome, because he would come, he would drive through, pick me up, take me to lunch, and we’d have these life conversations, and how to deal with people and building people skills… It was just awesome, that whole experience, and I always joke — when people ask me about it, I say “People are dying to get in there.”
Joe Fairless: [laughs] Well, with some of the conversations you had with the people who are just getting out of jail or prison, do you remember any particular piece of advice that really resonated with you?
Carl Banks: Flint was a really small community, but I’d say the one thing that I never forgot – I don’t know if it was Peter that told me, or one of the ex-convicts… He said, “Your eyes remember what your ears forget”, meaning always stay alert, always be observant of people and your surroundings.
Joe Fairless: How have you applied that to your life?
Carl Banks: It’s so interesting, because in business, just like in sports, what I call phatic communication or non-verbal communication – you can read a lot from a person just by observing them, and sometimes you’ve gotta be less of a talker in business and more of a listener and more of an observer. And in sports, because I played on some very good teams, I was able to – when I knew I could impose my will on someone – watch their behavior; I could tell when someone gave up, I could tell their level of determination. The harder you played, the more tips they would give you.
If a guy had to block you, you could tell the ball was coming to my side of the field, because the guy would be a little more nervous than he would if he didn’t have to block me. Sometimes you find that in business people are over-talkers sometimes, or if you ask a question and you watch behavior, you can learn a lot about people, so that’s why I observe and I listen.
Joe Fairless: I love that, that’s incredibly helpful for us as entrepreneurs. You mentioned that – and this will be the last grave-digging question I have for you, but it’s really fascinating… You mentioned you continued it when you were at Michigan State – did you just find a new cemetery to go dig in, or did you go back to Flint and dig at the same place?
Carl Banks: I stayed at Gracelawn Cemetery.
Joe Fairless: Okay.
Carl Banks: And I did everything, too. It was grave-digging, landscaping, I ended up working backhoes and tractors… It was everything, but you had to find lost grave locations, you relocated people to their family plots… It was all kinds of stuff, and one of the weirdest things was when you had to relocate someone that’s been buried for a very, very long time; the family or the kids bought a plot and they want everybody together, and you’ve gotta go dig someone up… And once you dig it, you can only go so far, then you have to go by hand and scoop out turf, and there’s water and all kinds — it’s just like the creepiest thing…
Joe Fairless: Yes, it is…
Carl Banks: But it was fun… [laughter] Believe it or not, it was fun.
Joe Fairless: Were there any self-talks later in life, whether in the NFL or post-NFL, doing the successful endeavors that you’re doing, where you think “You know what, I hand-dug out an existing grave, I can do XYZ.”
Carl Banks: Probably more often than you can imagine. Because I think it also taught hard work. I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty and dig in, literally. Pun intended. But there are times where you’ve got a decision to make, or you’re training — when I was in sports, yeah, I would say I’m doing pretty good for myself. I’ve been around death, I can do just about anything.
Joe Fairless: Let’s talk about a tough decision, as an entrepreneur, that you’ve had to make. Can you tell us what that was and just the thought process that you had with it?
Carl Banks: I would say in the late ’90s the licensing landscape changed, and Reebok became a major licensee for all categories in the NFL. They just pretty much bought the entire business. So I was a niche business at that time, I was strictly outerwear, and I was informed by the NFL that all of my major retail rights were taken away and gonna be granted to Reebok.
Now, I knew Reebok did not have the outerwear core competencies that we had, and yet I lost the business to them because they were the highest bidder, and obviously outerwear for someone who’s making jersey shirts and hats [unintelligible [00:10:36].03] but it’s a very important category at retail. So I spent probably two or three meetings, myself and Morris Goldfarb, the CEO of G-III – we went to Boston, we sat with their executives, Paul Fireman, and we said “Okay, so if you guys are gonna do outerwear, we do it better, why don’t you sub-license us to do it?” He said “No.” So ultimately, their goal was to put us out of business. So my decision that I had to make at that moment was “Was I going to allow this company who is much bigger than me in the sports area to put us out of business, or to strategically adjust?” Because I sat with Morris Goldfarb and he said “Look, I may have to shut the division down, because I don’t know where we’re gonna get this business from.”
I would say the number one thing that kicked in for me, and I basically said to myself while I was in the meeting with him, I said to myself “What would Belichick and Parcells do?” Because they’re the masters at knowing what you are this year, and I’d written both of them letters thanking them for being kind of a blueprint for how I approach business from year to year, from week to week.
So what I did was a little bit of deductive reasoning. I knew that Reebok did not make outerwear and they didn’t do it proficiently, so even if they did, it would be one or two pieces. So what I said I would do is adjust the business. And I just looked at the CEO and said “We’ll be okay”, because I knew if they didn’t service the customer, it was gonna be a problem with the leagues, because the customer is gonna say they’re not getting outerwear and G-III Sports was getting me everything I wanted. And if you’re talking about a 20 or 30 million dollar business at the time, that’s a lot. And you’re taking product out of the market. So they bought the rights, they warehoused them, so I said to my CEO, “We’re gonna be okay.” But in the interim, I still had to find business, right?
Joe Fairless: Yeah.
Carl Banks: So what I ended up doing, where they took the major retailers away from my portfolio, there were a ton of independent guys, local market guys, team pro shops, right? So my ability to go out and go find the local market guys to buy my outerwear was the greatest thing I could have ever done, because I expanded my business in preparation for the rights to come back, because all of these mom-and-pops got the product, and they were the only ones to have outerwear for a couple of years.
Now, the big retailers were complaining to the NFL, like “I can’t even get outerwear when all of these other mom-and-pops have outerwear.” I’m saying, “Go talk to Reebok, we have nothing to do with it.” So eventually, I think about 18 months into the deal, we probably lost I would say 10% of our business. So we had to hustle, right? But we found a different way, and that was kind of — if I had to look at the lessons I learned from Parcells and Belichick, those are the things. Each week, each year it’s “What are we? What do we have available to us? Now let’s find a way to be successful with what we have”, because the old way doesn’t work given the tools we have available to us. So I immediately went into that, and that’s something that businesspeople didn’t experience. It takes a series of meetings, and the first thing you think to do is cut-cut-cut, slash-slash-slash, and I’m thinking “No, let’s grow; here’s an opportunity”, because these were guys that weren’t getting my product that wanted it, now I can give it to them exclusively, and make the other guys want the product as a result of that.
My business was down, like I said, about 5%, maybe 10%, which wasn’t bad, given I just watched 30 million dollars worth of business go to someone else and I had to refigure it out, but I was able to cultivate a new customer base, and Reebok and the leagues, all of them (the NBA and the NFL) were hearing it from the major retailers – “You can’t do this. You can’t keep this–” and Reebok could not make the products at the level we could, and they were offering one jacket that wasn’t very good. And I got into the business being a niche player in outerwear, because I was able to make jackets at a level where they’re presenting ten T-shirt, I would go to JC Penney’s and present 20 jackets as if they were T-shirts; I was able to give each customer their own jacket, and that’s how I got in the business with NFL… But I basically went back to my roots.
When the big players started to call the NFL and say to them “You can’t not keep this product out of the market”, Reebok had to either make the product or surrender the rights, and we ended up getting the rights back in 18 months.
Joe Fairless: Wow.
Carl Banks: What ended up happening, I grew a business and then I got the 30 million dollars in business back, so it doubled my business just like that in 18 months.
Joe Fairless: Knowing that you went through that process and the results from the process, would you ever trick yourself into thinking that something like that is about to happen again?
Carl Banks: It is.
Joe Fairless: Okay, will you elaborate?
Carl Banks: It’s a thing called Amazon. Amazon is great, but they are squeezing brick and mortar… So yeah, it’s happening. We’re making some adjustments, and the experience is very important if you wanna be relevant beyond online purchasing; you’ve gotta create an experience, you’ve gotta create stories that work, that can’t be articulated by looking at a computer screen. We’ve been able to do that, and we do business with Amazon, we do business with Fanatics; both are good partners, but their stated goal is to take over the world, and as long as we’re part of that, that’s fine, but we have other partners that we wanna keep in our mix as well that are brick and mortar, and the only way you’re gonna do that is people go to brick and mortar for the experience; if you’re buying a coat, if you’re buying your favorite team hat, jersey or shoes, it wasn’t grab and go… That’s what online is right now. There is no experiential component.
I’ve just read about the artificial intelligence of the Echo and Alexa, where they’re gonna be beaming and looking at your body and seeing what you wear, and how to do that, but that’s just not the same. If you continue to create the experience and if the retailer can adapt to the changing taste of the consumer, I think we’ll be fine. But there are certain things that you can’t do online that you can do in person, and also a lot of these guys have to buy brands in order to stay relevant, because they don’t wanna make product; they wanna sell product, so they have to buy other brands to sell the product, and sometimes it’s just like they bought whole foods, because they know that people like to feel their vegetables; they like to look at the fish before they buy it. They can’t buy that online. So it’s got a proof that everything can’t be sold online; you’ve gotta have some level of experience.
Joe Fairless: On the entrepreneurial note, and really just the hustle and the foresight note, I was reading a story about you and it mentioned that you convinced a radio station to allow you to host a post-game show while you were playing for the Giants. So you would shower after the game and then go talk about the game immediately after, on your show, and most of your teammates, I imagine, were not doing that.
Carl Banks: None.
Joe Fairless: Okay, none. [laughs]
Carl Banks: There was no one doing that at the time. There was no one in the league doing what I was doing at the time, and it became kind of the format for what we see in post-game shows now – player-hosted shows, player reports… That was all a result of what I did, and I had great help, because again, when you talk about being proactive and opportunistic and kind of having that grind — I got Coca-Cola to be a sponsor of it, but how it happened… I was speaking — I’m trying to think where it was; it was in South Jersey like Exit 9, and I was speaking at a kid’s banquet, and the father came up to me, his name was Wayne Vogel, and he was from Coca-Cola.
So we struck up a conversation, I said “I’ve got this idea, I wanna do a post-game show… Would Coca-Cola be interested?” Long story short, he took me to meet Jim Patton, his boss, and Patton had this idea, too; they had to try to sell a two-liter bottle of Diet Coke, and it was the first time they were launching that, so I was a big guy, it worked for them, because I became kind of their poster guy for this two-liter bottle of Coke, and which kicked off an entire campaign around the entire country with the NFL, and then Pepsi signed Shaq as a result of that.
Joe Fairless: Shaq should thank you, by the way.
Carl Banks: Yeah, so I got Coca-Cola to say, “Okay, we will be your sponsor.” So I walked into the radio station – and by the way, this is the same way I operate now with my radio show here in New York on WFAN CBS Radio… I had a Coca-Cola in hand, it became the Coca-Cola Carl Banks Report, and the Coca-Cola Carl Banks Post-Game Show. So I was like in radio while I was working. No players were doing any radio shows during the seasons, and they certainly weren’t doing postgame shows. That’s kind of what laid the groundwork for me to be a broadcaster, but I loved the philosophy of having a sponsor in hand and basically bartering your air time… But it’s great, especially if you’re good – and I think I’m pretty good at what I do, but here I have a postgame show, I do a Monday and a Friday show here on WFAN, and my main sponsor is KIA, and KIA wasn’t in sports.
I’m not gonna say I’m solely responsible for putting KIA in sports, but I was at [unintelligible [00:21:18].29] and I needed to rent a car, and they gave me what I thought was a Toyota Land Cruiser and I find out it’s a KIA, right? I’m like “This is great!” and I was ranting and raving, so I got back to the radio station and I said “Can someone call someone at KIA?” and I recorded this testimonial, they sent it to them, and we’ve had a relationship for like seven years now.
Joe Fairless: Wow.
Carl Banks: But then, KIA is now in NBA, they’re in NFL, they’re a big part of sports now. LeBron James is a big spokesperson for them, but the experience and being proactive in things that you like is really cool. I know I didn’t answer the question, but I just wanted to share the experience.
Joe Fairless: No, you did! And I love that, because I have a follow-up question on that. You mentioned it was called a Coca-Cola Carl Banks Report…
Carl Banks: Yeah.
Joe Fairless: No one else was doing it…
Carl Banks: Correct.
Joe Fairless: I’m gonna make some assumptions now. I am assuming that your teammates were like “Dude, you’re doing what after the games?” and when you made a mistake in the game, would the coaches and/or players be like “Well, Carl, if you weren’t doing all this extra stuff, then you would have more time to focus on the game and what we should do.”
Carl Banks: We had a little bit of that. I got my chops busted a little bit, but that’s even more pressure to be good. And again, I was on some really good teams, so there was always this element of accountability; we always had to be accountable to each other, so effort was important. And if I made a few bad plays in the game, I had to fess up to it. That was the way our team was built and the way each component that Bill Parcells built our defense and Belichick ran it… But if something happened, we pretty much happened whose fault it was, because that’s just the way we were set up. We were pieces that worked together, so if a pass play happened or if a run play happened, you couldn’t come off to the sidelines and tell your teammates, “Well, I did my job, but something freakish happened” – no, we knew, everybody knew.
So if I screwed up, I had to fess up right there, which made it I guess even more authentic for me in a postgame show, because I had to go on air — I didn’t have a 24-hour rule; I had to go on and fess up right on air… “Hey, look, they scored a touchdown because they ran on the outside by me and I didn’t do my job.” I think that’s what makes me such an honest broadcaster to this day, is that I can actually look at something and say whose fault it was without making it personal, because I had to do it myself.
Joe Fairless: You are more so proactive and opportunistic than most people. You’re digging graves, doing a job in high school that most people wouldn’t wanna do for their whole life, let alone in high school. You made the NFL, excelled, while in NFL you took on another job that evolved into other stuff and now post-NFL you’re doing really well with your company… What would your advice be to people who don’t naturally have your level of proactiveness in their nature?
Carl Banks: I would just say be curious. Developing people skills, believe it or not, it started for me while working in the cemetery, because I was around different types of people and I had to ask questions, I was asked questions, and I had to learn certain things. So I would say everyone who is not proactive or they don’t think opportunistically, I’d say be curious, always be intellectually curious; you wanna learn something about something or about somebody, and that one question will lead to the next answer, to the next question, and then that’s growth, and then you wanna know something else about something, because that’s how it really starts.
You’ve gotta develop some level of communication skills; you don’t have to be a great orator, you just have to be curious. You’ve gotta be curious and you wanna have interest in people, and I’m probably, when I’m not around people, the most introverted person ever. I enjoy doing nothing better than anybody, but when it’s time to have that conversation or to follow up on something that I was reading, I’m all in. I wanna learn as much as possible.
Joe Fairless: Based on your experience as an entrepreneur, what is your best advice ever for other entrepreneurs?
Carl Banks: As painful as it can be, do not be afraid to fail, because entrepreneurism is about exploring every idea you have. That’s what an entrepreneur is – it’s about blazing a trail, it’s about breaking new ground, it’s about having a better idea. That’s what an entrepreneur is. He finds either a better way to do it or he has a better idea or he has a unique idea. Sometimes you find out that your idea is not unique, and you either abandon that idea and go to the next one, or you find a better way to make your idea even more innovative, but it can be painful. Even when you’re successful, your one or two ideas for expansion could fall flat on its face, and that’s painful, but you’ve gotta be able to say “I’m not afraid, because I’ve got many more ideas to come, so I’m just gonna keep coming at you.”
Joe Fairless: Well, let’s stick with the painful theme. What is a painful flop business-wise that you’ve been responsible for accomplishing?
Carl Banks: [laughs] Well, this was just recently. I had an idea that I was trying to work a licensing deal with Classic Media, and they have just the greatest library of cartoons, Rocky and Bullwinkle to Richie Rich… They have this incredible catalog, and I thought I would be able to take those images and really create some fun stuff on apparel, because we’ve seen it, junk food has done it with vintage, from Coca-Cola to 7Up, whatever it is, right? And I thought the time was right in the market.
I invested a lot, hired a lot of people, we created some incredible product, and nobody wanted it, nobody understood it, no one wanted it, and it’s unfortunate, because I still have some great designs that eventually — and I’ve been ahead, that’s how I also look at it too, sometimes I’m ahead of the curve in some of my ideas… But that was a very expensive failure, very, very expensive, because you get licensing rights and they gave me everything, I gave them a great presentation, I built a great product, I even had product in the warehouse, and just no one wanted it, and that was interesting, because I thought the timing was perfect for it.
It happens, but I still have great product and I know at some point if I have to revisit it with Classic Media, I’ll be okay. I think they’ll be ready for it.
Joe Fairless: If presented a similar type of opportunity, or if you have a similar type of idea, how would you approach it differently, knowing what you know now?
Carl Banks: I don’t think I would approach it any differently.
Joe Fairless: There’s no way to test that before sinking in a bunch of money?
Carl Banks: Sure, you have to spend money to build it, right? But you do your market research, you see what’s trending, you see where fashion is leading, and you say “Okay, this fits”, and it didn’t. But that’s okay, because it’s about instinct. Entrepreneurs have to have instinct. You can’t be numb. If you feel it and it feels good and you feel great about the research that you’ve done, you feel great about the integrity of what you’re building, you go for it.
I had the same instincts on the Starter brand, that’s extremely successful for me right now. I wore it when I played, I was a spokesperson for it, I was building a jacket program, and I wanted to get the starter label on it because we were recreating the scene from Coming To America with Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall; Eddie had the Mets on and Arsenio had the Jets on, and they had all the buttons and everything on it, and I said “I wanna do this, but I want it authenticated”, and I was able to reach out to the folks at Iconix, the IP holder, and asked for permission to do it. I said “You know what, I think it’s time to bring this entire movement back.”
So we worked together with Iconix, I got the license for the brand, and it has been on fire. Instincts felt good, I built it the right way, I made sure that the integrity of the product was as authentic as it used to be, and I knew there was a generation of millennials and even people that are of my age group or a little younger that had an emotional connection with the brand. This was a brand that resonated even before Nike started to enter into sport. So there’s heritage, these are the guys that created what we know as sports fashion, as sideline apparel. These are the guys that were innovators, they created that, so I brought it back and it is on fire right now. I’m very excited and I’m very glad I trusted that instinct as well.
Joe Fairless: Oh yeah. You’ve got the pullover Starter jackets…
Carl Banks: That’s the breakaway, yes sir.
Joe Fairless: Yeah… I do have a place in my heart for that, and I think I will be getting one after our conversation.
Carl Banks: Yeah, you should break your old one out, but yeah, Starter.com… We do a great job. But the number one thing I wanted to do when I got permission to do it from the NFL, and then I went to Iconix and they granted me the rights to the license, the first thing I wanted to do was find out where the product was made, so I looked in the old jackets to see what country of origin they were made in, and then we tracked down and I have three people on my staff that actually worked for Starter during that period.
They knew some people, and we tracked down the original factory, and we’re still working with that factory to make sure that we have some level of authenticity to it.
Joe Fairless: That’s incredible.
Carl Banks: And how about this? This is something for entrepreneurs to know about, too – I also went to the vintage dealers, because those guys are so true to the essence of the product, because they sell it… I became really good friends with — there’s a guy here in New York, he has a vintage store called Mr. Throwback, and he specializes in Starter jackets. So I went to him to make sure I had all the details right, and if there was a detail off, he talked to me about it and we got it right. So also bring an outside, expert point of view into what your thought — you’re not surrendering your thought process, you’re just perfecting it.
Joe Fairless: The final question — actually, I have two questions… This is the penultimate question – how do you identify the people to be on your team as advisors? Because I’m sure through your connections throughout the years you’ve got a rather large rolodex, so really the challenge is identify who you should really closely associate yourself to?
Carl Banks: Well, you find out what people’s core competencies are. It could be people that you admire for what they accomplish. You start to pick their brain, you have conversations. Again, like I said, eyes remember what your ears forget. So if you’re very observing and you see how people do things, you learn about them and you say “Well, maybe that can apply to what I do.”
The same principle applies when I hire someone. I still to this day — I didn’t think I was that tough, but my current men’s activewear designer, I almost sent to home in tears, because I kept making her do projects and I kept challenging her because I lost a very good designer, and I was really in a good space in terms of how my product looked and where it sold at retail, and I kind of had carved out a position, and I didn’t wanna lose ground to my competition, and I was fond of the designer I lost.
So the next person in – she’s not a kid, she’s a young lady… But her mother was in and she was like, “Mommy, would you tell him how hard I took it?” I’m like, “I didn’t think I was that tough, but I just wanted to know that you were good enough and that we were gonna have great product.” I could not say more great things about her to this day, because she is just incredible. She actually took our activewear to a whole other level.
Joe Fairless: Wow. As a business owner and entrepreneur it’s incredible what you’ve accomplished, and I’ll give my summary here in a second. But before I do, what if anything would you like to mention that we haven’t talked about?
Carl Banks: Well, I would say you’ve gotta have a work/life balance. I think people that are so driven – and I’ve been there before – they don’t have a life. I think health is important, I think you have to do something you like outside of the things you wanna create, like work… Because entrepreneurs often multitask from different ideas, but I think a healthy mind and body is important as well, and I think you need to have balance in that, and if you’re an entrepreneur with a family, you definitely need work/life balance there, because the sober reality is your failure sometimes can bleed into your personal life, and you don’t want that.
You wanna have a balance where people are rooting for you, you wanna create cheerleaders. If you fail, you don’t wanna come home and be looked at as a failure; you want everybody bought in. You wanna have a life where everybody’s proud of every effort that you have, so that they’re your cheerleaders and they’re like “Okay, what do we wanna do next? If this one didn’t work, we’re gonna do the next thing.”
Joe Fairless: With your company, how can the Best Ever listeners check out the products that you licensed? Where can we go to look at that?
Carl Banks: Well, we have a website, giii.com, but starter.com is another place. Fanatics – if you’re just going to Fanatics.com and you type in any of our brands, meaning Starter G-III For Her, G-III By Carl Banks, you’ll see all of our products. I do Hands High for Jimmy Fallon, I’m partners with Alyssa Milano who is the number one fashion, maybe sports apparel brand, Touch By Alyssa Milano… So she has literally changed the game.
We met probably ten years ago at a trade show and she said she wanted to do women’s apparel that didn’t look like men’s product, that was (as she said) “shrink it and pink it.” So she had an idea – talk about an entrepreneur – she said “This is what I want it to look like. Give me a designer, give me staff”, and away she went. Now I think she is the leader in high-end fashion for women’s sports apparel.
Joe Fairless: Wow. I will include those links in the show notes page. Carl, lastly, as someone who — I believe your company works with investors, right? I see an Investor Relations–
Carl Banks: Yeah, our corporate company, G-III Apparel is a publicly-traded company, that’s correct.
Joe Fairless: Got it. And I guess my last question is what was the decision-making process to make it a public company versus keeping it private?
Carl Banks: Well, I was not part of that process. Morris Goldfarb and his father and his brother are the ones who took the company public. I joined the company probably two years into that process. They had just gone public. So what I brought was a whole different mindset, because they weren’t even in the licensing business at that time. They had just become outerwear company of the year for some retailer on a Bomber jacket, and I joined the company with the sports licenses, which became a model for how the company would operate, because the margins were so much better… Now you’re dealing in brands instead of commodities.
So now, if you look at the G-III portfolio, outside of my sports business, you’ll see names like Calvin Klein, Karl Lagerfeld, Andrew Marc, Kenneth Cole, Cole Haan, Levi’s, G.H. Bass are all brands that we corporately license or own outright. We own DKNY (Donna Karan) now, we own G.H. Bass, we own Karl Lagerfeld… So we have brands now so that we can remain important at the retail level, and just not a commodity black or brown dress, or suit, or jacket.
Joe Fairless: Carl, thank you for being on the show and sharing life lessons along the way…
Carl Banks: I appreciate it, man.
Joe Fairless: This is incredible, very insightful, and I’m very grateful that we were able to catch up and learn more about your approach, from the very beginning — or from the beginning of when we started our conversation, where you talked about lessons learned from your summer job, digging graves, to just your overall approach where you can [unintelligible [00:39:06].29] a lot from people by observing them; sometimes you wanna be less of a talker and more of an observer, and how you’ve applied that towards business. Sometimes people talk too much, they’re overtalkers, and perhaps there is something that is lurking just beneath the surface there, whether they’re insecure or hiding something or whatever.
Then life challenges or business challenges – you had Reebok come in and took away basically a 30 million dollar account. You had to hustle, you went after the private companies and lost only 5%-10%, but then you got it back 18 months later, plus you’ve got all these private companies, so you grew tremendously through that experience… And the whole thought process, what would Belichick or Parcells do… It’s funny, I had a challenge in my business when I was starting out and I thought “What would a billionaire do?” So it’s still having the thought process of someone else at a higher level at the time of where you’re at would be doing…
And then being proactive and opportunistic… Holy cow, playing a football game and then doing the radio show when no one else is doing it, then bringing on sponsors… And if we don’t have that level of ambition and proactiveness that you naturally have, then your advice is to be curious, ask questions and learn. From learning, you will grow, and then that leads to more questions, and naturally, there’s more growth.
Thanks for being on the show. I hope you have a best ever day, Carl, and we’ll talk to you soon.
Carl Banks: Alright, man.