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Branding, customer service and how to handle challenges in business; an interview with Emanuel Perdis


Emanuel Perdis is the dynamic Managing Director and co-founder of Napoleon Perdis Cosmetics. He has overseen and implemented double-digit business growth for the brand, every year, for the past fourteen years, turning over $80 million a year, employing a team of almost 500 staff.

Perdis has built an empire over 65 concept stores and over 4,500 point-of-sale locations in Australia and New Zealand. In the United States, the organisation is represented by three concept scores and are over 300 Ulta stores.

In this Q&A Interview with Alex Pirouz, Perdis shares what it takes to create a global brand, why customer service has been a crucial part of the organisation’s success and the best way to handle challenges in business.

In your opinion, what has been the greatest contributing factor to your success?

Focusing on what is important and knowing what is important. I think that is where most business owners can lose it. Having a good balance of macro and micro vision is also important.

Having a dream is important but if you get stuck on the big picture, you miss out on the detail necessary to achieve your dream. By the same token you don’t want to get too technical and analytical because then you don’t move forward.

How did you go about creating a global brand from scratch?

At the end of the day, I think one of the biggest mistakes business owners make when they start is that they don’t see themselves as a seed of what’s to be a global brand. When we first started, we always believed that our brand would be global. Having that perspective and drive from day one, everything you create and express is an expression of that brand and essentially you operate like one.

What are the components necessary for a brand to be successful?

I think it comes down to three things:

  • Authenticity in all that you do
  • Consistency of standards at every point
  • Innovating your product and service

When we started off, the brands that did well then aren’t necessary the ones that are doing well today, so I think business owners need to understand where things are moving and prepare accordingly.

How important has customer service been?

Growing up, me and Napoleon were always around Mum and Dad’s businesses and the one thing we learnt was to ensure that customer experience and enjoyment is always fulfilled every time we deal with a customer. Given that it was something we grew up with, we naturally incorporated it into our business.

How do you go about creating such a loyal fan base?

We have always had a commitment to quality for all our products and services. You can never compromise one bit, you need to always lead the mark. We understand that make-up and cosmetics are fashionable items, and with fashion comes coolness, so we always strived to become involved in and work with people and occasions that are cool. By doing this we created a level of association which then reflected onto our brand and image.

What is the hardest thing about launching a company from conception?

Capital, because being young, banks and financial institutions don’t take you seriously. We quickly learnt that cash flow was more important than profitability. You can be very profitable but sink because cash flow is not good. Learning how to manage and juggle cash flow was extremely difficult.

Where do most entrepreneurs go wrong in business and why?

I think lack of commitment and awareness of the sacrifices needed to grow a company would be the top two. People are generally afraid to think big, so therefore are not driven by big dreams and find it easy to drop off at the early stages of business.  Never allow yourself or your business to become stagnant, always innovate.

Where do you see business in the next 5 years?

I believe in the next five years businesses will strive to keep becoming more and more experiential. Places where customers want to be and hang out and developing products that customers feel compelled to have.

Customers want to experience something different and visit places where it is not just a shopping habit but more a recreational activity.

What was the main reason why you started your own business? Was it to make money, change the industry, leave a legacy, etc?

I think ego is a very strong driver, having your name and products up in lights and being recognised. That to me is a very honest motive. Having control over your own destiny was also another reason, because the rewards in life are in relation to your work ethic and risks you do and don’t take.

How do you measure success in business?

This all depends on whether or not you have achieved your goals or well on your way to achieving them.

How do you deal with challenges and setbacks in business?

I think it is always good to keep your advisors close to you, so your senior managers, bank mangers, lawyers, etc. Nothing should be a surprise to you, you should have processes, procedures and people in place that can tell you if something is not working or is heading down the wrong path so that you can navigate around or through it.

In business there will always be rough periods, it all really comes down to sheer old-fashioned tenacity. You just have to believe that you can and will get through whatever you are facing in that moment.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs who are looking to start their own business?

First and foremost I would advise any entrepreneur looking to start their own business to answer one simple question: is this what you really want? Having a very thorough and good idea about what they want, what will be involved in what they want, the kind of sacrifices needed, and understanding why they want it before starting their business will help create the expectations, drive and focus required to get through and endure the game of business.

Alex Pirouz is the founder of RIDC Advisory Pty Ltd, a Business and Sales Advisory firm partnering with the top 1% of Australia’s largest and fastest growing companies to further increase their sales revenue. (Visit www.ridc.com.au for more details)