These aren't the dumpy, attic-smelling consignment stores that we're familiar with in the US, but extremely high-end stores that mimic the feel of an actual Louis Vuitton store. On one side-street alone, Simon counted 10-20 of these high-end stores that were selling pre-owned handbags. That's when inspiration struck him that there may be a business here to start an online version of these high end consignment stores to buy and sell pre-owned luxury goods.
Upon returning to the US, he dove into researching the idea. At first, Simon was hesitant to start a business with his wife since he'd heard all the horror stories of how working with a spouse can create major friction in a marriage. However, he took all the advice in stride, plowed forward, and has never looked back. It's been all good with Eugenia (I certainly hope so since "Yoogi," which is Eugenia's nickname, sure sounds better than Simonscloset, which has a bit of a creepy feel).
Yoogiscloset employs 12 people and is now the leader in the online space for buying and selling pre-owned, authenticated luxury goods. Simon details Yoogiscloset's three main strategic assets as:
(1) Procurement - Simon firmly believes that the company in the space that does the best job of sourcing goods will win. At Yoogiscloset, he's significantly streamlined the procurement process into a competitive advantage. What he's optimized include:
(2) Authentication - Yoogicloset has an unblemished track record of never selling a counterfeit item, which Simon is justifiably proud of. Even allowing one counterfeit on the site is a kiss of death to him. He sees fakes all the time at competitors' sites. He does acknowledge this high level of authentication creates a trade-off since it slows down how quickly items can be processed for sale. But it's non-negotiable to him, and he's not willing to risk his unblemished track record and highly trusted brand.
(3) CLIENT service - Simon gets upset when folks in the company call his clients "customers." He thinks that customers are people who buy a $20 stapler online, not someone who buys a $1000 handbag from Yoogiscloset. They're laser focused on providing stellar client service. In fact, they've spent $0 on marketing. All their growth is based on word-of-mouth advertising which relies on delivering a great client experience.
To guide the hockey stick growth at Yoogiscloset, Simon shared practical leadership and HR tips from Yoogiscloset and his time at his previous startup, Cardomain:
*No surprises - At Cardomain, Simon was once surprised himself to discover that a reviewee of his was caught completely offguard when Simon delivered his performance review. Simon thought to himself, "What's wrong with this person? Do they really not see this?" But now he realizes that it was actually a failing on his part. So now he delivers constant informal feedback and believes that there shouldn't be any surprises during the annual review if the manager has properly done their job throughout the year.
*Linking performance and compensation reviews - At Yoogiscloset, these two are linked together and conducted in one meeting. However, at Cardomain, they separated these two and did them them months apart since they did a lot of 360 reviews with peers reviewing peers. This separation engendered better peer feedback since it decreased the perception that meaningful constructive feedback would ding the person during the compensation review. The reasoning Simon combines these two is because Yoogiscloset currently only has 12 employees, and he finds it more manageable to integrate the two at this point. Plus they do not conduct any 360 peer reviews.
*80/20 breakdown - When holding the annual review meeting, 80% of it is focused on reviewing the results of the past year. 20% is allocated towards goal setting for the upcoming year.
*Meaningful upward reviews - Simon was challenged with this while at Cardomain because how can one provide anonymous upward review and include detailed examples? What they did was bring in an outsider. The consultant interviewed Simon and all the VPs. Then the consultant delivered the upward feedback to the CEO. Simon found that talking to the outside consultant helped depolarize the situation and made people feel more comfortable to provide candid feedback on their boss' performance.
*Conclusion - For many fast-growing companies, they skimp on performance reviews since they claim to be too busy growing. But Simon has struck a good balance of window shopping and adopted the best parts of the performance review process he's experienced from Cardomain and customized it for Yoogiscloset. He combined the performance and annual reviews since his company is smaller yet stripped out the 360 assessments since they are very time-consuming (at Cardomain, some managers would do around 10 performance reviews at a time). Looking forward to how Simon continues to adapt his review process especially as the company continues its meteoric growth.
*Follow @TINYhr on Twitter to get the latest insights and best practices from entrepreneurs as David continues his travels and interviews around-the-world.