Their parents were horrified when, one evening in 1998, sons Ian and Shep arrived home, somewhat inebriated, to announce that they had abruptly quit their conventional jobs and were going to start a business designing and selling neckties.
With $8,000 in cash advances from their credit cards, the brothers did just that—and ultimately much more. Their company, Vineyard Vines, has become an iconic
brand and retailing powerhouse. They proved that their approach wasn’t a one-shot success but a durable one, even as fashion tastes—and economic conditions—changed dramatically over the next 22 years.
One unusual path was that they were primarily an online and catalog retailer before they went big-time in traditional retail outlets.
You’ll be fascinated to hear how they’ve cultivated a unique employee- and customer-oriented culture.
You’ll also want to hear how they’ve grappled with the Covid crisis—and what they see ahead for retail.
On the power of the press
IAN MURRAY: “So we knew very early on the power of the press and that, um, you don’t have to spend money to get the word out there. You can do interesting, creative things, um, that, that, you know, resonate with people. Uh, and that has always been our goal that, you know, if you’re doing something that’s worth sharing, you don’t need to pay people to talk about it. You can just do it.”
The importance of trust and appreciation
SHEP MURRAY: “People seem to respond and, and act the way you treat them. So if we give them trust and respect, they’ll, they’ll do the same thing for us. Being able to trust people is, I think, is a very, very hard thing—especially, you know, when you’re an entrepreneur and, you know, get caught up in the minutia. But the reality is is that we can’t run a hundred stores, just the two of us, or an online business. We need a team that we trust, and we’ve got that team. And these are people’s lives, and they want to, they want to do, you know, feel proud of the work that they do as well. And so we’re really proud and appreciative of our team.”
On opportunity and evolution
SHEP MURRAY: “I think there’s so much opportunity today. It’s going out and figuring out what that looks like. I think the great thing about the future is that it’s never been done before. And in retail it’s evolved so quickly. What Ian and I, and our management, our leadership team want to do is evolve.”
Three ways to ensure brand longevity
IAN MURRAY: “It’s our goal that this brand is a strong brand for a long time. And one of the ways we try to make sure that happens, and in our opinion, this should be the basis for pretty much any organization. We have three company goals and they’re pretty universal and they can be applied anywhere. One, make Vineyard Vines, a great place to work. … Take great care of your people … make sure they feel fulfilled, and that they want to do what they do. Two, have a great customer experience. You know, and then three is drive profitable sales growth, and it’s gotta be in that order. It can’t, it can’t be the other way around.”