Jeff Leitman is the Founder of Killer Concepts. The DotCom Magazine editorial team has awarded Killer Concepts as an Impact Company of 2019, and we are delighted to have Jeff join us for our Leader Round Table Interview. The Killer Concepts story is very interesting, and we are very excited to not only interview Jeff, but also put Jeff through our popular speed round as well!
Jeff, thank so much for taking the time out of your busy day for this interview, and answering some questions about leadership, your vision, and your passion.
1. Can you describe what the “elevator pitch” for Killer Concepts is?
It is my pleasure to be here.
Killer Concepts designs and manufactures Smartphone accessories and wireless devices. We sell them under our brands and primarily through the retail channel across the United States, Canada, and in other countries. Our team controls all aspects, from product design to sourcing and logistics, and from packaging to sales and operations.
2. Many of our readers are just starting to build a company. What advice can you give CEO’s just starting out regarding keeping a company moving forward, and please tell us the key to your company’s success?
That’s a tough question.
There are so many types of companies, and each at different phases. The strategy for keeping your company moving forward will depend on your business cycle, the size and potential of your market, and your position to exploit the market opportunity.
There are capital concerns as you build out your platform, and it is critical to have the right team members.
For Killer Concepts, keeping the company moving forward has been about focusing on long term goals, and investing in near, medium- and long-term initiatives at each step along the way. As we have grown, we have reinvested our capital in R&D, investing in processes, and by taking on new risks.
As a leader, you are the driving force to making these things happen. I like analogies, and while I wear many hats in my organization, being the wind in the company’s sails is the most important. That takes energy, and a commitment to succeeding.
3. For other entrepreneurs seeking to build a business as successful as Killer Concepts, what advice can you give them when times get a little challenging?
We have had our fair share of challenges, and we continue to make it harder on ourselves than it needs to be. That’s part of growing up, and that’s part of learning.
A company is like a platform, and leveraging that platform is how you make money. Growing the platform is investment, then you seek to leverage that larger platform. Regardless of your company, keeping capacity ahead of demand is critical to maintaining good customer service, but over building your capacity will stretch your cash flow. Balance is the key.
When things are hardest, the answer almost always comes down to patience. What is ahead of you is what you can control, so it starts with making plans to succeed.
For me, that process always involves a lack of sleep and high levels of stress as I work-out our strategy. My kids make fun of me as they see my lips moving as I talk to myself all the time; trying to figure things out. I rely on my network of friends and mentors, mostly other business owners who may not have faced the same challenges but have faced similar types of obstacles.
In the end, find comfort in knowing that you are not alone, and trust your team members to step up and show leadership when you need them most.
4. How important is the commitment to client satisfaction at Killer Concepts, and how do you make sure your customers will become raving fans of your company?
Customer satisfaction, and by that, I mean the end-user, your distributors and partners, vendors, suppliers, and your employees, are all part of a force multiplier that builds your company’s prospects and strengthens your platform.
A long-term company cannot live on short term goals. And client satisfaction is the ultimate long-term insurance policy. Surviving hard times and mistakes is possible if you carry goodwill and the support of your partners.
At Killer Concepts, there is no higher initiative. As a CEO, I am hands on with all levels of customer service, and I set the example to establish our standards.
5. What is the one thing Killer Concepts does to have great communication with their customers?
We believe in honesty and to address the elephant in the room in overcoming challenges. Good communication is more than about being clear, it is about answering the questions that haven’t been asked and anticipating the objections that are beneath the surface.
Being overly honest can be painful too. A few years back, we celebrated our largest order to date. We ramped up production and scheduled our shipments closely to deliver on time. But things don’t always go as planned, as we experienced delays in securing Ocean capacity, then our shipment was tagged for Customs inspection, adding 2-3 weeks to a project that was already behind schedule.
We updated our customer regularly, but 2 days before the goods arrived at our DC, the order was cancelled. It was a dark day for Killer Concepts. In retrospect, perhaps we over communicated, and had we communicated differently, perhaps that order would have been filled. We’ll never know, but we survived.
6. In today’s fast changing business environment, what do you do to keep up with the changes? What do you read to stay abreast of things?
Getting out of the office and into the real world is the best way to see opportunity and to see changes in the market.
As the CEO, I feel that I am a time traveler in many ways. Just as you can move up and down your P&L to plan investments and decisions, you can do so by moving up your supply chain.
At Killer Concepts, I see the future when I travel to Asia to see our factories. There is so much innovation going on at every level. Understanding the tech and integrating it into our product designs helps to keep us fresh.
An early mentor once told me, ‘if you have passion for something, overcoming obstacles becomes a fun’. I enjoy reading tech news and reviews and learning about how things work. Integrating new ideas into projects excites me and gives our company the energy needed to succeed.
7. What is your “Why”? Why do you get up in the morning, and how do you keep yourself at peak performance to lead Killer Concepts?
There are two ways I can answer this…
First, I am a dreamer, and I dream of running a large and successful company. Life is short, and we don’t get many second chances, so I want to make the most of it.
Often though, the fear of failing, or letting down my family and employees, is the extra kick in the shorts that gets me to the office early, and keeps my mind occupied late into the night.
But ultimately, I love my company, and while there are often hard times, the idea of what we can be excites me.
8. Can you recommend a book that has had an influence in your career? How did it influence you?
Making mistakes is a daily theme in my life and learning from them has been the silver lining of them all.
When I read, I am generally drawn to historical non-fiction, and am fascinated when I read about how big decisions were made, and in the mistakes others have made before me.
I don’t read as much as I should, and I when I do, it is often to escape so that I can return to my thoughts with a fresh perspective.
But when things go badly, I often think back to Walter Isaacson’s book on Steve Jobs, and revel in Steve’s flaws and mistakes as inspiration that we can overcome anything. (And marvel in his successes of course).
9. When communicating with your staff at Killer Concepts, can you tell us the most important thing you do so that they are able to carry out the objectives that you set forth at as the leader?
Managing people is about balance. I give people room to explore their creativity and processes, and so that they can find satisfaction within their workplace.
But managing them also means following up and making sure they are on the right path. It starts with good communication and discipline.
I have struggled over the years getting people on boarded and productive, and it can take patience as we learn how to work together. For some, giving people the 10,000-foot view early-on inspires their creativity, while others need task-one direction. As people become more seasoned and engaged, the communication can be simplified and the results can exceed your vision.
In basketball, there is a concept called a force multiplier, where groups working together can overcome more talented groups working separately. In business it is the same and figuring out how to align people towards the same goals becomes a competitive advantage in your space.
10. In one sentence, can you give some advice to fellow entrepreneurs wishing to build a company as exciting as Killer Concepts?
Be deliberate and loyal to your long-term goals.
We would like to have some fun and do a “First Reaction” round with you! We will ask you ten more questions that we want you to answer in just one to three words only.
Here you go!
1. In three words or less, what makes a successful CEO?
Leader, visionary, risk-taker
2. Describe Killer Concepts in one word?
3. Describe Killer Concepts customers in one word?
4. What one attribute do you look for when hiring an employee for Killer Concepts?
5. What is the one word you want your customers to say about Killer Concepts?
6. In three words or less, describe your passion?
Family and legacy
7. In three words or less, describe what it takes to be successful?
Committed and focused.
8. In three words or less, describe your first year in business at Killer Concepts?
9. In three words or less, describe how running a successful company has changed you?
10. What is the one word that you believe has the most power in the English Language?
Jeff Leitman, thank you so much for sitting down with us at our DotCom Magazine Impact Player Round Table. We very much appreciate the time you spent helping others to learn more about what it takes to be a leader. We hope your interview helps our readers, and we wish you, your family, and of course Killer Concepts, nothing but the best.