Before founding the outdoors apparel company Team Magnus in 2010, Kristine Moody used to work as the European stock market commentator for CNBC in London. She also worked as a graduate trainee for the Financial Teams in London, as well. Finally, she was also the editor of a Norwegian business magazine called Kapital, which gave her the understanding she needed on how small companies are started, and how they eventually grow.
After returning to the United Kingdom, Kristine Moody realized that kids in the UK do not have access to all-season outdoors activities, compared to the kids in her native Scandinavia. She saw a business opportunity and took it. With a team of product designers and manufacturers in Europe and China, she developed a diverse line of cool-looking and fun outdoors gear for kids and tweens. Her son Magnus and his friends also became the company’s first product testers. Now, Team Magnus continues to flourish in the industry, having secured a partnership with USA Nordic to “become the leading kids’ snowsports brand in China ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics 2022.”
Her beliefs and mindset have led Kristine Moody to grab the opportunity to pitch to top entrepreneurs Jo Malone and Richard Branson in 2015 for the TV competition “Pitch to Rich,” joining a field of over 1000 companies.
Jerome Knyszewski: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Kristine Moody: We’re quite anti-strategy. We’re more impulsive. I was always a huge fan of military history and in a business sense, we’re fairly guerilla. For instance, Amazon had closed its warehouses for inbound inventory in mid-March, and Team Magnus had the majority of our balance sheet tied up in containers in transit and our warehouse destination and regular distribution wiped out. Our operations manager set up a parallel system with the help of UPS within weeks — which was painstaking work for a company without a U.S. UPS account at the time the crisis struck. At times, none of the platforms were synched, and we sat up for hours pasting thousands of trackers manually. However, summer sales rose from $1.5 million to $4 million year on year, so Team Magnus’ guerilla tactics worked.
Jerome Knyszewski: Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Kristine Moody: I love mixing with a completely different crowd. I founded Team Magnus with my husband in 2010, and he left both the family and the business two years in. Team Magnus was a huge responsibility entirely on my own, and my kids were 8, 6 and 3 years old with their father suddenly in a different country. During that time, I took up rugby again, which I used to play at university, and being around such a carefree bunch of young students was the best reboot for me.
Incidentally, at the rugby club, I got to know a 19-year old English woman, tough as nails, smart as a whip. When she graduated 3 years later, I recruited her as a logistics trainee, and she’s been the driver of all our operational successes the last couple of years.
Jerome Knyszewski: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Kristine Moody: My daughter’s godfather, Thomas Pulpan, founded a coffee chain in Scandinavia in 1995 and he’s my go-to for sound practice. He and his partner have shown by example: Thomas would wake at 4 am, do the baking, open the store, serve coffee all day, close the store, and do the accounts in the evenings. They now own 40+ stores around Oslo with hardly any outside investment. It’s the most profitable coffee chain in Scandinavia. In their view, more “wannabe” chain founders should spend time on carpentry, rent negotiation, counting footfall and less on concept discussions. He’s a nuts and bolts manager, and that’s the template I’ve followed with Team Magnus.
Jerome Knyszewski: Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?
Kristine Moody: A good company has loyal customers or clients. A great company also recruits new customers or clients with ease.
Jerome Knyszewski: What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?
Kristine Moody: I can’t see a risk-free way of doing that. You can see how the international fast-moving consumer goods corporations are buying up all the fun young brands. It’s because their own culture has become staid. Either they have to keep paying a premium to buy up creative teams, or they have to look at how they reward fails and successes in-house.
Jerome Knyszewski: Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
Kristine Moody: Team Magnus has made a conscious decision to keep making investments which we know likely won’t pay off for another 18–24 months. We are doing that despite weak consumer confidence instead of protecting our cash reserves because I don’t want to jeopardize Team Magnus’ fast growth rate through caution now. Our sales trajectory for 2019, 2020 and 2021 has gone from $2 million to $4.5 million to $8 million. I’ll take whatever managerial challenges come with continued spending rather than stand still. Throughout the years, I’ve self-funded Team Magnus and raised my three kids alone in a foreign country, so there’s nothing much I think of as being too hard.
The timing is probably great to invest in digital assets — if others are freezing their PR or marketing budgets, now is a good time to buy services from professional firms.
Jerome Knyszewski: In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Kristine Moody: Team Magnus’ return rate is 4% — it has been for years. That’s exceptional in e-commerce. That’s the decisive factor in our double-digit net profit margin. We really engage about product flaws, wrong sizes, missed deliveries, and we work hard to replace instead of just issuing refunds. Team Magnus has a team of responders — in six different languages — always within a few hours. An Italian wetsuit buyer will have a reply in her own language sometimes within minutes. In other companies this is not prestigious work — in Team Magnus it’s the beating heart of operations. It’s why we have double-digit net profit margin.
Jerome Knyszewski: Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?
Kristine Moody: Team Magnus’ responders pick up on any details from the customers’ emails and echo it. Birthday deadlines, special needs, the age of the children, is the product intended for siblings? We know people are anxious when they place back orders for kids for example — we understand that a birthday gift arriving a day late is completely different from an inkjet printer arriving a day late. If one of our colleagues has promised that a surf poncho will arrive in time for a birthday, and there’s a warehouse delay or something else, we will literally overnight a $30 item instead of letting a parent down.
Particularly with regional lockdowns easing in the summer, we heard from grandparents who were hosting their families for the first time in months. Team Magnus knows how much thought and anticipation was involved! We worked late into the night to identify lost parcels, to chase up depots, to send out replacements so that a Team Magnus slip and slide and bodyboards could be a fun part of the family reunion. Read the room. We avoid stock responses, we stay emphatic.
Jerome Knyszewski: What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.
Kristine Moody: There’s definitely a consumer culture of complaining about quality on social media instead of via email or through customer care support lines. Most companies have a CRM system and that of course links to email accounts or their sales platform accounts. So when customers push for a more casual handling of refunds or returns, you’re creating loads of extra steps in-house which add cost.
The public damage of negative social media posts is maybe similar to that of negative reviews. A well-run company which cares about its customers doesn’t run a lot of risks in my opinion. I’d focus on the actual operations rather than on the mirror image which you see on social media or in reviews.
Jerome Knyszewski: What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Kristine Moody: VCs and fundraising platforms have created a very forgiving investor culture. Patient capital sounds fantastic, but it has also rewarded talk over execution. Is a bold strategy really bold if it’s not your money?
I know others who are really keen on putting together a prestigious board of directors. Or they hire really fast. Your job description pretty much becomes hiring. I’m skeptical. I don’t see much talk about productivity per employee in business reporting, but to me that’s a good yardstick.
Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Kristine Moody: My experience of managing cashflow borders on the traumatic. Your products could be great, your KPIs are all scoring high, your team is working well, and yet your whole working week is spent on managing payments if there’s a systemic delay. My parents have lent me money, and I cope well with the paperwork needed for loans and grants, but better business minds than me have no one to lean on.
Fixing credit for people without that kind of network is a vacuum right now. Business banking is cautious, so much equity investment has gone to the same hot sectors with the same hot jargon, and peer to peer lending is badly priced. Couldn’t all the data we have from the micro-lending industry in Asia and Africa — data about how to identify responsible borrowers — guide us in Europe and the US? Right now so many small businesses are on the line, great food trucks, great artisans, brilliant shopkeepers. There must be lessons we can learn from countries which have always had lower buffers on how to get money to the right people fast.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Kristine Moody: You can check us out at team-magnus.com. We’re also on Facebook (@TeamMagnusAdventures), on Twitter (@TM_adventures), on Instagram (@teammagnus), and on Pinterest (@teammagnus).
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!