Shaper: Jamie Fuller

Show aired on 18th June 2016

Transcript

Elliot Moss
Billy Taylor with I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free, another one of my favourite all-time tracks. Good morning this is Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss here on Jazz FM. Jazz Shapers is where you get to hear the very best of the people who are shaping the world of jazz, blues and soul and I put them right alongside in the face of the very best people who are shaping the world of business and we call them Business Shapers. I am really pleased to say that my Business Shaper today is a super interesting person called Jaimie Fuller; the Chairman of Skins and if you haven’t heard of them, they are the sports compression wear business, an amazing concept which many big sports men and women have bought into. You will be hearing lots from him not just about business but a lot to do with values and mission and purpose and it is going to be fantastic. In addition to hearing from Jaimie, you will be hearing from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya, some words of advice for your business and then of course there is the music and we have got a scintillating mix today from the shapers of jazz, blues and soul that includes Robert Cray is one, Gilberto Gill is another and this is from Dinah Washington.

That was Dinah Washington with Mad About The Boy. Its iconic, another iconic track here on Jazz Shapers. Jaimie Fuller is my Business Shaper today; he is the Chairman of Skins, the sports compression wear business and he has been since 2002 and without any further ado, hello and thank you very much for joining me.

Jaimie Fuller
Hey Elliot.

Elliot Moss
Now Jaimie, tell me a bit about this business that you got into because it was pretty close to when it was founded and you are one of those people that we have on the programme sometimes that hasn’t actually founded the business but essentially has become the heart and soul and everything else. What got you into this business way back then?

Jaimie Fuller
Yeah it’s actually really a fascinating concept and it was the first business to introduce the notion of taking in adjacent technology which was enhancing circulation through compression which we know from the medical channel for people that are recovering from operations or old people, sick people, infirm people and the original founder had this brilliant idea about taking that technology and applying it to 21st century fabrics and making it applicable not just for healthy people but uber healthy people… for elite athletes. And if you can enhance circulation you can deliver more oxygen to your muscles and you can get a performance boost and so this was six years in development from 1996 to 2002, launched in April 2002 and effectively was broke by December and that was when I stepped in. I came in in December 2002 and took over the business then.

Elliot Moss
At that point, what were you up to? What were you doing before Skins?

Jaimie Fuller
Yeah look I’ve had a fairly mixed background.

Elliot Moss
It’s all going to come out you do know that?

Jaimie Fuller
Yeah I’ve…

Elliot Moss
Full disclosure.

Jaimie Fuller
…played piano in a brothel.

Elliot Moss
That’s not true it’s okay.

Jaimie Fuller
No. Other than a couple of years living in the French Alps in a ski resort, then I got into the printing industry and manufacturing. Then set up a separate printing sales business, then property development and then it seemed like the perfect training to get into consumer brand building!

Elliot Moss
Well I was going to say there’s not really an actual Segway there but that’s kind of interesting in itself. What has made you? Because this business is now I think north of twenty million in revenue. It’s in a whole heap of countries, I am going to say a number and it’s going to be more but probably over forty countries.

Jaimie Fuller
Well done, forty three.

Elliot Moss
Good, that was lucky. What did prepare you for that?

Jaimie Fuller
Absolutely nothing.

Elliot Moss
So what was it on the job that you managed to get your head round so quickly?

Jaimie Fuller
I was bored out of my brain doing what I was doing before, both in printing and also in property development. Did very well in the printing sales business. Did extremely well in the property development business but felt incredibly unfulfilled and was looking for something that was challenging, something that was new, something that I could learn on and something that I felt I could contribute to as well so this came up and I saw it and I thought ‘well what a great opportunity, what a huge risk but what a potentially incredible return’.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for much more from my Business Shaper Jaimie Fuller as he tells the story of risk which has turned into some fantastic results. Time for some more music, one of Jaimie’s favourites apparently, it’s Robert Cray and it’s The Robert Cray Band with Fine Yesterday.

That was Robert Cray with Fine Yesterday. I have been talking to Jaimie Fuller who is my Business Shaper today and he is the Chairman of the business called Skins and we were just finding out that you had absolutely no preparation for the job you were about to do but that you, if I was listening to you correctly, you kind of done pretty well in the things you have done before so probably if there was the DNA of success in there then they found the right person. In those early years what were you seeking to do? You said it was a risk. What was the risk for you and how did you translate that into something that has become more than just a sports brand which we will come on to pretty shortly?

Jaimie Fuller
Well first of all it was on product. It was a pair of long tights – that was it. And for the first two years we had to try and establish our credibility if you like as a performance product and for the first two years the majority of the revenues that we generated were for sales to elite athletes so we did sell to the public but the greater percentage was to elite athletes and when I say to elite athletes, we were selling at full retail price with a 10% discount for bulk which we didn’t appreciate at the time, we genuinely didn’t appreciate it because none of us running the business came from sport and if we had come from sport we would have gone into this with a preconceived notion that you cannot sell to elite athletes. I mean you imagine going to Manchester United and making them pay not just to wear your product but to be seen to be wearing your product and that was that was really revolutionary later on when we came to do our first marketing campaign. That was the insight that shaped our initial marketing campaign which was ‘we don’t pay sports stars to wear our products, they pay us’ and we had I think at that stage in 2005 something like twelve premier league teams buying them, just about every elite Australian sporting club and professional team was buying them so we were becoming hugely successful at the very top of the pyramid which was a great place to start then working down the pyramid and marketing to consumers.

Elliot Moss
It strikes me and that, even that position that you took you know ‘we don’t pay sports stars’. To many people that would have been bonkers and most people as you said in the sports industry would have said so but it also strikes me that your attitude to doing what you just think is the right thing to do is not a risk to you even though other people may perceive it as such. Have you always been like that? Have you always been like ‘well I just see it like that and that’s how we are going to do it’ or is there a more of an analytical element that you would let on?

Jaimie Fuller
Oh no there’s no one else, there is no one. So for example when I bought the business I bought it in two hours. I had a meeting with the original founder that went for two hours. I left. I went and sat in my car and I rang him and I said ‘you are evidently in trouble’; because he didn’t say that but I could tell from the conversation, I said, ‘how much do you need and when do you need it?’ and he said, ‘yes we are’ and he said, ‘this is how much I need and if I don’t get it in six days then we close the business down’. So there and then on the phone I said, ‘right I’ll cut you a cheque in three days times’. So there was no due diligence, there was no balance sheet, there was no PML. There were just the very basics. So a lot of it is on gut instinct. But that tends to be the way that I do a lot of the stuff I do.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for more gut instinct from Jaimie Fuller, my Business Shaper today. Latest travel in a couple of minutes and before that as you probably know, some words of wisdom I hope for your business from our programme partners at Mishcon De Reya.

You are listening to Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss every Saturday morning from 9.00 to 10.00 here on Jazz FM. I am very lucky because I get to meet someone who is shaping the world of business. If you have missed any of the previous and there are over two hundred now, then iTunes is your destination, just put in the words ‘Jazz’ and ‘Shapers’. If you would like to Tweet then @jazzfm is your Twitter handle you should use today and please do feel free to do so. Jaimie Fuller is my Business Shaper today and he is the Chairman of Skins as I said earlier. Your business, you bought this business with no due diligence. The cheque arrived in three days. You had to do that. You built it quite quickly I think. You got credibility in the market. The bit that many people won’t know (a) if they hadn’t heard of Skins they will do now but (b) they won’t know then that you sort of become a campaigner – I don’t know any other way to put it – where you have placed really important issues around corruption or rather anti-corruption and around gender equality and around all sorts of diversity. Stuff that generally pressure groups do or activists do. You’ve taken them on whether its corruption in the world of cycling, whether it’s corruption on the track, whether it’s football. At what point did that become important to you and why?

Jaimie Fuller
So in 2009 we sat down and said great brands have got principles, great brands have got values, great brands believe in something it’s not just a question of putting a logo on a product and sticking it on a shelf and we need to define what ours are and we went through this amazing process where we articulated what we stood for as fuelling the true spirit of competition and certainly for the first three years that was about everything that happened on the pitch, on the field, on the track. That was about championing great acts of sportsmanship, about condemning acts of cheating and it was having a very clear point of view about what sport means for us in a competitive sense right. It was about, it was about you know, people diving on the football pitch and saying ‘look I am sorry that’s not keeping within the value of the great Corinthian values of sport’ and then in 2012 Lance Armstrong here and we initially came out and said, ‘this is terrible Lance you know, you’ve let us all down’ but very quickly realised that this wasn’t a Lance Armstrong problem, this was a cultural issue in cycling of doping and that lead us on a journey which exposed us to levels of corruption at the UCI, the global governing body of cycling which then lead us to start a reform campaign which we never thought we’d succeed. It was really one of those moments where we said ‘it would be wrong without values not to stand up and say something and do something about this just because we think that we’ll fail’. So we kicked that off and that went for pretty close to twelve months and I am delighted to say that we were successful in October 2013 in removing the President of the UCI and seeing him replaced by an Englishman, a Pommie man of course, who is now the current President of the UCI.

Elliot Moss
Now I get that if you’ve agreed that your purpose and your ethos is going to be around fuelling the true spirit of competition and many brands, they come up with these things and they kind of do nothing with them or they do a little bit. I understand that and I understand it makes good business sense on a level as well. I get that too. But beyond the kind of, the rational business bit of it, what inside of you has made you feel so comfortable challenging other organisations which you are now doing – you’ve done with football and – what is it that drives the why? I am really interested in why you? Why aren’t you kind of just beyond paying lip service, people do more than that but you’ve gone much further than that Jaimie?

Jaimie Fuller
Yeah well look interestingly, certainly when it hit the fan in the cycling world with Armstrong I, we play in cycling, we are in cycling and we are not a huge cycling brand and I sat back thinking the sponsors will come in and say something of course, that’s obvious that there is going to be some sort of sponsor position and after two weeks nothing happened and I thought well why don’t I? You know, I felt… initially I felt, not fraudulent but I felt like it was wrong for us to do it because you know I figured you would get the big bike brands and the bigger power brands would come in, the cycling brands and like I said, eventually I thought we’ll have a crack and having gone through that journey and realised that this little Australian brand can move the needle significantly in sports governance terms and then being exposed not just to corruption in cycling but other sports because interestingly simultaneously through that journey I realised what had happened in ’88 around Ben Johnson’s race in Saul and the fact is we now know that six of those men in the starting line-up for Ben’s race are dopers whereas some of your older listeners will remember that we were sold this narrative by the ISE, by the IAAF, here’s this bad bastard Ben Johnson this lone cheat which is complete and utter rubbish as having been revealed even more so in the last six months, then it became clear and I was introduced to an underworld of people who actively championed and lobby for reform in sport that this is a much bigger issue so that lead us into other journeys and everything has been justified in my mind through our publicly proclaimed values of fuelling the true spirit of competition which integrally throughout our organisation in our DNA, it’s not a tag line, it’s not a campaign, it forms the foundation of things like our sponsorship strategy. We take that into account with our sponsorship strategy, our comp strategy, our corporate culture, packaging – I mean everything should be woven throughout that and that’s our objective. We are not there yet, we are working on it but it forms the basis of everything we do.

Elliot Moss
More coming up from Jaimie very shortly. Time for some music, here is Gilberto Gill with Toda Menina Baiana.

Gilberto Gill with Toda Menina Baiana. Jaimie you were talking passionately about it’s not just a tag line and I get that and you actually… what I find interesting is the language you use is very much well it’s about the business but you are also very personal about this and I think I am going to push you again on this question of why you. When you described what you did before you took the investment in Skins and it became yours. I still don’t know whether it was when you were younger or something was…

Jaimie Fuller
Okay let me put it to you this way. I’ve always had this very naïve belief in sport and what sport means. If you read my bio the opening line says my sporting ability is inversely proportional to my passion right. I played rugby at school; I was in the 16D’s. The fourth team. We were crap but Jesus we had a great time you know. We loved it and sport was so important to us, particularly in the team context whether in cricket or in rugby and that is something that as a kid I felt helped shape me and the values that came from it and so very naively when you then go into the business of sport late, which I did, it’s not like I went into the business of sport at the age of 18. You are exposed to some of the things that money brings. It breaks your heart, you know, it breaks, it smashes that naïve view that you have.

Elliot Moss
But you talk about money and I that makes sense, you talk about money. Obviously you are a business and you happen to be a campaigning business.

Jaimie Fuller
Absolutely.

Elliot Moss
But you are still all over the fact that you need to make, your revenue needs to go up, your margin needs to up.

Jaimie Fuller
People think that you can either do it ethically or you can make money. You can do both and part of what we are going to do is we are trying to pioneer if you like so certainly pioneering in the sports industry that fact and even today I am still staggered about the silence in the sports industry around all this corruption right. We are not hearing brands stand up and say ‘enough is enough’; we need to do something about this. We are the lone brand which in some respects is great because it gives us as a brand an open microphone if you like to be able to do this but in other respects it is so incredibly disappointing that the biggest brands in the world are silent when so much of this stuff is obvious what’s going on.

Elliot Moss
I am just going to quote a line from your latest blog and it says ‘Our vision is a world in which sports inspires society and we want to use sport to change the world’ and I have a feeling that’s just exactly what you are trying to do every day which is brilliant. Stay with me for my final chat with Jaimie plus we are going to be hearing from Mr James Brown; that’s after the latest traffic and travel.

You don’t mistake a James Brown track for being from anybody else. That was Say It Loud I’m Black and I’m Proud from the one and only Mr James Brown and the one and only Mr Jaimie Fuller is still with me just for a few more minutes. This focus on as you said, it doesn’t have to be one thing or the other or rather kind of the bifocal view of the world. How do you make the mental space to do both or is it just that where one begins the other ends?

Jaimie Fuller
Oh no I think the success can come as a result of the ethical approach I believe and particularly today. I mean this is fairly standard in the marketing world that you look at the millennials and the consumption habits significantly driven by socially progressive brands right so I am really pleased to say that a lot of young people are deciding what they do with their money based on which brands they want to support and what they do. But again this needs to be more than just ticking a CSR box or a campaign and if we can show that this is in our DNA then you know what, the money will come, the success will come.

Elliot Moss
In your own team, the team that you have built across the various places where you operate, do they… do you think they kind of go ‘how do I live up to Jaimie, how do I live up to…’?

Jaimie Fuller
No.

Elliot Moss
Or are you… what kind of… what would they say about you?

Jaimie Fuller
This is still a work in progress. It’s a lot better than it was four years ago. I remember having a fight with my US general manager who said to me, ‘Jaimie what the hell are we doing in the cycling stuff you know, we only do like 1% of our business is cycling, why are we wasting our time?’ and I said, ‘This isn’t about cycling, this is about an ethical debate in sport’ and so there is still the need to continue to change minds. We have gone a long way forward with our guys internally, particularly the lightbulb moment for them was around the work in Katar with the Nepalese workers and the slavery conditions that they are living under and working under all in the name of building a World Cup infrastructure of 2022 and once they were exposed to that imagery and the conditions then it was a lot easier to be able to bring the team along and to get them to say ‘okay yeah I get it, this is a responsibility that we’ve all got to do’. But you’ve still got to make the commercial connection and we are still working on that, we haven’t achieved that yet. We will get there, there is no question and we are convinced that if we do it right then success will come.

Elliot Moss
And if we were chatting in 2022, about your business, what would you say? What would be the two or three things you would say characterise it from a financial point of view and from a campaigning point of view?

Jaimie Fuller
Well obviously as a businessman and an entrepreneur I would love to have a widely successful and hugely financially successful business. I mean that goes without saying, that’s what business people do. But what would probably mean more to me is to know if people, if the consumer were first of all they know our brand and know what we stand for and know what drives our brand and know what our values are and if there is a large number of consumers that say this is awesome, you know, if I have a choice in products I am going to buy Skins because of that very reason.

Elliot Moss
Jaimie, I really hope that happens, I hope in 2022 we have that conversation and if we don’t I will be thinking that we should because I really believe that you are doing some fantastic stuff.

Jaimie Fuller
Thanks Elliot

Elliot Moss
Please continue to do it. Just before I let you go and it’s been a real pleasure chatting to you and quite inspiring actually, it’s nice to hear both sides of the coin being spoken about so eloquently; what’s your song choice today and why have you chosen it?

Jaimie Fuller
It’s Miles Davis and I just, you listen to this track, you listen to this album and you think that this album was cut in the 50s and it is purely timeless. It is staggering, amazing.

Elliot Moss
And I think what you have chosen is So What?

Jaimie Fuller
Exactly, So What.

Elliot Moss
Here we go.

That was Miles Davis with So What, the song choice of my Business Shaper today, Jaimie Fuller. A man who was somewhat open to risk, very comfortable in his role as a disrupter in his business world and indeed in the world in general. A campaigner, someone who has believed for many years and has followed through on it that there should not be any corruption in sport, that sport should be loftier and should do and make us feel fantastic things and someone who has really stuck to his core values, this goes back a long way when he felt that sport should be right up on that pedestal; something that inspires rather than makes us feel depressed. Brilliant stuff. Do join me again same time, same place, that’s next Saturday, 9.00am sharp please here on Jazz FM. In the meantime stay with us because coming up next, its Nigel Williams.

Jaimie Fuller is an Australian businessman who is Executive Chairman of the international sports compression wear company, SKINS (www.skins.net).

A passionate sports fan, he is committed to the SKINS ethos of ‘Fuelling the True Spirit of Competition’ as a central platform of its brand identity. This was illustrated in 2010 when SKINS withdrew their sponsorship of Australian National Rugby League club Melbourne Storm after the club was found guilty of systematically cheating the league’s salary cap to gain an advantage over rival teams.

In 2012, Jaimie founded the international pressure group, Change Cycling Now (CCN). The move was inspired by the growing international criticism of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) and its handling of cycling’s doping issues including the Lance Armstrong scandal. The group included three times Tour de France winner Greg LeMond and investigative journalists David Walsh and Paul Kimmage and added to the global debate on the future of cycling and its governing body.

In 2013, Jaimie established the anti-doping campaign, #ChooseTheRightTrack. This campaign was delivered in combination with a new SKINS platform, Pure Sport (www.puresport.skins.net) which celebrates and promotes the true values of sport free from corruption and drugs. The campaign was a result of a series of discussions between Jaimie and former Olympic 100 metre champion Ben Johnson about workable options to eradicate doping in sport.

In 2014, Jaimie co-founded the movement and campaign #NewFIFANow to reclaim football by calling out and eradicating the serial allegations of corruption and unacceptable governance practises dogging the sport

Following an inaugural forum of stakeholders in the European Parliament in January 2015, Jaimie declared SKINS an ‘Official Non-Sponsor’ of FIFA in light of the vastly divergent values of SKINS and FIFA.

Jaimie is a regular commentator on integrity in sport and sports governance issues. He blogs regularly at watercooler.skins.net.

Listen live at 9am Saturday.

“I was bored out of my brain doing what I was doing before, both in printing and in property development.”

“Imagine going to Manchester United and making them pay not just to wear your product but to be seen to be wearing your product.”

“When I bought the business I bought it in two hours. I had a meeting with the original founder. I left. I sat in my car and rang him and said, ‘look, let’s cut the crap, you are evidently in trouble’.”

“Great brands have got values, great brands believe in something.”

“I was introduced to an underworld of people who actively championed and lobbied for reform in sport.”

“Everything has been justified in my mind through our publicly proclaimed values of fuelling the true spirit of competition. It’s not a tag line, it’s not a campaign: it forms the foundation of things like our sponsorship strategy.”

“I’ve always had this very naïve belief in sport and what sport means.  My sporting ability is inversely proportional to my passion…”

“People think that you can either do it ethically or you can make money. You can do both.”

“It is so incredibly disappointing that the biggest brands in the world are silent when so much of what’s going on is obvious.”

“We will get there, there is no question. We are convinced that if we do it right then success will come.”