Shaper: Matt Lumb

Show aired on 15th July 2017

Transcript

Elliot Moss
Shirley Horn with her take on the classic Mack The Knife. Good morning this is Jazz Shapers, I’m Elliot Moss thank you very much for joining. Jazz Shapers is where you can hear the worlds of music and business collide. Alongside the shapers of the world of jazz, blues and soul I bring someone who is shaping the world of business and I’m very pleased to say that my Business Shaper which is what we call them, my Business Shaper this morning is Matt Lumb and Matt is the CEO and Director of Tangle Teezer and Tangle Teezer for those of you who don’t know are the business that produces a brilliant range of hairbrushes. You’ll be hearing lots from Matt very shortly. In addition to hearing from Matt you’ll be hearing from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya some words of advice for your business and then we’ve got the music and it’s a brilliant mix today. Blue Lab Beats is in there, Classic Cannonball Adderley and this from the one and only Mr Stevie Wonder.

That was Stevie Wonder with Isn’t She Lovely and isn’t that still lovely. Matt Lumb is my Business Shaper today, as I said earlier Matt is the Chief Executive Officer to give him his full title and Director of Tangle Teezer and they are the people that make very, very clever hairbrushes which as I said also my family use. Hello.

Matt Lumb
Hello, thank you for having me.

Elliot Moss
Thank you for being here I’m pleased you are here. We’ve almost done this a few times, we’re very excited Matt, people wouldn’t know that, but we sometimes spend time stalking the people that we’d like on the programme and you’re one of them and you’re one of them because the business has grown dramatically over the last few years. I’d love to know you were an accountant I believe before you moved into the Tangle Teeze world.

Matt Lumb
That’s right.

Elliot Moss
And you were Chief Operating Officer to start with back in 2011. What made you join the Tangle Teezer business and what’s kind of happened since?

Matt Lumb
Well seven years ago it was I met Shaun, seven years ago this month.

Elliot Moss
Shaun’s the Founder?

Matt Lumb
Sorry Shaun Pulfrey is the Founder. He’s the creative guy, he’s the creative influence in the business. I’m not that creative more numbers and operations and all that sort of thing. I was at a conference that I wasn’t supposed to go to and got asked to go to the night before and went along and Shaun was on stage. He’d been asked to say a few words about a software package and I remember watching him on Dragons Den and remember thinking at the time it’s a good product but as so often the business plan wasn’t quite up to much and he didn’t get any investments but I remember thinking at the time it was a good product. I got chatting to him over lunch and basically said you know if I’m good at anything it was putting management information together for non-accountants if that makes sense? So presenting financials to people who don’t live and breathe them and long story short I did a bit of consultancy work for him for six months and then joined full-time at the end of January 2011. Full-time in the office there was just he and I and yeah that seems like a lifetime ago now there’s fifty two of us now I think and the business has changed beyond recognition pretty much year on year.

Elliot Moss
At that point the business turnover roughly two million quid, now we’re looking at around thirty million?

Matt Lumb
That’s correct, yeah.

Elliot Moss
Yeah and at that point I mean it’s an interesting thing to do you go up to someone at a conference that you weren’t meant to be at but obviously that doesn’t matter now because you’re not going to get into trouble for that – what were you drawn to about this guy?

Matt Lumb
He’s really charismatic, he’s really charismatic. He backs himself. He believes completely in himself and the people around him but first and foremost we are a bit of a, in the UK in particular we’re very much a cult brand now but from a functionality point of view it works, it just works and I don’t know, you know, like I said it was not quite a start-up but it had been going a couple of years, I had a pretty secure job up in the North West of England, a six month old baby, I had no plans to move to London whatsoever but I was drawn to him, there was something about him and the product and I knew I could help, I knew I could do something with this brand, with him and it’s been a good fit. His background is all hairdressing and that space, mine isn’t but together it’s worked well.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for more from my Business Shaper today that’s Matt Lumb the CEO and one of the Directors at Tangle Teezer the clever hairbrushes. Time for some music right now its new music I think and its Blue Lab Beats with Keep Moving.

That was Blue Lab Beats with Keep Moving apparently they’re from London if my sources are correct let’s hope they are. Matt Lumb’s my Business Shaper today, Chief Executive Officer and Director of Tangle Teezer they make clever brushes. You talked about how you were drawn to Shaun the Founder of the business and how you just did that. That’s a pretty brave move. I mean it’s not your average move that you get involved, you move, you literally move out of the place you’re living, you’ve got a young child and so on. It looks now like a great decision at what point did you ever question whether it was? Or has it always been a great decision?

Matt Lumb
I didn’t question, my gut feel from the minute I met him was that we would work well together. It was a big leap, big leap of faith. Shaun acknowledges that as well but you know regret the things you’ve done not the things you haven’t. I think I would be looking back now if I was still up there looking, if Tangle Teezer had done what we’ve done thinking I could have been a part of that you know I could have got involved. So I didn’t give it a second thought. It just felt like the right thing to do.

Elliot Moss
Tell me a little bit about the product range, just really briefly, it’s not a commercial at all I just want to understand. I mean I know one of the brushes, it’s a pink one with, I don’t know what you would call it it just seems to work very well it’s got a lovely bit of branding and stuff but which are the, there’s three or four aren’t there?

Matt Lumb
Yeah there’s about eight now I think we’ve got five in the detangling range, we have one for home, we do one specifically for professional hair salons, we do one for use on the go in handbags and stuff. We do a kids one, we do a shower one, we recently launched a blow styling range which is doing really well. We recently launched a finishing brush, like a styling brush that you’d use, we’re trying to promote like a three step programme, sort of three steps to fabulous hair. So we’re not, you know we’re trying to step away from being purely a detangling brand.

Elliot Moss
And how does it work when you’ve developed your new products is it we’re hearing that the market says this, are there lots of focus groups? Is there a moment when the team go you know what why don’t we just create one of those. I mean where does it start?

Matt Lumb
Yeah a bit of all of that Shaun’s still heavily involved in our new product development, still heads up you know the creative and new products and all that sort of thing which is what he is very good at and yeah there’s a bit of both really we try and be market led, we try and be consumer led so we’re listening to the consumer in fact our compact styler which is our bestselling product now came about because customers would write in to Shaun and say you know you’re a lifesaver the kids don’t cry anymore, no tears before bed time or before school. I wish you did a smaller one that I could keep in my handbag type thing so you know we went and did that and now we sell roughly I don’t know four hundred thousand a month units of them of just that one.

Elliot Moss
You mentioned what Shaun is good at and where you’re good that role of partnership is critical isn’t it?

Matt Lumb
It is yeah.

Elliot Moss
Did you, you obviously instinctively felt it but as the years have gone on what are the other skills beyond Shaun which feels like it’s a creative kind of the maverick in the business in a way and you who have given it some shape what are the other key skills that are part of the big team.

Matt Lumb
Well we did as soon as we could afford to and this is you know advice wise I say this all the time, we surrounded ourselves with not rock stars but the best people we could afford. We surrounded ourselves with people who are way better at what they do than we were at doing that so logistics you know IT, legal, brand protection all this sort of stuff. The management structure we have is pretty flat I’ve had the same management team in place since 2011 and still in place now. We’ve grown from the two of us to circa fifty two now I think. Everything is still manufactured in the UK. Exports are a huge part of our business we’re featured on Export Track and…

Elliot Moss
How many countries are you in? I looked at that…

Matt Lumb
Seventy I think.

Elliot Moss
Just the seventy?

Matt Lumb
Just the seventy.

Elliot Moss
That’s not very ambitious is it?

Matt Lumb
So we export …

Elliot Moss
You need to get on with that one.

Matt Lumb
We export 83% of our products.

Elliot Moss
Wow and biggest market outside of the UK?

Matt Lumb
Germany is our biggest market outside the UK although China is fast catching up, huge potential out there in Asia its flying at the minute.

Elliot Moss
Very good. Stay with us for much more from Matt Lumb my Business Shaper today, CEO Director of Tangle Teezer. Latest travel though in a couple of minutes and before that you are going to be hearing another person from our Future Shapers series and this person and their business are hoping that they will be shaping the future of their industry for many years to come.

You’re listening to Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss. Every Saturday I talk to someone who is shaping the world of business. If you’ve missed any of the over two hundred and fifty, iTunes is your destination or British Airways Highlife. If it is iTunes put in the words ‘Jazz’ and ‘Shapers’. Matt Lumb is my Business Shaper today, CEO Director of Tangle Teezer, clever brushes. I think it should be a new line by the way it’s free.

Matt Lumb
A new strap line.

Elliot Moss
The clever brushes that won’t work for anyone but me. So we’ve been talking about a bunch of stuff and how the importance of finding people that are really talented and more talented than you in different areas. As this business grew did you start to go, I mean obviously you put financial targets in place, and it has grown expeditiously I mean two million to thirty million in six/seven years is obviously very, very rapid growth. That growth feels like it’s been fuelled by international expansion obviously if 83% of your sales are international. Why though, why is it working Matt what is at the core of this business that means it’s really landing?

Matt Lumb
I think first and foremost the products work so we, up until 2016, we didn’t spend a penny on the marketing. It was all word of mouth, it was all very organic, all of the celebrity endorsements and so on and so forth you know we’ve never paid for any of those they’re just people who all, females in particular who loved the product and then tell people about it and you know write about it and blog about it and vlog about it and all that sort of stuff. So first and foremost I think the main bit is that it just works and obviously along the way we’ve pushed you know the plan was always to go global from day one so pre-launch Shaun applied – very cleverly actually – applied for intellectual property rights and coverage in multiple countries around the world. You can’t apply for it retrospectively so you know that was a smart move. We’ve got a really strong people portfolio right around the world and you know as soon as we could I think we’re exporting 2% of sales in 2010 and then big mature markets now such as Germany, Poland, China we’ve gone direct in China we’ve got a subsidiary there now. We’ve got a subsidiary in the States, everywhere else we use a distribution model you know from New Zealand and Australia to Canada and Russia and so on and so forth.

Elliot Moss
But in your role as CEO there’s going to be a lot of things that you have to have sight of I mean everything.

Matt Lumb
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
A quick bit of advice on managing volume and as it gets bigger what would you say to people who have to you know take this on?

Matt Lumb
We were huge believers in empowerment and getting the right people in place. If they are not the right people then don’t waste your time or their time just part ways as early as you can but we were big believers in getting the right people in place and then letting them do their job. We don’t, Shaun and I don’t get too involved you know we don’t meddle, we don’t want to be involved in every single decision. We’re big believers in empowerment and you know progression and career development and all that sort of stuff right across the piece, right across every single department and that’s what we’ve done to date so I think growing as quickly as we have we’ve pretty much doubled sales wise you know so I think it always sounds more impressive or the scale of it sounds better when I talk about units as opposed to pound notes because we wholesale at a relatively low price so I think in 2010 we were selling through roughly fifty thousand hairbrushes per month and we now sell through eight hundred and fifty thousand hairbrushes per month using the same UK manufacturers but we’ve just scaled up around that and put the team in place around that so yeah.

Elliot Moss
Well you’re doing something right aren’t you? You’re doing quite a lot right actually. Stay with me for more from Matt Lumb my Business Shaper. Time for some more music this is Groovy Samba what a great name from Cannonball Adderley and Bossa Rio Sextet.

That was Groovy Samba from Cannonball Adderley and Bossa Rio Sextet. Matt Lumb has been my Business Shaper and will be for a fair bit more. You mentioned there some good advice about actually hiring great people and giving them space and you talked I like the way you actually requantified the success that you’ve had in terms of as you said units rather than pounds. The pounds matter though and people will know that have been following your story that people came knocking to buy your business to essentially take a major stake in your business and so on it almost happened, then it didn’t happen about twelve months ago. What did you learn from that experience?

Matt Lumb
We learnt a lot actually. So yeah we’ve never run the business for exit we’ve always run the business, it’s always been run with bottom line profit in mind we’ve always managed to maintain either down margins of like 32% circa 33% right back from 2010. We looked at taking a private equity investment on board we started the process in Jan ‘16 and it was not so much about taking money off the table it was what these guys can bring on board they can bring expertise, they bring experience, they bring reach you know they may have offices already in Brazil for example. Brazil is a huge beauty economy I think it’s the second or third biggest beauty economy in the world but it’s nigh on impossible to import products into Brazil they just make it really difficult. The import taxes and duties are incredibly high so having that partner on board who could say ‘well don’t worry we’ve already got something set up in Brazil’ it’s that sort of, that was the appeal but it didn’t happen you know for a number of reasons. We learned a lot about ourselves we did a lot of due diligence work, commercial due diligence work and we found out, we know we’ve got a great brand you can’t talk to anybody that owns one of our products without them gushing about the product it’s never ‘oh yeah I bought one once and I’ve left it in the drawer’ you know they buy it and they rave about it and they tell their friends about it and stuff because it works and its great but we learned that we’ve got a fantastic net promoter score. We learned lots about the consumer emotion attached to our brand, we learned a lot about ourselves in terms of the management team and how experienced we are and how inexperienced we are in certain areas.

Elliot Moss
But that’s a great thing isn’t it. That self-awareness when you’re running in your mid-forties and you know your team is a much younger team that’s invaluable in a way it probably will enable you if you go again in a few years which you may do to really be much wiser.

Matt Lumb
Absolutely. I would do it differently if I had my time again. I took myself and the management team effectively out of the business and we learned very quickly that its nigh on impossible to try and run an investment process whilst running the business with a small five man or five man and woman management team which is fairly flat, the whole management structure is quite flat, you know everyone is constantly encouraged to have ideas and we run with some, we don’t run with others. There’s no real hierarchical process there. You know its… but we learned a lot about ourselves. It was a tough eighteen months and I think anybody, you know, my team there all of them would agree with that, it was a tough eighteen months but…

Elliot Moss
But here you are.

Matt Lumb
Here we are and we’re still going and we’re through it.

Elliot Moss
And onwards, onward and we look forwards Matt we don’t look back.

Matt Lumb
Upwards and onwards.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for my final chat with Matt plus we’ll be playing a track from Madeleine Peyroux that’s after the latest traffic and travel.

That was Madeleine Peyroux with The Summer Wind. Matt Lumb’s been my Business Shaper and is for a little bit longer and if you missed earlier he’s the CEO and Director of Tangle Teezer the British business that’s doing rather well in seventy other countries. Matt we were talking before about where you’d got to and how there was the eighteen month process around a potential sale of sorts of a kind of realisation of some of the value in the business. Looking forward the business is noted for its innovation how do you sustain that? Is there still the energy? I mean it must have been, it was hard work as you said it was a tough time for the team how do you bounce back from that and carry on pushing forward?

Matt Lumb
You’re right about the innovation, innovation is at the heart of everything we do I think. We’ve won a Queen’s award for innovation and one for international trade which you know reflected on the export side of the business. Shaun’s still heavily involved in the innovation and the new product development. We’ve got two new products that we’re launching next year, three actually, one of them is not for humans which is probably the only thing I can say at this point I think.

Elliot Moss
Woof. You can’t possibly…

Matt Lumb
I’ll be in trouble with my legal eagle if I say too much.

Elliot Moss
Keep on the right side.

Matt Lumb
We’ve been asked for that sort of product for a long time. So yeah I think continuing to be innovative. We’ve never launched a product for the sake of it so we’ve got a relatively small product offering even now I think. You are right though, even keeping the energy going is… becomes harder and harder I guess.

Elliot Moss
But underneath all of that very briefly before we go to your song choice it seems to me there’s a set of values as well I mean the fact that the business likes to give its time and its energy to certain charities, the fact that you are straight talking, these are good things aren’t they in modern business?

Matt Lumb
I think so and I’m a huge believer in the whole culture eats strategy for breakfast type strapline. Culture has been absolutely key to what we’ve done, we’ve grown from two to fifty two with next to no or very, very little staff turnover.

Elliot Moss
In one word how would you define the culture, if you only had one word?

Matt Lumb
It sounds a bit cheesy but family I would think is probably the best word, it feels like a dysfunctional family.

Elliot Moss
Perfect. Sounds like a lot of businesses I may have worked in and maybe even do. Listen Matt it’s been really good to talk to you, really good luck as and when you come to do whatever it is you want to do in the next few years if indeed you do realise some of the value of the business. The products do work as you said and that must be at the core of it. Just before I let you go, what’s your song choice and why have you chosen it?

Matt Lumb
My song choice is a song that means an awful lot to me so I’ve got a fantastic, wonderful, beautiful seven and a half year old little boy and before he was born in the couple of months before he was born when he was kicking and all that sort of stuff there’s one song that we would play in the car that would immediately settle him and then in the first couple of years after he was born and having a moment or whatever in the back of the car if we put this song on he would instantly just stop crying and even now when he’s tired he’ll ask if I can play Bo Jangles so it’s Mr Bojangles by Nina Simone.

Elliot Moss
And here it is just for you.

That was Mr Bojangles from Nina Simone, the song choice of my Business Shaper today Matt Lumb. Down to earth, someone that believed being accessible is really important, someone who has hired people that are better than him as he said in the key jobs critical to the success of a business and also someone who believes in the importance of learning and through a process that didn’t quite happen about eighteen months ago they have really learnt a lot as they look forward to developing their business further. Do join me again same time, same place that’s next Saturday, 9.00am sharp for another addition of Jazz Shapers. Meanwhile stay with us coming up next its Nigel Williams.

Matt Lumb
Matt Lumb is Chief Executive and Director at Tangle Teezer.

Tangle Teezer is the world’s first and best-selling detangling hairbrush with twenty brushes now being sold every minute around the world. Pioneers in hair care, Tangle Teezer is creating a whole new category and achieving global recognition in a very short space of time.

Since Matt Lumb joined the company in 2010, sales have grown from £1m to almost £30m per annum, whilst retaining industry-leading profit margins.

The company now exports over 80% of its sales to 70 countries, has won two Queen’s Awards, and has been a Fast Track 100 Growth company for three consecutive years, as well as featuring in the top 20 of both Profit Track 100 and Export Track 100 for two consecutive years.

Matt has a strong background within accountancy, finance and operations and in 2015 was voted “Best Director – International Business” at the London and South East Institute of Director’s Awards. He was runner-up in the same category in the IoD National Awards.

Listen live at 9am Saturday.

I had a pretty secure job up in the North West of England, a six month old baby, I had no plans to move to London whatsoever but I was drawn to him, there was something about him and the product…

It was a big leap, big leap of faith…but, you know, regret the things you’ve done not the things you haven’t.

We surrounded ourselves with, not rock stars, but the best people we could afford. We surrounded ourselves with people who are way better at what they do than we were.

Up until 2016 we didn’t spend a penny on the marketing. It was all word of mouth, it was all very organic. All of the celebrity endorsements …we’ve never paid for any of those. They’re just people who loved the product.

We were huge believers in empowerment and getting the right people in place. If they are not the right people then don’t waste your time or their time, just part ways as early as you can.

In 2010 we were selling roughly fifty thousand hairbrushes per month and we now sell eight hundred and fifty thousand hairbrushes per month.

…they buy it and they rave about it and they tell their friends about it because it works. We learned that we’ve got a fantastic net promoter score. We learned lots about the consumer emotion attached to our brand.

I’m a huge believer in the whole ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’ type strapline. Culture has been absolutely key to what we’ve done; we’ve grown from two to fifty two with very little staff turnover.