The zipper Theorem
Updated: Nov 14, 2018
While resolving a major crisis with the biggest US retailer in 2013, I had to come with "The Zipper Theorem" stating that "A ZIPPER NEEDS NOT BE STRONGER THAN THE FABRIC IT IS ATTACHED TO."
I had just finished a four year stint as CEO of Ed Hardy, and my brother Gerard asked me if I would join as CEO of Sunrise Brands (formerly Tarrant Apparel Group). I accepted even though I knew it is sometimes difficult to work with family, I adore Gerard and I might be the only person he listens to, and I felt I could make a difference.
The first thing I did as CEO of Sunrise Brands, was create a historical spreadsheet by quarter by division of the last 10 years. I find you need to know where you are coming from, when you are deciding where you need to go.
Then I put together a daily two sided Tabloid page report that had the answer to any question anyone could ask about the business. A dashboard really but at a higher level of sophistication. The management report had every division's financials, Historical, year to date and projections, cash flow for the whole group, Sales detail by store with comparison, Inventory level fluctuations, borrowing base availability and much much more, for a group with over 10 divisions, it was a very important tool.
I also created a management committee with three brilliant thinkers with tons of experience Don Waldman The Group COO, Peter Akaragian its CFO and Chris Trunnell the General counsel, We met every morning for 30 to 45 minutes to discuss and decide how to address any issue of the company.
The four of us together, were analytically lethal. Don has been around, and basically had seen it all and his hands-on experience was essential. Peter, has a knack for converting the most difficult issues in the simplest and basic parts, he would bring this solid no nonsense approach, and Chris has an ability to think deeply and you could tell he always welcomed a challenge. He would break down problems to their essence, and then articulating an improvisation really, the best path. What I loved about Chris is that time has no impact on him, if he was thinking with you, nothing else would take precedent to his focus on the issue.
The team was in place when this zipper issue became the crisis of the day, and frankly we were ready.
We had over two million garments on the floor of the biggest US retailer, and they claimed the zippers on the garments did not have the resistance required for in the tech specification of the garments, and with another million garment on the way with same issue, we needed to resolve this fast.
Of course these guys had worked together and in concert before, what I am proud of is that brought together this firing power for the benefit of the corporation, and it made a difference.
The claim was that our zippers were testing at 100 lbs (The force needed to break the zipper), instead of the required 120 lbs.
First we studied the requirement for 120 lbs, who came up with that number and why? it became very clear that like most of the garment industry, someone had copied Levi's standard. Zippers on Levi's jeans were required to resist 120 lbs force (it made sense when you imagine the two donkey pulling jeans apart) .
Clearly nobody bothered to adapt that standard to fabrics other than the heaviest of denim ever made.
This being the biggest retailer in the world, everything was done by the book, and every single shipment in every color was tested by a top lab, who would share the report with the vendor. So we had hundred of tests of both zippers and the fabrics they were attached to.
I created a simple database and could analyze the data, if we found that there was not a single shipment with a Zipper weaker than the fabric, we could make a case that the strength of the zipper was always more than enough to have the fabric give up before the zipper.
Our lucky break was that all these goods were light fabrics for spring and summer, and the strength requirement of the fabric was 60 to 70 lbs. At 100 lbs our zippers were in every case strong enough.
Based on all the research we had done and the findings, I declared myself a Zipper expert, and issued the Zipper Theorem. While I declare myself the author, it is probable that we came with it as a group. So... I would like to share this award (I just handed myself) with Don Peter and Chris, without whom...