How David Gandy-backed London Sock Company conquered the menswear market
In 2013, Dave Pickard and Ryan Palmer realised that fewer men were wearing ties to the office but still wanted to add some personality to their attire. The pair decided that colourful, high-quality socks were the answer and London Sock Company was born.
The company has since expanded from a two-man-band to a team of 23. London Sock Company has customers all over the world and recorded 86 per cent growth in the last year alone.
In the latest episode of It’s The Small Things, we spoke to Dave about growing the business in a difficult climate, leadership learning curves and the positive impact of building a network.
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Full podcast episode audio
BONUS: How London Sock Company co-founder Dave Pickard met the challenge of COVID-19
Stepping back into the business
Early into London Sock Company’s journey, Dave and Ryan decided to bring in a CEO. The idea was that the founders could step back from the day-to-day running of the business and be more visionary. However, they came to realise that it was the wrong approach.
“It was a tough lesson to go through. It's not down to the individuals involved, it's just down to us as business owners needing to be closer to what's going on day to day, week to week. We need to be driving it forward,” Dave said.
During this period, Dave and Ryan reorganised the business from top to bottom and made important changes to the team.
“If it hadn't been for that period of being able to pause, reflect and take that approach with my co-founder, then I think we would be in a far worse place today,” he said.
“The closer you can be to what's going on to help drive things forward, better things will come from that. It’s been one of those learning curves and certainly something that has made us far stronger as a result.”
Dave Pickard – London Sock Company
Utilising graduate talent
Hiring graduates helped reduce London Sock Company’s reliance on agencies.
“We'd looked at agencies to help support [performance] marketing, but realised that these guys were just learning on our dollar. We could do that, right?
“So we very quickly brought that back in-house again and recognised an opportunity to bring in maths grads who could apply some of that problem solving, scientific approach,” said Dave.
That was supported by an intensive, six-to-eight-week course where someone came in to put one graduate through his paces when it came to Facebook advertising.
They’ve also hired a data science grad to provide business intelligence.
Having a mix of senior talent and graduates has benefitted both types of team members. Graduates get to learn from experienced industry professionals and senior team members get to roll their sleeves up and help out, which wouldn’t have happened in a larger business with more layers of management.
Building a network of founders
Meeting other founders, particularly those who have been through the same phase of growth, has been pivotal in helping Dave overcome similar challenges.
“There's a nice honesty you find with most other founders that you meet. The reality is, [running a business] is really hard and there's stuff going wrong all the time. It can quite often turn into a bit of a mutual counselling session,” he said.
“Anytime there have been any problems or what feels like a disaster coming, there are certain people that I can ping an email out to – a bit of an SOS, putting the bat signal up – and then they'll be there for you.”
When it comes to nurturing his network, Dave admits that it can be hard when the business is busy. But the advantage of connecting with other founders is that everyone’s in the same boat.
“Founders and CEOs recognise how hard it is to keep relationships going. Everyone is mega busy. And they're trying to balance their family life and different things. So I don't think anyone gets upset if they haven't heard from you,” he said.
“It's not relationship building for the sake of building a network and a future business pipeline. It's relationship building in the true sense of finding other friends who are going through the same things that you're going through and helping each other.”
Dave Pickard – London Sock Company
business size: 10-49 People
business type: Retail & wholesale
Dave and his business partner brought in a lot of senior hires, but realised they'd gone to far in stepping back from the day-to-day.
Career experience is one thing, but graduates come with specific skills and bundles of enthusiasm.
Dave has made a big effort to connect with fellow founders, those that know what it's like to start and run a business.