14 Leadership Lessons with Harry's Co-Founder and Co-CEO Andy Katz-Mayfield
How this entrepreneur raised $375 million and disrupted a $3.3 billion industry.
In Comparably’s ongoing series in partnership with Entrepreneur, “If I Knew Then: Leadership Lessons,” I host virtual fireside chats with incredible CEOs of big brands from Indeed and Blue Apron to Waze and Nextdoor. As the host, I ask leaders to share some of the valuable lessons and practical advice they learned during their career journey. These rare, candid insights into the business minds of remarkable catalysts for success are accessible as a resource of inspiration for current and future entrepreneurs.
For the latest episode, I sat down with Andy Katz-Mayfield, the co-founder and co-CEO of Harry’s, the New York-based unicorn startup he founded with Warby Parker's Jeff Raider. Launched in New York in 2013, Harry's began as an online retailer and subscription service selling men's luxury razors, shave creams and other grooming products at an honest price. In 2014, Harry’s purchased its own factory in Germany to meet demand, becoming one of the first vertically integrated razor companies in the world. Then, in 2016, the brand expanded into mass retailers with Target, and in 2018 further expanded into Walmart. Harry’s owns 13 percent of non-disposables in the $3.3 billion U.S. men’s grooming market, long dominated by established giants like Procter & Gamble.
Katz-Mayfield reflects on how the company was founded: “It started with me being in a drug store and having a frustrating experience, not having much choice and needing someone to unlock the razor case because they get stolen all the time due to their absurdly high price. Where the razor is often locked away in a drug store like it is the crown jewels, Harry’s unlocks this pain point by making products more accessible and that people actually enjoy using.”
When he puts his entrepreneurial journey aside, Katz-Mayfield acknowledges that his company has gone through a number of iterations. Though most people look at Harry’s as a grooming company, the Harry’s umbrella offers an assortment of consumer products and other lines including Flamingo – a women’s body care brand – and Cat Person, which offers high-quality cat essentials for feline parents. There’s also another brand up his sleeve coming down the pike next year. The diversified, omnichannel CPG company has raised $375 million and was recently valued at $1.4 billion.
These are the 14 crucial takeaways that served as a guide to Katz-Mayfield’s success as an entrepreneur:
1. Determine value by using this equation: brand equity times quality divided by the price
As Katz-Mayfield explains, it’s not just about the price: “We want to deliver a better price, but also create a brand and experience that resonates more with our consumers."
2. There can be an emotional value proposition to your brand
The Harry’s brand places importance on the aesthetic of a product as much as the mechanics of it; one that you can also be proud of when placed on your sink. “Direct-to-consumer allows us to have a personal experience with our consumers, to deliver a human experience,” Katz-Mayfield says.
3. Even CEOs and entrepreneurs can benefit from support groups
Being an entrepreneur is like riding an emotional and intense roller coaster: You wake up ready to take on the world, but the next day it might feel like the world is about to fall apart. If you can’t find a way to manage that, it can be exhausting. It’s important to find some kind of emotional stability to avoid burnout. The shared experience of having a co-founder is a huge benefit; there is always somebody next to you that you can talk to. Joining a CEO “self-help” group and having these types of networks can also be valuable in supporting the emotional and cognitive load of being an entrepreneur. Harry’s social mission is also focused on men’s mental health, and the brand donates 1% of all sales to charitable organizations that share Harry’s ambition to bring quality mental health care to men everywhere.
4. Smart people can be your source of energy
Katz-Mayfield received substantial utility from simply being surrounded by smart people who challenged his thinking and pushed back on things differently. Or, as he puts it, “A diversity of difference.”
5. Fundraise and focus like a unicorn
Having raised close to $400 million, Katz-Mayfield admits that vertically integrating Harry's supply chain early on was an expensive task, and maybe not the best path for all business. But it was important for Harry's to ensure it could produce a high-quality product. It has also raised a lot of capital over time to build the company’s platform and infrastructure to not only support the Harry’s brand but also the multiple brands under the Harry’s Inc. umbrella.
6. Don’t try to be that person you think you need to be
When it comes to fundraising, if you are not a visionary salesperson, don’t try to be one. It will feel shallow and inauthentic. Investors are smart and if you can give a balanced, honest perspective while building trust through the process, that is valuable. You want investors who are aligned with your business and understand the pros and cons.
7. Capital is not just a commodity
Fundraising capital is a team effort, and you’re in it for the long haul. Katz-Mayfield says he felt fortunate that his co-founder was also the co-founder of Warby Parker, because it gave them traction, momentum, credibility and access to investors.
8. No job is too small if you’re Batman… or a founder
Sometimes you have to be the one to get in the car and drive from New York to rural Pennsylvania because your prototype parts didn’t get delivered to the factory on time. And sometimes it’s not the most intellectually stimulating work, but someone has to do it because getting these things right is important. The point is, you need to be ready to get in the trenches and roll up your sleeves at any time for your company.
9. A compelling vision can be a great way to get investors to deploy funds
Katz-Mayfield says that at the end of the day, fundraising is an art form. A business needs to have a compelling narrative with a clear vision contingent on the investors’ belief in you and your company. Having the building blocks that connect from how to get from here to there also helps.
10. Look for “we” versus “I” language when interviewing candidates
Have a variety of interview questions that speak to your values. One value and one specific question can take the interview from a subjective to objective analysis. Katz-Mayfield utilizes his company’s four core values when determining who to hire. One of those values is “All In, All Together,” the idea that someone is willing to subjugate their ego for the greater good of the team and work well cross-functionally to support their colleagues. He asks people to give an example of a task they accomplished in their career, and he listens to see if they use “I” language or “we” language. That speaks volumes and can raise a yellow flag.
11. Figure out what gives you energy in your role and what drains you
Beyond assessing if someone is a good fit for your team or not, evaluate what motivates people. Ask candidates, “What gave you energy in that role? What was that thing that got you pumped to take on the day?”
12. Forget your resume and titles; collect experiences that will help you succeed
In his 20s, Katz-Mayfield recognizes that he was very focused on career growth and establishing credibility through his resume. Looking back, he understands that his linear path provided a certain aspect of risk aversion, but he also believes that collecting a set of experiences could have been just as enriching — and even more valuable at times.
13. Ask yourself: What you would do if you knew you wouldn’t fail?
This career advice, which came from one of Katz-Mayfield's professors at the Stanford School of Business, is the best he's ever received.
14. A career is a marathon, not a sprint
It can start with an idea in a drugstore and continue with a slow and steady pace, finishing with a successful, diverse, omnichannel CPG company born out of an unmet need for a great razor.
Watch the full webinar to hear more insights from this incredible leader.
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