PLC Fifaa and T-shirt Store has served as a marketing partner for thousands of companies who have needed company merchandise and promotional gifts. In addition to fashion, sport and leisure goods retail and import, Fifaa has been operating in all three Baltic states for a long time. Fifaa imports companies such as SKECHERS, Dune London, RIVER ISLAND, Parfois, Vans, New Era, Dickies, Spalding, Peak and has created Ballzy – a sports concept store. The company group owns 10 enterprises, 40 shops and employs over 300 people.
Achieving one’s goals takes a lot of effort and dedication, but being innovative as well as the market leader is even more difficult. Under the management of Karel Loide, Fifaa has achieved the leading position and knows enough about how to achieve your goals.
How to stay focused?
I agree, that in today’s hectic environment, everything is changing so fast and we are constantly surrounded by distractions and information. Firstly, you must figure out why you need to focus and set your goal. Next, shut off your phone and computer and close YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Tinder. Before reopening those apps, ask yourself, am I opening these to help myself focus or to not focus? Asking if something really is necessary can become a useful habit later on when making big decisions.
What role does social media marketing play for today’s companies? Is there a point to even enter the market without a webpage?
Depending on the field, you can do business without using social media or having a company webpage. One can find enterprises, which have very little information about them on Google or Facebook, in the top list of Estonian most successful companies. They usually operate in a niche and extremely limited segment or prefer to avoid the public. It’s rather unusual though, because most of the public companies wish to get as much exposure as possible so webpages and social media accounts are the most accessible ways to do that. Before creating an account, you must figure out who do you want to reach and what do you want to tell them. Being successful on social media requires special effort and dedication. Spending half a day on Facebook and thinking you’re a specialist doesn’t cut it. We have a brand called Ballzy.eu in the Fifaa group whose social media we manage the most because it’s a web-based company (it’s an online sneaker store). Since we have stores in Estonia, Finland and Latvia, social media must be done in the local language. Certain campaigns and communication is centralized, but some of it is country-based (for example, campaigns related to national holidays or other important events in the community). We must have a person in every country to interact with the fans, post, answer inquiries etc. At the same time, to reach the global audience, we must have an outlet in English. From our experience with this brand, I can say, that you can manage only by using social media in English but the growth is quicker and you will be accepted sooner by posting in the local language.
In addition to all that, being online provides you with a lot of versatile information about your client (from the way they end up on your site, at what times they shop the most, which campaigns they react to all the way to what catches their attention on your site). The smarter you are at gathering and analysing this information, the better you will succeed.
Ordering from online shops has gotten extremely popular. What is the key factor for an online store to establish a loyal relationship with the customer?
The answer is quite simple – you must offer a bigger selection of goods, better prices, faster shipping, membership bonuses, easier shopping experience and you must find a solution to all questions or problems your clients might have. It helps if the store differs visually from the competitors or communicates differently. The harder part though, is doing all that. Having a bigger selection of goods requires huge investments to maintain the inventory. Prices are constantly under global pressure and there’s always someone who will accept a lower profit margin. In my opinion, people had unrealistic expectations for web stores a few years ago, thinking it’s easy and cheap to create one and at the same time they’re able to have clients all over the world. In reality, a good online shop is as expensive as a regular brand shop, meanwhile the operating expenses are the same but the sales might not surpass the ones of a regular store. Business in a well-structured and managed web shop grows quicker than in a traditional store and web sales will probably significantly affect fashion in the future. Today, online and traditional retail businesses operate better together. People trust the online stores more if there’s also a flagship store. The sales of a regular store grow better if there’s a way to check prices and the product range online. Due to that, during the past few years, online stores have started to open showrooms or regular stores and vice versa.
You won Fruit of the Loom in 2005. What makes a good design creative and effective at the same time?
Actually, we won the competition in 2013 as well. There’s a great team behind those victories – talented designers and experienced and skilled printers. Silk-screen and many other printing techniques remain hand-made despite the use and development of machines. The results come by learning and experimenting. One of the goals of our company has always been to offer good quality and innovative solutions. It often seems as if the clients are used to the opposite – easier and cheaper solutions.
By partaking in these kinds of competitions, we can show our abilities and skills to our partners, which is why many of them have given up the cheaper substitutes and prefer something more exclusive and new.
The hardest part of the creative process is figuring out a good design. There’s no single answer or solution to that. The same way, producers can’t tell you how to make a good pop song. While some always succeed, some never do.
Design is clearly limited in our job and doesn’t aspire to be on the catwalks – our products are created by working closely with the clients, considering their needs, keeping in mind the function of the clothes and trying to incorporate the current era and context. But sometimes our designers have the chance to “spread their wings” at these types of competitions.
What motivates you to work for your goals?
It’s very personal. Everyone must figure out their own and their employees’ motivators. For some, it may be achievements, for some it’s security. For others, it may be the salary or development opportunities. Identifying and satisfying these aspects is the main issue of management. It pays off to stay awake during the lectures when Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is being discussed.
You operate in all three Baltic States. What are the biggest differences between the neighbouring countries?
Our history may be similar, but the cultures are very different so it affects the business culture as well. Estonia is like the Scandinavian countries, where management is more democratic and group-based. Latvians are much more autocratic and decisions are always made by the leader. Sometimes even opposed to the group opinion just to emphasise their leader status. We still hear about conflicts from Estonian employees working for Latvian or Lithuanian companies.
The overall business environment is the same in all three countries. Slight differences in the consumption habits and brand preference are understandable. Unfortunately, the black economy percentage in Latvia and Lithuania is a little bit bigger and sometimes authority misuse by officials is an issue, but it is subsiding. All Estonian entrepreneurs who wish to enter the global market should first visit Riga or Vilnius.
From experience, what are the three things a starting entrepreneur should always keep in mind?
A leader once said: “Be honest, correct and respect your co-workers while moving up the career ladder, because while coming down you will meet these people again…” There is no highway or elevator to becoming successful. You must always take the stairs and by looking at the history of the Estonian economy, the schemers and exploiters who became rich that way all get their punishment in the end.
I advise you to find an experienced mentor. I know, young people don’t really like to consider anyone else’s opinion beside their own and most won’t probably even put my previous text into context. They think that everything used to be different “back then” and that they’re smart enough by themselves (it’s called self-confidence and it’s an extremely important quality for an entrepreneur) but all experienced and successful people have faced the same problems at one point and have made the same mistakes as the starting entrepreneurs of today. I would advise you to learn from others, you don’t have to mess everything up by yourself!
Photo: Karel Loide
Editor: Kärt Mättikas
Translate: Triin Tikk